Yesterday’s US election results are important for Canadians.
While voters clearly rebuked George W. Bush personally, his plan for getting out of Iraq in particular and the corruption in Congress overall, they provide little or no insight into voters’ hopes for the future of that democracy.
Those Democrats who won easily did so by being critical and opposed to continuing to fight the war in Iraq as it has been fought over the last two years.
However, this is not a debate on the whole notion of maintaining a first-strike military and diplomatic foreign policy.
Voters, it seems, are no less militaristic, they are simply fed up with losing.
There seems to be little if any remorse among voters for the overall suffering of Iraq civilians. What sickens American voters is the fact the war continues to drag on with no victory in sight.
In fact, this election was not about being more humane or compassionate philosophically, but rather it was about being more efficient and precise militarily.
If the US military had experienced what many planners had expected — a cakewalk into and out of Iraq — voters, I am afraid, would have not found it either necessary or important to have a referendum on the war at all.
No matter the number of dead and dying women and children, if victory came quickly it would come at little or no political price.
Voters were also fed up with corruption and influence peddling in the halls of Congress.
As such, they cast their votes against incumbent, well-entrenched politicians.
What they did not do was vote for even a modicum of change in the way Congress goes about its business.
They were unwilling to talk about electoral reform or campaign-finance reform.
As such, there seems to be little interest in forcing a change in the way congress works. Voters were only interested in electing politicians who might not be tempted by a system of governance that breeds temptation.
Democracy in the US – if it is on the menu at all — is served up by special interests.
Nothing in yesterday’s vote gives me any hope the system will be transformed in the slightest.
Voters were complacent with a system driven by hard-nosed and self-centered lobbyists. What they are intolerant of are lobbyists who are individually rewarded for their efforts.
Corporate lobbying is OK, even necessary they say, but for God’s sake don’t parade the spoils of your efforts on late night television.
Voters were looking for new faces who had not yet been tarnished by a rapidly failing system. Their hope — in fact their only option — was to replace a congressional majority of Republicans with like-minded Democrats.
The system will continue to fail — albeit slower now, for a period of time.
They will be given a reasonable period of grace in which to find a “face saving” way to stop killing Middle Eastern women and children while all the time laying claim to their vast oil reserves.
Between now and the 2008 presidential election this new body of politicians will be given great latitude to tackle global warming and air pollution and alternates to Middle Eastern oil dependence.
But they will not be mandated to enact legislation that in any way crimps the lavish living of middle-America.
Voters in this election were asking for the impossible and that’s exactly what they got.
They wanted to continue to grow and to consume and to invade without risk to either economic stability or national security. This, of course, is impossible, a dream, which cannot be fulfilled, one that is utterly unimaginable.
Americans have once again – as they have always done – voted for the myth of economic democracy.
They have voted for lavish individual freedom without the risk of global and planetary instability.
Americans did not anticipate the destruction of the twin towers (or Pearl Harbour). They also did not expect that the technology to which they credited their affluence would eventually turn on them.
They did not anticipate the automobile — and the unyielding freedoms it provides and the unending system of highways it demands — to strangle and gridlock them in the very end.
But it has.
What it has given us here in Canada is a road map through territory we should not want to travel.
Yesterday’s election in the US is a splash of cold water in our face.
If we continue to wade into the quagmire of Afghanistan while looking for a graceful, face-saving way out; if we ignore the Kyoto protocol while searching for an industry-friendly way to freshen our air, clean our water; and if we continue to allow our national self-righteousness to be impregnated by unchecked globalization we will face a time and a place mirrored by our neighbours to the south.
It is unrealistic at best, insane for sure, to be willing to travel the same road the US has taken believing somehow we will not reach the same destination.