MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Democracy in action

Columnist Glenn Mitchell provides some thoughts on the U.S. election

Although I had to wait until nearly midnight to hear it, Barack Obama’s victory speech Tuesday night was worth staying up for.

And who am I to complain when back east it was closer to 3 a.m.

I have to admit I was channel surfing most of the night as I like to see how the media is covering such a huge event and try to take note of who projects victories when and where and at what time.

Plus, like most of us these days, I have the attention span of a gnat and need to change channels constantly as a way of keeping myself stimulated and entertained.

I like to hear the instant analysis, that again we seem to demand these days (it’s about speed not depth silly), and contrast and compare what CNN is saying to what NBC and CBS are broadcasting.

So, for a semi-serious political junkie like myself, it proved to be an entertaining night. I’m glad I was alone for most of it as I would’ve driven my family crazy, but such as it is.

Trying to understand the American system, with its state-by-state electoral college standings, takes some doing. Basically it means due to historical voting patterns that only a handful of states actually matter come election night.

So when Ohio went Democrat it was basically all she wrote for Mitt Romney and the Republicans, even though he refused to concede for several hours after all the networks had declared Obama the victor.

Apparently the polls had told Romney he was going to win, but in the end he actually lost virtually all of the states, although apparently they are still counting in Florida, that he needed to win to claim victory.

So much for polls.

Although apparently some had it bang-on. And the popular vote was virtually neck and neck, so it was tough to call, apparently.

Still,  I love it how real people and real democracy seems to counter the ‘science’ of polling a lot lately. See recent coverage of Alberta and Ontario elections for closer-to-home examples if you like.

Now there’s a lot of criticism of the American version of democracy, especially this side of the border in our smug self-righteous way, and with some good reasons. There’s way too much money involved, politicians appeal to select audiences instead of the masses because that’s all that really counts, and why does it take so long in this high-tech day and age to declare a winner?

However, our system also has its challenges: we don’t vote directly for our prime ministers which tends to give us good politicians and less-than-inspiring leaders, and our popular vote doesn’t count for much either by the way.

Still, I couldn’t help but marvel at how a nation of 300 million safely and as far as I can tell, democratically, elected its leadership for the next four years. And their percentage of voter turnout is much better than ours, bsy the way.

Certainly it’s a nation divided, looking at the popular vote, but there’s at least some encouraging early signs that the two parties are willing to at least try to co-operate and get things done for the good of the country.

Of course that’s likely the honeymoon period talking but, along with Obama’s stirring speech, it gives one some sense of hope for the future.

And it’s worth noting on this special day that none of this democracy in action would be possible without the dedication and sacrifices of our veterans.

So please honour them by attending a Remembrance Day service in your community today or by conducting your own time of reflection on all that’s possible in the future thanks in large part to their efforts yesterday and today.