Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Political Notebook – Two big elections

Try as I might, I just couldn’t be bothered blogging about the two big elections I recently went through. Naturally, I had stuff to say, but nothing I cared about enough to actually write about. Part of that was was caused by the effects of my prescriptions, but I think I was also just plain worn down, especially by the past 13+ months, but also the three years-ish before that. Still, I noticed stuff, and a Political Notebook post is the simplest way to share some of that.

I really only published one expressly partisan political post just before the US election, and also one about voting in the US election. Apart from that, I haven’t really said anything since before Nigel died. All together, prior to today I published 53 posts about the US elections.

Up until today, I’d published 19 posts about the NZ election, and a large number of them were general in nature. Only a few posts were partisan in focus. I also had one about voting in the New Zealand election.

I think that I’d have had a lot more to say about both countries’ elections if Nigel hadn’t died. I can’t be sure, of course, but at the very least, I’d have been more motivated. Fortunately plenty of other people have written about stuff so I didn’t have to.

The USA’s elections

We all knew that the US election was going to be a mess, no matter what happened. What happened was all that and so much worse. The graphic above demonstrates how wide Joe Biden’s victory margin really was, though, of course, that’s irrelevant: The only thing that matters is getting enough votes in just the right states. Of course, Joe Biden did that, too.

As the result of again losing one single Electoral College Vote in Nebraska to the Democratic Candidate, the state’s Republicans are again determined to make the state “winner takes all” to ensure they all go to the Republican candidate. Of course.

Hypocritical electoral antics are one of the many reasons “The crisis isn’t Trump. It’s the Republican Party.” As Vox's Ezra Klein’s interview of Anne Applebaum points out. Which makes Marco Rubio’s opinion that his party “must rebrand as party of 'multiethnic, multiracial, working-class' voters” all the more laughable. Now, if Rubio had pledged to end his party’s reliance on disinformation, that would be a start (See: “Americans Were Primed To Believe” in FiveThirtyEight).

So, where to for Republicans? A better question might be what can Democrats do for disaffected Republicans? Before the election, long-time Republican strategist Stuart Stevens wrote “A Message to Democrats from Your New Ally: Victory is near”. At the same time, it’s often been pointed out that Democrats need to learn to speak to non-Trumpian Republicans. Published in NZ’s Stuff, Lana Hart suggests “Midwestern oddities help explain voting patterns”. She has a point, even if some of how she got there is arguable. This of course puts aside the question of whether it might be viable for Democrats to move Left, but that’s too big a topic for a links post. Maybe another day.

On the positive side, there were more women elected to Congress. Writing for FiveThirtyEight, Meredith Conroy talks about “How A Record Number Of Republican Women Will — And Won’t — Change Congress”. The short version: It’s not enough to really change things, either for the Republican Party or the politics of Congress.

New Zealand’s Election

By anyone’s reckoning, New Zealand’s election was huge and decisive. 82.2% of enrolled voters cast ballots (and 94.1% of eligible voters were enrolled by the day before the election; voter enrollment is compulsory). Of those votes, 68% were cast in advance (before Election Day).

The New Zealand Labour Party (full disclosure: I’m a member of the party) received 50% of the Party Vote, entitling it to 65 seats in the new Parliament (out of 120). This is the first time since MMP elections began in 1996 that a party has received enough votes to govern alone, and it was the largest intake of new MPs the party has seen since the First Labour Government was elected in 1935. The new Labour Party Caucus is also its first to be majority female. Overall, the new Parliament is the most diverse New Zealand has had. Among other things, thanks to the election, "NZ Parliament most rainbow in world".

Naturally, it wasn’t all clear sailing. Rightwingers were up to mischief, as they so often are. Some Australian lobbyists for the energy industry slandered NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in part because she pledged to take action on climate change (an example they’re clearly afraid Australia will follow).

There was also a nonsense theory that the election wasn’t really an overwhelming vote of approval for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government; instead, it was conservative “National Party voters voting for Labour as a way to keep the Green Party out of government. There’s no evidence of that, and a far more likely explanation is that it was just an overwhelming vote of approval for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Government. Personally, I think any National voters who voted Labour—or, more likely, for the libertarian-ish far right Act Party, which got its highest vote in many, many years—did so because of how extremely unpopular National’s leader Judith Collins is. I know I’m not the only one who thinks that, either. We’ll eventually have more data about that later on.

A newly elected Green Party MP, Ricardo Menéndez March, who is the first Mexican immigrant to be elected to Parliament, was the target of abuse because of a sarcastic Tweet he made about having to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen. Now, full disclosure, I’ve always liked him, even when I’ve disagreed with him, because of his endearing politics nerdiness (takes one to know one), and it’s nice that he’s also openly gay. However, the main reason I back him on this is because there’s nothing wrong with sarcasm, even about a stupid oath. Besides, I’ve long been critical of the oath used precisely because it requires an oath of affirmation of allegiance to the Queen, not the people of New Zealand. The oath needs to change, no matter what the mouth-breathers choose to think.

Finally, there was one weird thing about the New Zealand Election, delivered courtesy of Facebook. When I shared the NZ Labour graphic above celebrating the new government being sworn in, Facebook inserted one of its standard links to election information—about the US election results. This is a company that has no problem serving up ads for things I’ve searched for online or mentioned in a FB comment (or even spoken about out loud…), yet it can’t tell the difference between something about the US election and that of another country. No wonder they have so much trouble stopping disinformation and hate speech. Maybe I’ll talk about politics more now. Maybe not. But at least I now have these things off my list.

That, and the NZ election shows how well a democracy's elections can be.


Roger Owen Green said...

America's so screwed. Trumpism will live on. I was watching ABC's This Week. Martha Raddatz was talking with three Ohio men. Not only do they not believe the outcome of the election, but they would never accept the results of the election. It's one thing to say, "Trump doesn't represent me." But I always believed he was the [gag] legitimate holder of the office.

Arthur Schenck said...

Yeah, and the way his followers suddenly changed their tune, acting just like they accused the current occupant's opponents of acting in 2016 is—well, hypocritical isn't strong enough, but we'll stick with that.