Saturday, November 1, 2008


It would be remiss of me not to mention the upcoming American election. To some it may seem funny but I have been here almost the entirety of George W. Bush's presidency. When I talk to people in New Zealand about New Zealand's election (Saturday, November 8th) I try to impress upon them the idea of what it's like to live in a country dominated by conservative and neo-conservative ideology. New Zealand seems to be moving right (in the way it moved left in 1999) but not for any real tangible reason. Certainly, the past three Labour-lead coalitions have had their moments, but for the most part I think Helen Clark has done a good job restoring many of the social values and economic fairness that was wiped away by the Labour government (1984-1990) and the National Government (1990-1999). It just seems, then, like New Zealand is tired and wants a change.

I have already voted, by the way, via post.

People wear politics in America on their sleeve or place it at the tip of their tongue whereas New Zealanders tend to treat politics in a much more private way. We just don't advertise what we think politically. Voting is a private, personal thing. I like this, in some ways. On the other hand, here politics is about engagement but the ideals of that engagement and debate have been merely turned into shout-a-thons lately.

I went to an Obama rally in Ohio about a month ago and had a thoroughly good time. I hope he gets elected, and if every person who could vote, votes and all of those votes are counted he will win. The problem is that not all those votes will get counted and not everyone will vote. Instead, there will be a fair amount of acrimony on both sides as voting day begins. In the last election, almost 2.5 million provisional votes weren't counted and given that Obama represents so many of these people expect to see similar numbers again.

It can come down to a discrepancy in addresses, no ID, no driver's license, and so on and so forth.

Also, keep in mind that America elects its president through the electoral college system, so we know, for example, that New York state and California will send all their votes to the college for a Democrat candidate, whereas Texas and the Southern states will send all their votes for the Republican candidate. In reality it comes down to a few number of "swing" states; those are the states whose population tends to switch allegiances from time to time. Thus, you should watch for the results in: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Nevada. Further, Obama has made gains into traditionally non-Democrat states, so watch for: North Carolina, Colorado, Virgina, Missouri and New Mexico. Whoever wins needs 270 electoral college votes and each state gets a certain number of votes based on population.

I'm quietly confident Obama will win, but I don't doubt the resilience of the Republican party to tighten things in the last few days, or failing that, use whatever tactics possible to suppress the vote. This statement makes me sound like a cynic, but, hey, I was here in 2004.

Anyway, I hope Obama wins and Helen Clark forms a new coalition government.

Let me leave you with the quotable Winston Churchill who once said: "Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains."

Remember people this was the man that planned the Gallipoli campaign.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I'm taking it personally that you forgot to put Indiana on your list of swing states.