What have voters in the United States done?
The big takeaway from Tuesday, November 8’s U.S. election is, of course, that Republican Donald Trump is now the President-Elect of of the United States.
Also that the Republicans have won control of both the House and Senate, effectively allowing them, if they want, to dismantle the legislative legacy of outgoing two-term President Barrack Obama, including his ObamaCare, which extends affordable healthcare to millions of low-income Americans.
Plus the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, created by the death, in February, of Justice Antonin Scalia, will now be filled by a Republican nominee ready and willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision underpinning a woman’s right to choose abortion in the United States.
On the one hand, thanks to Tuesday’s election results, over 17 million Americans will almost certainly lose their healthcare, on the other hand though, over 49.7 million have gained the right to deal with the stress of such things by getting stoned, thanks to state-level ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana.
No victory for Clinton. No mandate for Trump
The Republican party’s billionaire developer-cum-populist politician, Donald J. Trump, scored a convincing-enough victory over Democrat career politician Hillary Rodham Clinton, who lost her second bid for the U.S. presidency. But behind the seemingly shocking upset (to pollsters and pundits certainly) the election results were remarkable for the way that they split down the middle for Democrats and Republicans.
The party standard-bearers nearly tied in the popular vote, with 48 percent (59,814,018 votes) for Clinton and 47 percent (59,611,678 votes) for Trump but the decisive Electoral College vote was 237 for Trump to 218 for Clinton.
Significantly, the Republican party ended up sweeping the federal level; taking control of not just the White House but also winning a 51 to 47 majority in the Senate and 237 to 191 majority in the House of Representatives.
However, the Republican House majority is very thin (4 seats) and for both parties this legislative status quo only lasts for two years, as all 435 voting seats in the House of Representatives are up for election in 2018, along with 33 of the 100 Senate seats.
Basically the electioneering to keep or gain control of the U.S. Congress in 2018 starts now.
After eight years voters wanted change but this much?
At the federal level, the 2016 election was largely seen as a referendum on the 8 years of out-going U.S. President, Democrat Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton was the equivalent of an incumbent, having served as U.S. Secretary of State for Obama’s first term.
A Clinton victory would’ve protected Obama’s legacy—most notably ObamaCare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), which, according to figures from Rand, has had the net result of extending health care to at least 16.9 million Americans.
And which, over the last 6 years Republican U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans have repeatedly (over 50 times) tried to kill.
As it is, with Clinton’s loss and the Republicans gain of both houses of Congress, the future of ObamaCare is in grave doubt. along with any other progressive gains made over the last 8 years.
Right of the bat, before an ounce of legislative heavy-lifting, Trump can issue his own Executive Orders to undo all of Obama’s Executive Orders—something Trump has vowed to start doing on day one of his administration.
My personal prediction is that Trump will try to be a sort of Reagan 2.0, with a big tax cut, a big military buildup and a big emphasis on fighting bad guys.
If the threat of illegal Mexican immigrants isn’t enough to carry Trump through, there’s always Reagan’s old foe Daniel Ortega, who has just been re-elected President of Nicaragua, much to the quiet consternation of the United Stares.
With the Russians setting up a supposed GLONASS satellite tracking station in Nicaragua and selling tanks to the Ortega government and with both Russia and Iran looking to get involved in the China-backed Nicaragua Grand Canal project, Ortega’s Nicaragua is shaping up to be cast as a sort of irritating “nexus of evil”, conveniently situated right in the United State’s front yard, as it were.
Between now and the inauguration of Trump’s “Back to the Future” administration we have his Cabinet picks to look forward to—potentially including such reactionary Tea Party Birther throwbacks as Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. The mind fairly recoils at the prospects.
Tempers were governed better at the state level
The perceived tumult at the top of the ticket on Tuesday was not so apparent down at the state level.
There were 12 governorships up for grabs—6 went to Republicans (Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont), 5 to Democrats (Delaware, Montana, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia) and the race in North Carolina was still too close to call, nearly 34 hours after polls closed.
Three states (Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont) replaced Democrat governors with Republicans and one state (North Dakota), elected a Democrat to replace a Republican governor.
Every change of party at the statehouse level took place where an incumbent Governor was stepping down, due to term limits or otherwise.
Where an incumbent Governor stood for re-election (Democrats in Montana, Oregon and Washington), they were all re-elected, with the possible exception of North Carolina, where a Democrat challenger is fractionally leading a Republican incumbent.
As of Thursday morning, there were still 3 states uncalled. Of the 20 declared for Democrat Hillary Clinton, 7 (or 35 percent) had Republican governors. And of the 28 declared for Donald Trump, 6 (or 21.4 percent) had Democrat governors.
Legalization keeps growing like a weed at the state level
If the presidential race hadn’t been so darned noisy the legalization of marijuana in so many more states would’ve been much bigger news.
