Thursday, October 28, 2004

Too much to tell ... too close for politics

OK, I'm a bad blogger. Good bloggers write things down every few minutes if they have a significant (or just interesting) thought or experience. I tend to have lots of ideas that should turn into blog posts, but somehow never get there. Since I last wrote anything here, Maryl and I have bought a house, Mike and I delivered a paper in Washington DC (you can read the paper here if you want), Maryl and I visited Georgia and South Carolina for a friend's wedding, and all hell kept breaking loose in many parts of the world. Now the European Parliament is finally starting to show its teeth, 50 unarmed Iraqi recruits have been brutally massacred, 4 Britons are suing the US for locking them up without a trial (the historic irony would be amusing if it weren't so tragic), and the US election is just a week away.

The elections ... voter registration has reached unprecendented levels, but is already dwarfed by the explosion of preemptive and planned lawsuits. According to a poll in the Financial Times, 6 out of 10 Americans expect this election to be so close that it's decided by litigation. What a tragedy - and what a poor prognosis for democracy. Both sides believe that the other side would prefer to win by foul means than to lose fair and square, and with partisan suspicion at an all-time high, this has lead to a legal arms race. In most democracies, if the vote in any constituency is too close to be decisive, you start by recounting (and if you still can't tell, you should reballot). In the US, they'll freeze the voting and go straight to the courts. Similarly, in most democracies, if the outcome is genuinely indecisive, the parties have to start negotiating with one another to form a government. The process is still political. In the US there is no post-election political process - winner takes all for 4 more years. Again, there is bitter historic irony here - the reason for having the Electoral College in the first place was for the college to be a democratically elected body of wise individuals, aware but not bound to their own partisan interests, willing to make the necessary political decisions and compromises to choose a viable and equitable executive government.

I cannot help being biased at this point. The sheer willful ignorance of the Republican Hawks - ignoring the rest of the world, ignoring the warnings of expert military advisors and diplomats, ignoring the delicately split margin that placed them in power, and above all ignoring the laws that the American Revolution cherished and enshrined - makes me despise them utterly. But according to polls all over the world, I am the mere plaything of demography here. The overwhelming majority of world citizens, especially Europeans, want Bush removed. Fascinatingly, this demographic plays out with brutal efficiency in the United States as well. If you explore the New York Times wonderful election graphic, you'll find that the overwhelming majority of Americans who live near an international airport or any city big enough to be worthy of international attention voted for Gore in 2000 and will vote for Kerry in 2004. You're only likely to truly believe that George Bush is the man to protect you and your family from deadly attacks if you live near some distant haystack that no self-respective terrorist would think worth the trouble. If the people of Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are brave enough to face the terrorist threat as carefully aware citizens of a mainstream world, how come the rural hicks with their arsenals of private weapons are so scared? Because they, like their leaders, are willfully ignorant. See you in court.