Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I love other people's elections

Other people's elections have two important elements that make them better than my own, first my emotional detachment and my intellectual detachment match. In NZ elections I know Labour sucks, and I know it's not going to matter that much, but I still end up caring, and I find that frustrating. The other thing is that other people have first past the post voting systems, which while fundamentally undemocratic, are really fun to watch.

I think it's basically the geek in me that likes elections. I suspect the part of me that decided that all X-files episodes that began with the letter 'P' were of superior quality (this was back in Season three, I make no claism f), is exactly the same part of me that loves knowing that the thing to do is watch New Hampshire 2.

Of course an election is no fun if you can't support a team. I find if you look there's always something to care about: in Britain it was the fate of Plaid Cymru,* in America it was the ballot measures, and knowing if the Democrats took back the house no-one will be able to do anything for two years.

According to CNN all states that had minimum wage increases on the ballots succeeded (often with large margins), that's far more than any New Zealand election has done. Plus the news on the abortion rights front is all good - two parental notification clauses knocked out, and the South Dakota abortion ban overturned. If they can't ban abortion in South Dakota, then that has to be a good sign.

The rest is less fun (although go Arizona for being the first state not legislate Homophobia), also I'm not sure that I believe CNN, when it says that it's covering the key ballot initiatives. I read somewhere that some state voted to investigate bringing in the death penalty. I think that's key and I don't even know what state it is.

As for the actual results, I'm generally fond of the US government not being able to do anything, really I am. I might even have the desire to kind of hope that the Democrats take the remaining two Senate seats, if I thought they might use them not to confirm people, but I don't.**

It's not that I wouldn't vote. The thing I like best about my own elections is voting. I'm reasonably pragmatic about voting, and I love making really complicated theories about the best way to use my vote (or really complicated theories about how to answer polling questions - once I was supposed to say that I was going to vote for NZ First, I can't remember why).*** It's just that they're the Democrats; they suck beyond the telling of it. There are probably even occasions where I'd vote for a Democrat in a national race (although I think in the unlikely event that I moved to America I'd make sure I lived somewhere like Mississippi or Massachusetts, so I'd never be tempted to vote for president). I can also think of circumstances that I'd be glad they won. But none of this makes them an fraction more left-wing, or an ounce less of a corporate party. I don't think it's elections that bring about meaningful change, but organising.

This election has reminded me everything I find weird about American elections. Top of the list is the fact that you use a different voting system in each part of the country, and it's elected officials who decide on the voting system.

But second is the fact that Americans vote for everything. In New Zealand all the power is totally centralised and the only thing we vote for is central government (we do occasionally vote for local government but they don't control any of the most important services such as education).

So I have a question for everyone there whose just voted for the Secretary of State in California, or their local DA or the Insurance Comptroller (what on earth is that?), what difference do you think it makes that these positions are . I imagine that mostly it wouldn't make a difference, but when would it would mean that . NZ has pretty much the same level of violent, racist, rapist cops across the country. Somewhere you have to elect the sheriff, there would be places where that would encourage violent, racist, rapist cops, and other places where it might not stop it, but it might curb it. Is that people's experience?

* Chalk that up to things you didn't know about me - I'm enough Welsh to support the Plaid (if not Welsh to reliably pronounce it).

** It sounds like the Virginia Senate race actually resembles the Tauranga Electorate race - which my friend Larry described as sexism beating racism on the day (although it sounds like racism is going to beat sexism in Virginia - isn't that special).

*** My favourite was that friends who were too principled to vote for Labour or the Greens, but wanted Winston Peters out of a job should vote for the Maori party, on the grounds that the Maori party would have an overhang so voting for then would mean that they wouldn't get any extra seats, but would make it less likely that NZ first would reach the 5% threshold. Then it was pointed out to me that voting for the Libertarianz would achieve the same result, and I was sad, because that was a really complicated bit of logic out the window.


  1. Anonymous8:07 pm

    Elections involving Sheriffs and D.A.s are more like coronations. It's either an easy ride for the incumbant or the next in line to ascend to the position. If another employee in the Sheriff's department or D.A.'s office runs against the annointed, they can face ostracization and banishment into unpopular assignments after the elections.

  2. Anonymous7:36 pm

    The state that voted for bringing in the Death Penalty is Wisconsin. Fortunately, it was a non-binding referendum.