Thursday, November 09, 2006

World: Mixed ramifications for US elections

It’s an uncanny echo of precisely six years ago. “America is Waiting…” (Byrne/Eno) was on the soundtrack for our barbecue at the time...

As we now know, that 2000 result was more significant to the pulse of the world than one simple presidential election. Why did Al Gore decline to pursue the disputed Florida results through the court? My take is that he accepted a concern that it would have been damaging to the fabric of the US constitutional system. But I think it will be some time before the full story is resolved.

Yes, there’s been a wave of change in the US. The House of Representatives has fallen to the Democrats, and the Senate is on a knife edge (1,729 votes), some saying the results won’t be known for three weeks. In a little irony, that final senate seat is defended by George (“macaca”) Allen, who has claimed he didn't use the “n” word.

Pundits are divided on how much of a change to America’s political climate this represents. However, they’re fairly universally toning down one aspect of the result. As I expected, the change masked an already-decided battle. Wars like this are fought on the front line, and behind the scenes. The latter battle – in primaries - was already settled: the Democrats to a surprising extent pitted conservative against conservative; liberal against liberal. So the political makeup has changed relatively little behind the scenes.

This may be borne out by the markets, anecdotally. I noticed a feed today said that although other countries' share markets were down, Dow Jones and Nasdaq were up on the previous day. Suggesting that although they were nervous overseas, US markets felt the result heralded no drastic change.

Note too, a lack of focus on one particular issue. Voters concerns centered around Iraq, terrorism, corruption and economy – but not climate change.

Yet there have been at least two significant effects already: the departure of Donald Rumsfeld (whose sole remaining defender seemed to be Bush), and the ascension of Nancy Pelosi into House of Representatives leadership. It's the highest post yet held in the US by a woman – third only after president and vice-president.

Interest in this is not attributable to prurience or cultural imperialism. This election has worldwide repercussions, as did the one in 2000.

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