Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Elation, Despond, Sobriety

We are not, like Britain, a parliamentary democracy. There a national election decides the party that will really take power, and its leader then becomes the chief executive. With victory goes the right to rule. Not so in our case. Our presidential elections decide who, under the Constitution, “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The power, in our case, is most clearly present in the House and in the Senate, and these bodies, their members elected separately, may split it. That, in effect, is the outcome of yesterday’s elections. Republicans retain their control over the House; the Democrats still hold the Senate. But with a plurality of 53, the Democrats lack the supermajority (60) to dominate unimpeded even just in the Senate. Power is dispersed. Effective governance requires something beyond the blue and red coloration of maps.

Looking at those maps in closer resolution reveals the Two Americas John Edwards used to talk about. The red areas are from the suburbs of urban centers outward, the blue from the suburbs of urban centers inward. In terms of actual acreage covered, red is everywhere but blue, which is but spots on every map, holds a slender majority of the population. Going by last night’s vote, 62.0 million live in Blue America, at least in their convictions; 58.8 million in the Red America [these numbers will keep changing for a while.]

Now emotions dominated the politically engaged last night as, at 11:18 p.m., CNN projected President Obama’s victory. Elation and Despond. But what follows now is the sober realization that, alas, higher sorts of human qualities, like responsibility and cooperation, will be demanded of us to run this country for at least the next two years. And at about the halfway point in that brief spell, the passions will once more gather into fervent seething as Congressional elections will begin to be fought all over again. We’ve spent the last year-and-a-half, minimally, whipping up the passions and bringing them to a towering peak—to achieve the status quo ante.

2 comments:

  1. A sobering observation indeed, at the end of your post. So counter productive, really, this hyping of everything (or, "whipping up the passions" as you say) in order to stimulate voters when it is sobriety and compromise that are necessary to govern...

    What struck me as very odd in this election is how the approval rating for Congress can be as low as it is, around 9 percent, and yet we re-elect the same representatives at such a high rate... This must be part of the ever more distorting impact of the gerrymander in our electoral system... as it's in the House where the gerrymander is most notable at the national level.

    Here's hoping those higher sorts of human qualities can be put to constructive work for as long as possible before the next election cycle gets rolling!

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  2. You know, of course, that they gerrymandered B and me out of the solidly Democratic 13th Congressional district--yes, the 13th--after the 2010 Census. We are now in the 14th, the redistricters probably hoping to create a reliable Republican-leaning district. Nonetheless, Peters (D) won here anyway, with a 72% plurality, hence the district, I'd imagine, also went for President Obama--although I can't find numbers at that resolution. But John's point is solid. The majority describe themselves as "moderate." But gerrymandering artificially enhances uniformity; hence few any longer run as moderates. Hence Congress is rigidly bristly. The incentives for moderate behavior are being gerrymandered away--while the public sentiment in favor of responsible behavior keeps rising.

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