Marijuana was on the ballot in eight states, with 3 sanctioning medical use, 4 legalizing recreational use by adults and 1 declining to legalize altogether.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Arkansas (53 percent), Florida (71 percent) and North Dakota (64 percent) and legalization was expanded in Montana (66 percent). This brings the total to 29 U.S. states and jurisdictions allowing medical marijuana, or 55.7 percent of the total states and jurisdictions.
Recreational use of marijuana was legalized for persons over 21 in California (56 percent), Maine (53 percent), Massachusetts (54 percent) and Nevada (54 percent).
Arizona, however, voted 52 percent NOT to legalize “the private use, possession, and manufacture of limited amounts of marijuana”.
By my count this brings the number of states and jurisdictions with legal recreational marijuana to 8, which is 15.38 percent of states and jurisdictions and includes some 66.8 million Americans, or about 20.94 percent of the U.S. population (as of 2014).
Donald Trump, a hardline law and order guy in many ways, seems happy to leave states to chart their own course on the medical and recreational use of marijuana; as he told a rally in Nevada in October of 2015:
“Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen—right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Some other state referenda highlights
Rule to work. Alabamans voted 70 percent to become one of 27 non-union “right to work” states—meaning, in principle, that employees in Alabama have the right to work without having to join a union. In Virginia 52 percent voted against doing the same thing.
Gun control. In California, 63 percent voted to require background checks for buying ammunition and to prohibit large capacity rifle magazines. In Maine, 51 percent approved background checks on gun sales between non-licensed dealers. And in Nevada, 50 percent voted in favour of background checks for gun sales.
Victim’s rights. Voters in Montana (66 percent) and North Dakota (62 percent) voted in favour of adding a section to their state constitution establishing specific rights for victims of crime.
Benching judges. In Pennsylvania, 52 percent of voters said “yes” to requiring state judges to retire at age 75, while in Oregon, 63 percent of voters said “no” to eliminating and prohibiting mandatory retirement ages for state judges.
Criminal justice reform. Voters in Oklahoma agreed 58 percent to reclassify some current felony drug possession and property crimes as lesser misdemeanors.
Death penalty. Nebraskans voted 61 percent to repeal the death penalty, while Californians voted 54 percent not to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. And in Oklahoma, 66 percent voted to declare the death penalty constitutional in the state and and to allow the legislature to use an execution method not prohibited by the US Constitution.
Field and stream. Voters in Indiana (80 percent) and Kansas (81 percent) approved constitutional amendments to include the right to hunt, fish and trap wildlife. While voters in Oklahoma were 70 percent opposed to guaranteeing the constitutional right to engage in ranching and farming.
More citizen’s rights. Colorado voted 51 percent to disallow the use of prisoners for involuntary unpaid labor. Floridians voted 49 percent against giving consumers the right to generate solar electricity for their own use. Californians voted 54 percent not to require adult film performers to use condoms when filming. And 64 percent of Washingtonians voted to urge a US Constitutional amendment that constitutional rights belong to individuals, not corporations and spending money is not protected speech. So there!
Some state’s rights. In the District of Columbia, 86 percent of voters agreed that the U.S. Congress should be petitioned to admit DC into the union as the state of New Columbia. In Illinois, 79 percent agreed that all state money derived from transportation should be spent only on transportation related projects. And 57 percent said that the state of Oklahoma could not use public money or property for the benefit of a religion or religious institution.
Minimum wage: a work in progress
The minimum wage was raised in Arizona (to USD$10 on January 1, 2017 and $12 by 2020), Colorado ($9.30 on January, 1, and $12 by 2020), Maine ($9 on January 1, 2017 and $12 by 2020) and Washington (to $13.50 by 2020).
South Dakota voted 71.1 percent against lowering the minimum hourly wage for non-tipped employees under the age of 18, from $8.55 to $7.50.
Taxing the bad to pay for the good
Tobacco taxes were increased in California towards healthcare funding for low income residents and also in Colorado to increase funding to various healthcare programs.
A majority of Californians said no to a plastic bag fee, with proceeds to be directed toward specified environmental projects but 52 percent did vote to ban single-use plastic and paper bags.
Missouri voters were 73 percent against raising cigarette taxes 23 cents-a-pack to fund transportation and infrastructure projects and the voted 60 percent against raising taxes a further 60 cents-a-pack to create an Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund.
Missourians were 57 percent in favour of prohibiting new sales/user taxes on any service or transaction that was not subject to a similar tax as of Jan 1, 2015.
North Dakotans voted down, by 62 percent, increasing tobacco taxes to create a Veteran’s Tobacco Trust Fund.
In Colorado, 80 percent voted down a proposition to create a “ColoradoCare” system to provide universal healthcare to Colorado residents via increased taxes, while 65 percent voted to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with the assistance of a doctor.
And finally, a majority of Washington voters said that their state will not join neighbouring British Columbia in imposing a carbon emission tax on fossil fuels. Click the images to enlarge them.