Iowa Democrat Caucus

Just wondered if anybody following the US election might be interested in what’s being said on this side of the Atlantic.

I was particularly interested in what people were saying about Trump, about 2 minutes in.

For my money, Channel 4 News is about the best (i.e. serious) that the UK has to offer.

Across the Broad Atlantic

I’m having an interesting disagreement with a chap at the moment. I say “disagreement” but I actually mean a semi-disagreement, because I think we’re both on the same side.

The debate was about Donald Trump. He doesn’t like him, I don’t like him.

The debate went along the lines:

– [Me] Trump wants America to prosper [referring to “Make America Great Again” nonsense]. If I were an American, that at least would be good [even if he’s going about that in a dumb way]
– Trump’s only interested in him and his cronies, not average Americans
= [Me] He got 60M votes. They can’t all be his cronies.
– Mostly a certain type of person

My point is simply that it doesn’t matter who these people were who voted for Trump. What matters is that their votes counted in 2016 and will count again in 2020. If they don’t change their mind and vote the other way, then Trump will be re-elected.

Maybe some of them will change their mind? Trump is staring recession in the face, after all, and that won’t please his heartlands.

Or maybe apathy will come into it? I looked up some numbers, and found that turnout in the presidential poll was only around 60%. To a Brit, that’s low, we’re generally up around 70%-ish. here. My own constituency was 75% last time. Certainly from here, both candidates looked awful, so I can totally understand somebody not voting at all. But the turnout in 2016 was not particularly lower than 2012.

At this point, US Politics gets beyond me. I don’t know how many more turnout you’d need to give a Democrat win, even if you could assume every single fresh voter voted Democrat. As my friend pointed out, they already won the popular vote last time out, quite comfortably, but the US system is every bit as convoluted as our’s, and just getting more votes than your opponent doesn’t guarantee anything. I haven’t heard anyone in the US ask “why?” yet, in the context of electoral reform, but I’m sure that must be happening. I hope so, at any rate. In this day and age, we can just tot up the numbers as they roll in, and simply let the president be the person with the most votes. Somebody in Las Vegas carries just as much weight as someone in Boston. That seems exactly as it should be.

Again, possibly my lack of American knowledge lets me down – I know that the public decides how their Electoral College votes (mostly!), but I don’t really understand the purpose of the Electoral College. Why, these days, is it even inserted into the process at all? What did surprise me was to learn that several members of the Electoral Colleges defected, and voted against the wishes of their electorate. It was small and worked out roughly even, so didn’t have a decisive effect, else I’m sure I would have known. But it does surprise me that it is felt appropriate for somebody to feel that their own opinion is worth more than thousands of electors, and still feel they are suitable to take part in the democratic process.

More Mass Shootings

In the past 24 hours, we’ve learned of two mass shotings over in the USA. I’ve written about gun control before, here. That was a year ago, but my views haven’t changed.

It’s tempting for us to pass comment on how bad that is. We can use all the fancy language we like, but that won’t stop it happening again next time.

I really think it is time we moved on from “what a shame” to “what do we do about it”. Rather than lamenting what happened, and crossing our fingers until the next time, we need to change the debate.

 I follow a couple of blogs these days. One of them is a guy, he seems quite switched-on. He also happens to be American. He’s written something about the shootings and it has been informative to read both his post and some of the comments. I assume that most of the people who follow this chap are also American, so certainly they will see the problem from far more closely than I do.

It’s not really surprising that without exception, the blogger and his commenters are all appalled, but even from the USA there are lots of “what a pity” comments. One of the things that raised my eyebrows though was this guy’s distinction between these automatic “assault rifle”-type weapons, and, say, a handgun. He feels that assault rifles are unacceptable (no argument here) but that handguns are. I’d just go the whole hog and say that none of them are. Perhaps a reflection of living in a society without guns? Certainly, in the circles in which I move…

But there was a definite feeling that carrying a gun for personal protection was okay. I shall not judge.

One of the commenters also said something memorable, despondent, really, saying that nothing would change because Washington, D.C. was controlled by money. I very much agree with that, and would broadly echo his sentiment that the whole system needs to change. But again, though, I think we should not only be thinking that, but thinking how it needs to change.

It is a very sad situation. I’m prepared to think that many Americans would want to see gun control in some way or other, but probably not so far as I would go. But I think we also need to be constructive here rather than cynical, and be prepared to think about what we need to change, how we bring change about.