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4th November
2008
written by Steph
I am completely riveted by the 2008 Election, which if you haven’t heard already, is an election of historic proportions, since either a really old dude (the oldest first-term Commander in Chief ever!) or a black man (the darkest Commander in Chief ever!) will be named the 44th president of the United States. In the past I have been somewhat disdainful of U.S. politics, the Canadian in me recoiling from the smear tactics and aggressive campaigning (we’re so gosh darn polite in Canada), not to mention the fervent religious undercurrent that frequently becomes an overtone. In those respects, this election has had its fair share of alienating this non-voter, but I’ve also seen a lot to admire and respect as well. It has been inspiring to see just how deeply people (on both sides of the ticket) care about their country and its future. I marvel at stories of people volunteering to drive strangers to the polls, just so that everyone gets the opportunity to exercise his or her vote. When Tony & I went out for dinner on Saturday night, our dining companions wore matching Obama swag, and toted along a purse covered in "Yes We Can" pins. [Aside: I have never seen a Steven Harper (American readers: who?) t-shirt, or even a Jack Layton (American readers: huh?) button for that matter (no one wonders why there's no Stéphane Dion (American AND Canadian readers: ???) merch). This might be because as Canadians we only indirectly vote for our national leader, but I would like to attribute it, at least in part, to the lack of catchy slogans.] Granted, if you live in Tennessee as I do, a vote for change will likely not change anything as this state is a burning crimson red, but still! [Another Aside: For the record, while I fully admit that the Canadian election system is not perfect, I really don’t get the Electoral College system… don’t try to explain it to me... it just seems dumb. Why not just have every person’s individual vote count? Tony keeps trying to explain how you win the popular vote but lose at the Electoral College level (this happened to Gore…), which I sort of understand, but doesn’t this outcome seem like a huge flaw in the system if the MAJORITY voice is being sidestepped? Just do away with the Electoral College already, I say!] I hope Obama wins this. He has been slammed for his rhetoric (amongst other things, of course), but he is a great orator, and I applaud his use of inspiration and hope as a means of motivation rather than hatred and fear. When people are weary and apathetic, hope is perhaps the most difficult thing to offer, and yet it is the most vital. I think Obama has the potential to be a great leader, not because he has the wherewithal and the intelligence to deliver the tangible goods the country needs, but because of all of the intangibles he offers. If you have not watched the “Yes We Can” video put together by will.i.am, do yourself a favor and do so, and you will see what I am talking about. Today, not just America, but the entire world, waits with bated breath. Talk about uniting people.

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  1. 11/04/2008

    I really liked your post and the funny difference between Obama and McCain as to the “first” ___ president. Hilarious. Very nice and intelligent article.

  2. taryn
    11/11/2008

    Hmm. I don’t think it’s so much that you don’t understand the Electoral College — or, as i was trying to get my friends to refer to it during election night coverage, the “Electoral Collage” — as you don’t agree with it. In fact, i KNOW you understand it because i believe i sat both you and Sarah down back in 2004 and explained it to you. And it seems that Tony’s given you a refresher course for 2008!

    Political systems aren’t perfect; they’re man-made creations that try to translate an idea (democracy) into a fact (democratic process and representation, or whatnot). Think about how, when you go about constructing an experiment, there isn’t always one proper indicator for every variable you’re testing. You might need to try different combinations of best-fit indicators, or use a proxy variable, or dear lord i can’t believe i’m actually trying to make a parallel to the empirical method. It must be late / i must be drunk [it’s the former, sadly].

    But political systems are remarkably resistant to change. Like many of the byzantine arrangements you often find in politics, voting systems were not necessarily designed for democratic efficiency so much as they were for political expediency. Many of the (frankly) ridiculous arrangements you see are a result of a specific historical context, which became codified and over time so established that there’s the tendency to treat these things as given, rather than constructed. They pretty much amount to the rules of the game: clearly resultant from explicit consensus at the outset, but over the years becoming sacrosanct and inviolable. To the point where people seldom question whether the logic on which they were originally premised still holds true.

    Case in point: why is it that we’re still saddled with the RIDICULOUS first-past-the-post electoral system here in Canada? You know, the one that results in having to show two different sets of numbers on election night: percentage of popular vote vs. actual seats gained. It’s the one that gives the Green no seats in parliament even though they managed to secure 7% of the popular vote, whereas the Bloc’s 10% translates to 49 seats. FYI: seeing as i live in Gilles Duceppe’s riding and there was no chance he wasn’t going to win by a landslide, this year — the first time in my life that i’ve not voted Liberal — i cast my ballot for the GreenParty, as a protest vote against FPTP! 🙂

  3. stephandtony
    11/11/2008

    Oh my gosh, Ranty McGee!

    I think I did point out in this post that I know that no system is perfect, and certainly I like that Americans can actually vote directly for their head honcho (well kind of… the Electoral College actually makes it an indirect election system, because they’re really just telling other people who to vote for when the time comes), which we as Canadians cannot (and in fact, Americans are the only ones who have this power). And it’s not that I don’t understand how the Electoral College works, I just don’t “get” it in terms of why this system is still in play. Why not just use the popular vote? Apparently they have tried to pass bills making the popular vote the key thing, but these have never passed. Yeah, yeah, people resist change (or do they?!?!), but obviously the Electoral College system is outdated and makes little sense in today’s world.

    And I mean, again, I stress that Canada’s system is not necessarily the paragon of what should be done either. It is what allows us to ultimately have things like minority governments, after all (which, try explaining that to an American! It’s like our version of the Electoral College in terms of inscrutibility!). I don’t know, I guess, in a way, our ridings are kind of like electoral colleges, in that certain provinces will get more representation and have a larger impact on who “wins” the election.

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