Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Democracy Debate

So yesterday, voters across the nation hit the polling stations.

Here in New York, Michael Bloomberg won an unprecedented third term as Mayor of New York City, although the race was much closer than anybody anticipated.

Democratic candidate Bill Thompson ended up netting 46% of the vote - almost ten points more than anybody had expected. That still wasn't enough to usurp Independent incumbent Bloomberg and that was something the whole city should be grateful for. Bloomberg was undeniably the superior candidate.

In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie managed to pull victory out of the hat - nailing incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine by four and a half percentage points. Many people had expected Christie's campaign to be derailed by the popularity of Independent candidate Chris Daggett - who'd polled as high as 20% in the weeks prior to the vote. However, in the end less than 6% of people voted for Daggett and those that didn't invariably supported Christie.

In upstate New York, the right-wing suffered a deliciously well-deserved defeat in the special congressional election. The original race was supposed to be between Democratic candidate Bill Owens and moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava - one of the few women in the GOP. However, hard-line conservatives within the party - including vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and right-wing television hack Glenn Beck - fought bitterly to oust Scozzafava because of her support for gay equality and abortion rights (which mad her an 'unacceptable' candidate, despite her having the full support of local party members.)

A tearful Scozzafava stood down from the race, to be replaced by hard-line Conservative Douglas Hoffman. However, the voters soundly rejected his conservative rhetoric and Bill Owens won an election that would clearly have gone to Scozzafava if the Republicans hadn't been so pig-headed about ousting her. Their loss is their fault.

Most disappointingly of all, voters in Maine supported 'Question 1' - a motion to overturn the court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in that state. It was a close battle - with 47% of voters supporting marriage equality - but the message was clear. Just like California before it, the majority of residents still weren't behind gay marriage.

All in all, there were a mixed bag of results. Personally, I was very happy with the results in New York - both in the mayoral elections and the upstate congressional election. Michael Bloomberg is an honest and pragmatic politician with the city's best interests at heart, while the extreme right-wing of the Republican party needed a firm and unequivocal bitchslap to remind them that America is a nation of moderates - not fire-breathing, Bible-beating wackos!

The New Jersey election was another matter. I was no fan of Christie, as readers of Militant Ginger already know. But my candidate, independent Chris Daggett, was never in with much of a shot. The race was always between Corzine and Christie and as much as I disliked both of them, if I had to give it to either, I guess Christie would be my choice.

I dislike many of his hypocritical social policies and if his record as US Attorney is anything to go by, he's a big, fat, corrupt sleazeball. However, his campaign was centered around the financial mess that New Jersey is in - the rocketing tax rates and gaping budget deficit. If he concentrates on fixing those problems, perhaps The Garden State is still in with a shot of redemption.

As for Maine? It's disappointing. Just like with Proposition 8 in California, I find it ridiculous that the right-wing wasted so much money, energy and time to take away the rights of other people. 'Protecting' marriage is a farce. Same-sex marriage actually supports monogamy and commitment - while the 'institution' that the right wing are trying to 'protect' is a broken system that ends in divorce in the majority of cases.

But the people spoke - and even if you don't agree with what they said, it's important that we at least live in a country that gives them a chance to say it. Compare American democracy to what transpires in Europe - in which a states-wide 'constitution' is ratified without letting the majority of voters ever have a say in it. Why? Because if democracy was allowed to run it's course - and the people of Europe were actually given a vote - the treaty would be soundly and irrevocably voted down.

America is at least a country in which the people have a voice - and the government is transparent enough to let them use it, even if that means the 'people' don't always end up making the 'right' decision.


Occasional Professor Tom said...

Just FYI, I got the warning:

The website at contains elements from the site, which appears to host malware – software that can hurt your computer or otherwise operate without your consent. Just visiting a site that contains malware can infect your computer.

when visiting your site.

Roland Hulme said...

Thanks Tom! I tracked down that code and removed it.

Occasional Professor Tom said...

Random other comments, from my Linux-powered malware-free battlefortress:

- Chris Christie won by 4.46% of the vote.

- Bill Owens won by 4.42% of the vote.

Why did one of the "pull victory out of a hat", while the other one "uffered a deliciously well-deserved defeat"?

Also, you didn't mention the utter slaughtering of the Obama-backed candidate in Virgina.

NY-23 was a mess for many reasons. It's amazing that a guy who didn't even come from the district was able to come within a few points of winning, despite not being backed by one of the major parties. If the NY-23 Republican county chairman had nominated... a Republican, then it's quite possible that they would have easily won.

(That district will be interesting to follow over the course of next year's election.)

The real result of this election cycle was that Obama did a fairly poor job of transferring his popularity (such as it is) onto other Democrats. I suspect this will make Democrats in marginal seats less likely to vote for unpopular things like government-run healthcare.

And welcome to America, where the electorate is allowed to get things wrong, should it so choose.

Roland Hulme said...

I could offer some lame reason for why Chris Christie 'pulled it out of the hat' like claiming that he'd been predicted a defeat because Chris Daggett would steal votes away from him - but I'm big enough to admit it was a little bit of tabloid zing I inserted. **shuffles feet in embarrassment.**

I think Bill Owens is proof that the right-wing's tactic of retreating further right won't work. I mean, the far right isn't going to NOT vote for a Republican, even if they're fairly moderate (after all, that would let the Democrat win) whereas a moderate can and will vote for the other candidate if the GOP one is too far right.

I like to think Bill Owen's VERY respectable results (okay, I claimed that he'd had a sound defeat in my post, which isn't exactly fair) are largely because some people will always vote Republican, some will always vote Democrat and it's only the people in the middle who don't disenfranchise themselves.

- Written from my malware-infested, Windows-buggy Dell.

Occasional Professor Tom said...

I think you're getting the lesson from NY-23 almost backwards.

In NY-23, the right _did_ "NOT vote" for a republican.

Remember, the Republican in the race was Dede Scozzafava. She proved to be totally unacceptable to the conservative party base, and so a third-party candidate (Hoffman) came into the race.

The lesson the Republican Party needs to learn is that they need to nominate candidates that are acceptable to their party's base, as Christie and McDonnell were.

If Hoffman had been the candidate from the start, with a million dollars from the national party, the race could have been very different. If the Republicans had nominated someone more conservative than the very liberal Scozzafava, then Hoffman probably wouldn't have been in the race.

NY-23 wasn't so much a Democrat win, as a Republican own goal.