Nearly a parliamentary system

Massachusetts, generally a Democratic state in recent decades, nevertheless has had a tradition of electing moderate Republicans.

It’s Election Day in the US. At last. Thank whatever deity you believe in! The only people who will be upset about this are the local television stations, who have been raking it in with all the political advertisements. I’ve discovered that a lot of people don’t understand why the candidates often say at the end of the ads, “I’m Joe Blow, and I approve this message.” It’s because there are ads out there, sponsored by the political parties, or political action committees, supposedly (snicker) independent of the (chortle) political candidates.

As is my tradition, I will be voting as soon as the polls open, at 6 a.m. It’s not just that I am anxious to vote or want to get it over with. It’s that, if I cast my ballot early enough, they won’t call me to make sure I get out there. Better get my wife to vote before work, too. I’m voting for an annoyingly large number of incumbents, which is NOT my tradition, historically.

It’s occurred to me that the US has, almost, become a de facto parliamentary system. Someone like Arlen Specter, who died last month, was a fairly moderate-to-conservative Republican from Pennsylvania, who annoyed members of both parties with his actions on the Senate Judiciary Committee, blocking the nomination of Robert Bork, but allowing for the ascent of Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court, brutalizing Thomas accuser Anita Hill in the process. When he became a Democrat in 2009, he hadn’t moved to the left; his former party had lurched to the right. I might have voted for him.

If I were living in Massachusetts, and Elizabeth Warren (D) weren’t running, I might have considered selecting Scott Brown for US Senate. As Republicans go these days, he’s relatively moderate. But then again, his re-election would have implications on party control of the Senate, so maybe not. In the olden days, even 20 years ago, bipartisanship and “working across the aisle” weren’t seen as traitorous behaviors.

Massachusetts, generally a Democratic state in recent decades, nevertheless has had a tradition of electing moderate Republicans. Edward Brooke was the first black member of the US Senate since the Reconstruction period after the US Civil War, serving from 1967 to 1979. And moderate Mitt Romney was governor from 2003 to 2007. Whatever happened to THAT guy, anyway?

I heard that 80% of the people voting for Obama or Romney this year will vote for the Senate candidate of the same party. And it’s 90% in House races. We’ve returned to straight-party voting in the US, which I understand, but don’t see as a necessarily good thing.

Here are my predictions: Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., we STILL won’t know who the winner is; might be days. Or weeks. Ultimately, Obama wins, with less than 50% of the popular vote, and the Republicans spend the next four years bemoaning that fact.

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