The US holds mid-term elections this coming November 7th, first Tuesday of the new month. A mere eleven days from today.
Positions up for grabs are from US Senators down to the lowest elected city official. Thus, there are technically no national referenda, but simply state-wide positions and issues to be contested and decided by the electorate. Though, during these very crucial and contentious elections, it might as well be an election or referendum on the current national/federal government.
All the issues being hotly tossed about, dissected, criticized, or defended are those that go beyond state boundaries. Issues that affect the entire nation, like the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, illegal immigration, national or homeland security, ethical issues such as stem cell research, and of course, the state of the nation’s economy. No local issues with just local impacts here.
As individual voters then, it is quite easy to feel some degree of hapless confusion and helplessness in being able to affect the country’s direction based on the balloted choices for the upcoming elections. True, pundits like to deal on the long-term effects and repercussions that certain choices on the 2006 elections will have, still this sense of helplessness is felt especially in states where the odds and results are pretty much determined beforehand. Which candidates are assured to either retaining their positions or assuming their new positions.
Take California, for example, where I have resided for many years. This huge populous state is decidedly “blue” and thus, expected to vote Democratic. Not strangely enough, I have not heard much about the reelection campaign of one of the Democratic dynamic duo representing the state, nor from the virtual unknown Republican challenger from the opposite side. I am supposing, and I would be right on this, that it is as good a given that those two senators (Senators Feinstein & Boxer) will resume their exalted positions in the next Congress.
More than the hot contentious issues being debated and the hair-thin close races in many states, which have spawned ugly negative ads not seen in past elections, the main bone of contention for this election is the control of Congress. Which party is likely to wrest the majorities in both houses?
Right now, the Republicans hold sway in both branches of government, and one could say, even that of the third branch, the judiciary, through recent appointments successfully pushed through by the current administration.
But polls are showing the Democrats holding the upper hand in many contested states, as the election date draws nigh.
This will be the defining starting fight for this new century. Who will have control of the Congress, especially for the next two years, the remainder of the term for this lame duck administration? The president ends this second and last term and his sitting vice president has adamantly declared that he is not interested in the presidency.
Thus the presidential elections of 2008 will truly be a free-for-all, with no incumbent holding any kind of in-power advantage. And this will be the main event.
But on a much lowlier scale, I find myself for this election at an awkward position, having started a move of residence from one county to another. Thus, technically, I am still registered to vote in my old county, San Mateo, though I have spent considerable time in my new county trying to settle in.
Thus, for the few remaining precious time, I may have to acquaint myself with the candidates on the ballot, and the score of initiatives or propositions that will accompany the election.
And I must confess that the usually great fervor and honor felt during elections are a bit dissipated for this present exercise.
But I continue to be hopeful that collectively, the country will make the right decisions. Given the very pivotal role the country plays in the globe, it cannot afford to be complacent and nonchalant in its decisions and actions.
And as a last parting thought, the US in the midst of these very unsettling times both domestically and globally, finds its prominence and dominance challenged in all areas – politically, economically, and even militarily. It finds itself diminished in most areas even as it feverishly tries to defend itself against both just and unjust charges.
But these are not necessarily bad for the US. Maybe it is about time that other countries put shoulders to the plow and take up the slack. The US cannot be world’s policeman, defender, and deep-pockets country for eternity. Thus the emerging economic dominance of China, India, Singapore, and Australia, with the established participatory roles of Japan and the still consolidating EU, may augur well for a global future that today appears bleak and desolate.