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Thursday, 8 November 2012

That Election ...

As I wrote several days ago, the US system for electing a President is a rather quaint one. Certainly for an outsider it can get very confusing, since it is not, as many outside the US think, done on a simple 'popular' vote. Voters in each State of the Union get to vote, yes, but the States then have a number of 'votes' which go to their 'electoral college' and it is the votes from these 'electors' who determine who wins and who loses. I have just looked up the statistics for the population of the US and the 2010 census figure is 308,745, 538 people. The statistics also show that 79.8% of the population is aged between 15 and over 65 and that the annual 'official' population growth (birth/deaths/legal immigration) was 9.7% over the previous census figure.

That suggests that there are about 244 million people there of voting age. The latest figures I can find suggest that 59,633,293 voted for Obama (the count is heading for 60+million) and 57,003,419 for Romney (again, rising toward the 58+million as I type) which means that 116,636,713 votes have been cast for these two candidates, in turn suggesting a lot of people didn't vote for either of them. Other numbers coming in all the time on the LA Times website show that the percentage differences in many of the constituencies are almost wafer thin. Some are separated by as little as a half a percentage point. Even the two presidential candidates are separated by roughly 2.6 million votes - a very small proportion of the total voting population. Even more interesting is the spread of support for each party. The Democrats get most of their support from the major urban centric States, while the Republicans seem to take the seats and support from those states in more rural areas. One map shows almost the entire 'centre' between the East and West coastal states as Republican and the Coastal States as Democrat.

Even more interesting is the fact that Independents have managed to gain at least two seats in the Senate, but have generally had little or no support anywhere else. Even more interesting, to me at least, is the fact that the polarisation Josephus commented on in his post The Dis-united States of America, seems to have become even more marked by the outcome. A question that leaps to my mind is 'Can the US survive as a single entity when it is so divided on almost everything?' I'm beginning to have my doubts. They seem to be divided on everything from religion, through science and education and out the other end to ideology. It is hardly surprising that the city and urban populations support more 'social' intervention politics, and the free-enterprise types in more rural areas don't, it takes different mindsets to survive in either environment. The problem, as we've seen in Britain, is that the focus of politicians is on the urban areas, usually the major centres, and the 'solutions' for the problems in those areas invariably cause damage and hardship to everyone outside of them.

Being brutally honest, I would not have voted for Obama. Romney offered little to attract me either, so I'd have been faced here with Hobson's Choice. The ideology of neither Party is appealing, but then, voting for an Independent means there will be little or no chance of actually changing anything in the Congress, Senate or at Presidential level. So what does one do? Vote for what you perceive to be the lesser of two evils? Hardly the way to choose a government - and, yes, this happens elsewhere as well.

Can we change it? Probably not I should think. An article in the New Scientist entitled Political Instincts by Jesse Graham and Sarah Estes makes interesting reading on this subject, and includes a rather telling summation of an academic study at the end of it. In a study of academics teaching political and social sciences, they found that almost all those surveyed would consider excluding a "conservative" colleague from access to funding and possibly employment without any qualms or remorse.

That, probably more than anything else available at present probably explains why the media and our academic institutions are so heavily biased against anything viewed as 'conservative.' It probably also explains why anyone to the 'right' of centre is painted as a ridiculous, bigoted and potentially oppressive fascist in the making.

As I remarked elsewhere in the last couple of days, Obama is NOT the Messiah, come to save the world. Nor is Romney the Anti-Christ as so much of the media and certain elements on the 'social media' have painted him. Both are politicians, the definition of which speaks for itself. We should not expect miracles from Mr. Obama, he's failed to deliver any in his first term, and he won't deliver any now. We are at a turning point in world history and we had better learn to adapt pretty quickly. As the Romans are reputed to have said, "United we stand; divided we fall." All of us, American, British 'other European' better learn to settle our differences and work together, or we are surely going to see the rise of new powers we certainly won't like kowtowing to.


According to the latest figures from the US 53% of the votes were cast by women. Demographically, women outnumber men in the US today, so their vote and their aspirations are clearly a major factor for future politics. Clearly "women's issues" played a large part in the choices and Romney et al will not have endeared themselves by their rather silly comments on rape and abortion. Though I have to say that, taken in the context of the Q&A sessions these sprang from, there was clearly an intention to 'catch them on the hop.' That doesn't mean I support what they said, just that I think you could probably catch the questioners making an equally clumsy response under similar pressure and in similar circumstances.

Interestingly though, the split of the vote for Obama or Romney shows that 53% of married women supported Romney while 67% of the women's vote from single women went to Obama. Clearly there are a number of other factors in play here than just 'perceptions' of what who said.

The final totals still suggest that quite a few people simply didn't vote. Could that suggest they felt they had no choice they could support? It certainly argues for the option once put forward in a movie - a box for "None of the Above."

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