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.