All hail the secret ballot. All hail the power of We The People. We don’t know how a person voted, unless they let us peek, but we do know how the people voted. That’s the secret behind our nation. Watching the results was probably more fascinating than anything on TV. I wouldn’t know because I got rid of my TV, but some of my friends stayed up past midnight making sure the right people won. What fascinates me more are the breakthroughs and larger trends underlying the details of individual races. The nation is changing because the people are changing, and the changes are real, not academic. Within the next 30 years, the life of a typical mortgage, the way we live, deal with money, and interact will change. Our votes make that happen.
I’m an extreme independent moderate. Guessing which way I’ll vote is so hard I can’t remember which boxes I checked. I don’t need to dwell on irrevocable decisions. I vote for the best candidate, regardless of party, because that’s what I see is the job of a voter. Trying to pick the winner is more popular. Picking winners is the role of bookies, which is one reason why I regularly posted on facebook the odds from British bookie firm Ladbrokes. As I type this, the Democrats are 5 to 4 and the Republicans are 4 to 5 for winning the 2016 election. Yes, the race has already begun. The Independents are 25 to 1, and I’m glad they continue to try. Someday, someday, they will succeed. Bookies and pollsters have different incentives. Pollsters make money running polls. The closer the race, the more polls are conducted. Bookies make money by guessing the winner.
Every electoral race seemed to be accompanied by a map. Reds and Blues. Where are the Greens? We’ve become accustomed to the coasts being mostly Blue, except in the South; and the middle being mostly Red, except in the upper Midwest. There is a bifurcation in the nation. We’ve had it before. There’s an excellent Red and Blue political map produced by ace web comic xkcd that shows the ebb and flow since Washington. At one point the differences became so extreme that our nation temporarily became two, from at least one point of view. Will it happen again? Joel Garreau in the book, The Nine Nations of North America, drew boundaries based on economics and culture that roughly match the divide between red and blue. One scenario that could precipitate such a division would be for the Parti Québécois to successfully secede from the rest of Canada at the same time that some place like Texas secedes because it is tired of federal management of border issues. North America could rapidly become as divided as Europe. I haven’t found the odds on that.
My address provided me with a fractal view to the Blue/Red divide. The national map is familiar. Washington State divides along the Cascade Mountains. Whidbey Island divides north versus south. I’m not sure if this extends to my neighborhood or my street, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Hmm, take it one level internally and maybe that’s why I’m a moderate.
Washington State just passed two referenda: Yes to same sex marriage, and Yes to legalizing marijuana. Yep. The maps split along the same geographical lines. Regardless of the closeness of the vote, someone will now find a way to host a LGBT wedding and serve a powerfully mellow wedding cake. Let’s just make sure everyone is of age and no one has to drive. And the lovely couple may just be recent immigrants to the state. As some states become more open, they attract people who appreciate that. As other states become more protective of a different set of values, they too attract people who appreciate a different that. Bluer becomes bluer. Redder becomes redder.
The Constitution of the United States, something Barack Obama will swear an oath to soon, does an admirable job of giving the states the rights to be unique, while maintaining an overall structure. The strength of that document, those words, and those ideas will probably be enough to maintain the integrity of the nation – as long as we follow it instead of merely using it for an oath.
Thirty years is a reasonable time for a mortgage and probably my remaining life expectancy without a digital singularity sneaking in. Within those decades we will sort out marijuana legalization, same sex marriage, and a swarm of other political platform planks. We will either sort them out by making the decisions more general, or by allowing the divisions to become more distinct.
As a Washington resident, I am glad we made the choices we made. Simply based on economics and balancing risks, rewards, costs and benefits I believe Washington State’s economy will be healthier within a few years. The state will be making more and spending less. And the people on the west side of the mountains may be happier and mellower. Sounds good to me. As I type this I wonder what opportunities such changes make that help me lead a thriving life. I’m sure I’m not the only one pondering that issue.
As an American, I worry about our country. Even though it is doubtful that a dissolution would occur, we could effectively produce the same result. By the Constitution, contracts that are valid in one state are to be effectively respected by the other states. But ideologies aren’t protected. I think we already see a lack of unity that impacts our collective health. Radically different approaches to science education are enough to make me wonder if some states are going to become dependent on others for technology. I’m impressed with the Amish, but how would it affect the nation if a breadbasket state left behind evolution, genetics, and ecology?
Our economic crisis is becoming easier to accept. Jobs are increasing. Inflation remains low. Interest rates are ridiculously low. Yet our nation’s debt, deficits, and delayed repairs are unresolved. They don’t impact our daily lives, yet. I don’t see the trend that suggests that we’ll all agree to a set of solutions.
Despite a clear electoral college victory, the legalization of marijuana, and the approval of same sex marriage we lack clear majorities. Each race was decided by a few percent. Even a clear win of 75% would mean 25% were on the other side. Imagine a dinner party of twelve where nine decided what the other three had to eat. Three people allergic to shellfish would more than mildly disapprove of nine people telling them to eat clams.
Thirty year mortgages assume the world doesn’t change within that time. I look at these trends, throw in the minorities such that there is no such thing as a majority, throw in a disaster or two, and I wonder. And I know that the best thing to do is plan for things to continue, and expect things and the plans to change.
Sunset on election night produced an amazing collection of colors. Red and blue swirled within contentious winds as another cycle sets. They produced purples. Maybe that should be a new color for our map.