Yes They Can (Mostly)


Well, some of my faith in the US is restored this morning. Senator Obama’s election to the White House is an extraordinary gesture of hope that ought to resonate around the globe. His acceptance speech was yet another example of awesome oratory. Let us hope that President Obama governs the way Senator Obama campaigned.

Of course, there were a few disappointments last night. California voted ‘yes’ on proposition 8, effectively banning gay marriage in the state. This exit poll is particularly shocking, indicating that 70% of African-Americans voted ‘yes’ on the issue. I should really learn more about the rationale behind referendums. Why do we (and the US much more than us) have them, and under what circumstances?

Likewise, Alaska probably re-elected an 84-year-old convicted felon (who thinks the Internet is ‘a series of tubes’) to the Senate. He’ll be the first person ever to be re-elected to the Senate after being found guilty on criminal charge. As someone said elsewhere on the web this morning, stay classy, Alaska.


  1. I’m an American expat living in London. Today my husband and I looked at each other in amazement as we realized that now, if we want to, we can go home…

    Shame about Prop 8 though. California is one of the only states that even contains propositions on its ballot. The wording can be somewhat tricky, and a lot of people don’t actually understand which way they’re voting. Sad to say.

  2. I think Californians knew what they were voting for, which is all the sadder. I liked Cecily’s tweet about it (she’s black and American, but living in Vancouver):

    “African Americans were almost 2-1 in support of Prop 8. My people have no sense of irony, apparently.”

  3. The US has a much greater tradition of direct democracy than typical Westminster-Parliament nations like Canada. It’s the difference between electing a “representative” and a “member,” which is not just a semantic consideration.

    Most states have laws that allow citizens to put a proposition on the ballot by collecting enough petition signatures.

    As for Ted Stevens, One consideration has to be that he is almost certain to either resign from senate or be expelled in short order.

    If he resigns, the state governor (you may have heard of her; she’s a Republican) gets to appoint a replacement.

    If he’s expelled, there’s a special byelection for his replacement.

    Either way, the votes for the almost-certainly-soon-to-depart Sen. Stevens can be read as votes against his opponent, not votes in favor of the guy likely to disappear from public office very shortly regardless.

    For a similar (but not identical) case, see the senatorial election of Mel Carnahan, the famous case of the dead guy who beat John Ashcroft.

    PS: Mel Carnahan’s wiki page contains a weird paragraph at the end detailing the surprising number of senators and senatorial candidates who have died in plane crashes.

  4. Disappointing as the Yes on Prop h8te result is, It’s not over yet. SF, LA and Silicon Valley city attorneys are suing.

    “The issue before the court today is of far greater consequence than marriage equality alone … Equal protection of the laws is not merely the cornerstone of the California Constitution, it is what separates constitutional democracy from mob rule tyranny. If allowed to stand, Prop 8 so devastates the principle of equal protection that it endangers the fundamental rights of any potential electoral minority…”

    Minority rights and civil rights issues just shouldn’t be decided by a ballot initiative, especially 50% + 1 (especially when a light-rail extension vote required 2/3rds of the vote!)

  5. One could see it another way: while it is surely unfortunate to many of us that this proposition was passed, at the very least, it allowed conservatives to get something that they wanted and not feel entirely shut out of the political process. Don’t forget that the popular vote was fairly even and that if you’re really serious about de-polarizing the politics in that country, then you’ll be more than willing to make concessions here and there.

  6. A series of tubes!
    My first thought was: it’s hard to not to pass judgement on a people that choose someone like that to represent them.
    Closely followed by: now who’s calling the kettle black?
    And then: we all learn from experience, don’t we. I myself learn very well from doing the wrong thing first…

    Good luck, Alaska.

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