18 Nov,2016 By jagabond
The plane took off for Italy in the midst of the U.S. presidential election, thus robbing me of a chance to see this political drama unfold. Major news outlets anxiously followed vote counts from the exciting, battleground states while I was in the air. My apologies to the less exciting states like Georgia and Alabama, but there’s never a real surprise which political direction you swing. About three hours into our flight over the Atlantic the pilot received a message from the ground, and announced that the race to 270 electoral votes was over.
So what’s a novice travel blogger doing writing about politics? I follow it rather closely, and thus feel more informed than most, and unarguably it was a very interesting election involving two wildly disliked presidential candidates. In addition, it has been dominating the news cycles for over a year now and everyone was ready for it to be over. I therefore view this as my summary wrap-up of the election, where afterwards I can finally move on to other things. I’ve listed my final thoughts below.
1. Calls for ‘unity’ will fall on deaf ears – I don’t think it’s realistic to expect anything different. The two candidates had starkly divergent ideas on how to run the country and what issues to prioritize. Are their followers supposed to just drop everything and adopt the other side for the sake of unity? I’m not even sure what a ‘unifying’ president would look like. I believe our two party system in America precludes this from happening, which is why I feel it’s so important to add a viable third party option. That being said, I think what’s more achievable than unity is an atmosphere where people desire success for the president, while still having civilized discourse and disagreement.
2. A recovery for the Democrats can happen quickly – President Obama spoke a few days ago and recounted the 2004 presidential election. This is where he had his coming out party, when he gave a rousing speech at the convention. It’s also where the Democrats lost the race for the White House, and massive amounts of seats in Congress…including their majority leader at the time, Tom Daschle. Things looked dark for the Democrats and there was doom and gloom talk for months. Not long thereafter the Democrats swept the midterm elections in 2006, and welcomed Obama as president in 2008. History can, and often does, repeat itself.
3. Votes really do matter – As I briefly mentioned a few days ago on my blog, the three states that ended up mattering most were Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan; all were decided by a total of 108,600 votes. The key word here is ‘votes’…not polls. The polls were so wrong that I think it actually deterred people from voting. Likely voters stayed home if they thought their candidate was either so far ahead or behind. Websites like ‘Huffington Post’ didn’t do the Democrats any favors by declaring that their candidate had a ‘98% chance of winning’…talk about breeding overconfidence! I’m not sure why the polls were so bad this year, but as with anything involving statistics, all it takes is some minor deviations (either intentional manipulation or poor methodology) to produce vastly different results.
4. The electoral college needs reassessed – I think this is a reasonable point for debate. However, to say the candidate who won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote in this current election should be the winner – I think that’s wrong. Campaigning for the electoral versus popular vote is a much different strategy, so you have to go with the election rules that were already agreed upon from the start. For future elections they should consider modifying the electoral college. For example, as it currently stands a vote in a smaller state equates to more than in a larger one, based on number of people per electoral vote. Could updated census numbers refine this to a more equal distribution? Also, why can’t the ‘winner take all’ concept be applied only if a candidate receives a certain percentage of the state’s vote – say 60%? Anything less than that would see the electoral votes partitioned based on districts won.
5. The immigration debate takes center stage – I feel the results of this presidential election may have been foreshadowed by a few key events in Europe – Brexit, the advance of the far-right in Austria and Holland, and the continuing rise of Marine Le Pen as a legitimate presidential candidate in France. The realities of a declining economy and terrorism fears, and how both these issues might relate to immigration, appears to have affected how many Europeans are voting. These themes were also heavily pushed in the U.S. presidential election, and in my opinion directly led to the results.
So what’s next?
Immediately following the election, radio and television saturated the airwaves with very polarized and exaggerated messages. People on the winning side are gloating and thinking big, whereas the losing side is dwelling on an apocalyptic vision for the next few years with Republicans in charge. Maybe I’m too optimistic (or cynical), but with the checks and balances our political system has, I just don’t see anything changing all that much. The new president will only have two years to make his case and sell his ideas to the people, because the 2018 midterm elections are right around the corner and could easily swing power in the other direction.
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy