Published on 9 Nov 2011

American electors back moderation at the ballot box

Every now and then America dishes up an unforeseen, unscripted spasm of moderation.

This is what happened in a slate of state elections and ballot initiatives yesterday, which amounted to a collective cold shoulder to some feverish issues pushed mainly by the hard right.

In Mississippi voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative which would have redefined human life as beginning with conception. This went so far beyond the usual strictures of the anti-abortion lobby that even the local Catholic diocese was against the initiative.

Had it passed it would have, for instance, meant banning the morning-after pill and ending in vitro fertilization because the process involves destroying unused fertilized eggs. It would have set a precedent with far reaching consequences well beyond the borders of the state of Mississippi. More than 55 percent of voters, including many who abhor abortion turned against  it .

Further north in Ohio sixty-eight per cent of voters threw out a piece of legislation passed into law by Governor John Kasich last March which ended collective bargaining rights –including the right to strike- for essential public servants like firemen, policemen and teachers. The governor, who was elected last year on a wave of Tea Party support, introduced the measure ostensibly to save costs and spread the burden of the recession to hitherto “untouchable” civil servants.  But the public voted with them.

In Virginia voters prevented the Republican Party from continuing its sweep to control every part of state government by taking over the Virginia Senate.

In a number of cities both Republican and Democrat mayors won re-election. This is significant because last year incumbency was a dirty word. The mere fact that a politician held office was enough to qualify for losing it.

Something has changed. The insurgent zeal which the Tea Party exploited so brilliantly has fizzled. It’s not that voters are happy with the status quo. Far from it. But they are tired of gimmicky initiatives that don’t address the fundamental problem: rebooting America’s economy.

Voters were perplexed by the fact that the House of Representatives –current approval rating: 8 percent- wasted precious time recently passing a bill to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as America’s motto (does Britain have a motto?)  Meanwhile the President’s urgent jobs and spending bill, or indeed any other  measures that are attempts to  save the economy’s fading pulse, are languishing in committee.

The voters have sent their elected officials an unambiguous message. Get on with the job we’re paying you for.

Tweets by @mattfrei

3 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Matt.

    I’ll believe this is more than a frisson when “In God We Trust” is removed from anything to do with government, including the US currency.

    Crackpot loony evangelist religion is at the heart of everything that has always prevented realisation of the best hopes for the American form of government. It even underpinned the manifest evil of slavery and US apartheid.

    Nor are the Tea Party idiots “brilliant.” They are nothing more than a small gang of middle class knee-jerk selfish reactionaries with the short term appeal of a Punch and Judy show – and with about as much substance. Eventually they’ll burn up in their own bile.

    The USA was founded as a secular society. Rightly, “faith” (of any faction) was always considered a matter of individual conscience.

    Sooner or later the message will get through to Americans that the REAL enemy is not “politics,” but capitalism. Sooner or later they will stop confusing that evil system with trade social interaction. If they don’t, their National Security State will continue to move closer to fascism and imperialism.

    And such a development will herald the end of the American experiment. A great historic opportunity will be lost.

  2. Philip says:

    A British motto?
    Not in my back yard?
    I don’t want to complain, but…

    My personal favourite – all the world’s mad save thee and me…and I’m none too sure about thee

  3. Saltaire Sam says:

    Long may it continue. Obama may not be getting it all right but he’s much better than the alternative.

    As for the UK Motto, how about: ‘In politicians and bankers we have no trust’?

    Or ‘there’s no such thing as society’?

    Or the Catholic church’s ‘Little children suffer to come to me’

    Enough already!

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