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THOMPSON: Gerrymandering and US midterms

November 19, 2018 - 12:00 PM

OPINION


A few weeks ago I wrote about America’s Mid-Term Elections…admitting that the results were pretty much up in the air. After all, there’s been lots of tricks…gerrymandering, voter suppression, attempts to replace facts with fiction and hateful rhetoric.

A lot of those tricks continue…two weeks after Election Day. The current Governor of Florida - Republican Rick Scott - finally recused himself from overseeing the results of the election for one of Florida’s two Senators. The issue…he’s one of the Senatorial candidates. Just a day after the election, Scott threw the first of several below-the-belt punches, saying, “Senator Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try to win this election.”

Scott opposed the automatic recount of votes…despite more than 8 million total votes...and just 12,000 votes separated the two candidates. Florida, I should remind folks, is famous for so-called “stolen elections” since Albert Gore lost to George W. Bush there in 2000 by 365 votes. Tens of thousands of votes remained uncounted or disallowed.

The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled in Bush’s favour…but chicanery was evident. The high court ruling ended vote counting because it didn't want to delay the Electoral College vote. Indeed, political operative Roger Stone was involved in the 2000 campaign in Florida…and he’s likely to be indicted in the coming days for crimes in Trump’s 2016 election…and he was involved in Florida in this most recent election.

As for Gov. Scott of Florida…he showed up in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill last Wednesday for a photo op of newly elected Senators and House of Representative Members. That’s kind of like showing up at work for the office party…before you’ve been offered the job. By the way, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement - the state’s equivalent of the F.B.I. - found absolutely no fraud anywhere in the state...only technical violations in two counties that did not affect votes. The election isn’t certified until tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 20.

There’s plenty of room for improvement in America’s elections. For example, while I’m writing about U.S. Senate races, doesn’t it seem odd that the ultimate arbiter of contested elections…regardless of how close…isn’t the U.S. Supreme Court as it is for the presidency. It’s the U.S. Senate. Hmmm? Sitting Senators get to proclaim a winner...think they’d choose their Party’s candidate?

There’s a lot to be said for the way Canadians elect officials. For one, campaigns last 11 weeks…11 weeks…not two years or longer. The money spent on campaigns in Canada is minuscule compared to the U.S. In this most recent U.S. Mid-Term Election…candidates, parties and committees spent $3.8 Billion. Personally, I think it makes more sense to spend money for more important things…like solving issues that affect the people…rather than negative ads that rarely convey whole truths.

On Jan. 1, 2017, Ontario banned political parties from receiving donations from corporations and unions. Individuals can pull out their cheque books, but the maximum amount you can give to parties and candidates in a given year is now $3,600 a year…down from $23,275. This makes sense.

Gerrymandering - the carving up of political geography to favour one party or another - is ripe in the States. Republicans so manipulated districts that any chance of Democrats gaining control of the Senate was virtually impossible this year…despite Democrats garnering millions more votes.

Now, the good news about what happened in the States a couple weeks ago. The Democrats needed to flip 23 seats in the House of Representatives…and they have flipped 38 thus far. With mail-in absentee ballots still to be counted, Democrats could well end up with more than 40 new members of the House of Representatives. What that means generally is that someone other than Donald Trump holds the reigns on Donald Trump. That’s a good thing for America, Canada and the rest of the world.

Here’s how Congress - the House of Representatives and Senate - in the U.S. works. Any Senator or House Member can introduce and sponsor a bill. That bill is voted on by the entire Senate or House…if it passes, it goes to the other chamber, where its members analyze, research, discuss, change and vote on.

If both the House and Senate vote to accept a bill, they work out any differences between the two versions…or not and it dies. But, if they work out a compromise, vote and pass that single bill, it goes to the president…who can sign it into law…or veto it. Even with a veto, Congress can override the president with a two-thirds vote.

When Republicans controlled the House of Representative, they sponsored Trump-friendly bills…hard-line immigration legislation, Obamacare repeal, steep cuts to social programs and a tax cut whose net effect provided the top one percent of American earners and corporations with 87 percent of the benefit.

All that ends in January. The runaway Trump train has been de-railed. The house will put teeth back into biting investigations of Trump’s tax returns, his campaign’s and Administration’s dealings - if any - with Russia, and Trump’s shady business dealings, among other issues.

The Republicans in the House showed no spine for two years…and they lost this year. I doubt if the Republican Senate learned a single lesson from the 2018 election. They are using the same playbook…including courting bigots and lying to the public…that Trump used. It worked in 2016…it won’t work in 2020.

There’s no guarantee, of course, but the Democrats - if they don’t shoot themselves in the feet - can gun for the Senate and the White House in 2020. A lot of Americans are ready for solutions….compromises…less vitriol. You know, results…results that benefit all Americans. That hasn’t happened under Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. Democrats show every appearance of understanding that control of the House, Senate…even the White House…doesn’t mean success…we’ll see if they remember that in 2020.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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