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Lessons from the US Election

At last the United States has a new president.  While the rest of the world has watched in astonishment an election process that would seemingly never end, many Americans are concerned not with the process but with what this strange election year portends for the future of the republic. 

The news pundits persist in claiming that the closeness of the outcome is an indication that the two candidates and their respective supporters are so close on the issues that the candidates could not define their differences clearly; nor could the voters decide which candidate best met their requirements. Nothing could be further from the truth! What the results say to anyone paying reasonable attention is that Americans are badly divided, more so than at any time since the ill-fated election that preceded the War for Southern Independence.

Anyone who watched the returns on election night will surely recall the map that showed the states color-coded according to how the vote had tallied in the state. It quickly became evident that while Al Gore had carried the crowded urban states of the North-eastern US, the labour union strongholds of the upper Midwest, and the West Coast states, the balance of the country (including the South and all of the heartland and inland West) had voted for George Bush. As telling as that map was, an even more important one appeared the following day in USA Today - and then was quietly squelched and never seen or heard of again. What was so devastating to the powers-that-be that it needed to disappear from public discourse? This second map showed that even within the states won by Al Gore, most of the individual counties in each of those states went to his adversary. In other words, only the urban areas voted for the Democratic candidate. The county outcome showed that approximately 2500 counties in the United States voted Republican, compared to about 650 that voted Democratic. This is precisely why liberal politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton immediately began the hue and cry to eradicate the electoral college and elect the president on the basis of the popular vote - a move that would have given the election to Gore, even though the citizens of roughly three quarters of the nation's counties voted overwhelmingly for his opponent.

For those unfamiliar with America's Electoral College system, the republicís founders created it to give balance to the country's presidential election. Just as the bicameral legislature has one body based on the population of each state and one body that has two members for each state regardless of its population, the electoral college was designed to prevent heavily populated areas of the country from controlling a presidential election in such a way that the rest of the nation has no input to the process. It has worked well to accomplish that purpose for over two hundred years, and one can only hope that Americans and their elected representatives will see fit to retain the system.

What does all this mean for America's future? There has always been division in the nation's politics, but it has also been the American tradition, once the votes have been counted, to unite as Americans behind the newly elected president. It is not at all certain that will happen this time. Surely if one is to judge by the letters on the editorial pages of any newspaper in America, there is no reconciliation on the horizon. Indeed the venom appearing daily in the print media indicates a bitterly divided nation with each contingent viewing those on the other side of the fence, not as fellow Americans, but as enemies. One spokesman for the Southern Nationalist movement refers to the election and the USA Today map as a "defining moment in US history." He may be accurate in his description of a country coming unglued along sectional, ideological, racial, and ethnic lines.

Sandra Whittington, Douglasville, Georgia

January 2001

 

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