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Speer: Looking at election colors, numbers

November 9, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

I mentioned in a recent column my passion for politics.

I admit today my "political passion" tank runs near empty. I'm not sure I'll fill it up again. Out of control spending, false accusations, distorted truths and name calling has tired me out. I'm buried under a pile of election circulars.

I remember vividly a summer vacation decades ago to California. It had been a long day and we were tired, hot and ready to unwind. We stopped at a motel and ate at a local restaurant. We stopped by a grocery store to restock the cooler with water, pop and ice, and the next morning pulled into a gas station to fuel up.

What stands out to me about that stop was with but a few exceptions here and there, everyone we encountered was of Latin descent and Spanish was the language of first choice. For the first time in my life I felt in the minority in my own country, and it's a feeling that never has left me.

Tuesday evening I felt that way again. Newspaper columnist Michael Barone Thursday wrote of America really becoming a nation of two countries, if that makes sense. In some ways I agree.

Look at the popular vote in the election. Two percentage points eventually separated the candidates but until California was counted, the two juggled back and forth.

I eventually will sit down and crunch the statistics the way I like to do. Since I especially love generational studies, I will pay particular attention to age demographics.

I think, however, I can make a pretty safe observation anyway.

When eventually the election maps are completed county-by-county and painted red or blue, you will see once again the vast majority (land based) of the country will be red. The urban areas of the East and West coasts and big cities, like Detroit, will be painted blue. As long as that disconnect remains, it will make compromise more difficult, yet not impossible, to achieve.

In Northeast Michigan all four counties gave Mitt Romney their support. In Alpena County Romney won 7,298 to 6,549. In Alcona County he won 3,571 to 2,472, in Montmorency it was 2,928 to 2,049, while in Presque Isle it was 3,794 to 3,192.

Again, if you look at a map of Michigan the same color discrepancy will be evident. Overwhelmingly when you look at the Michigan Secretary of State's election results, the vast majority of Michigan counties supported Romney. However, when you factor in the urban area counties surrounding Detroit, like Wayne and Oakland for example, the numbers of voters are so huge they completely offset the numbers elsewhere. Yes, there are a few urban pockets elsewhere as well, but the majority of the state is red.

Ultimately, what that does, I believe, is create a tremendous philosophical disconnect between most of the country and those living in urban centers. For the past four years that disconnect has been played out between the president and House of Representatives, which best reflects that colored map I mention. The House is the only way red colored areas ever have much hope of representation.

I don't believe there ever is any way of changing that, even if you wanted to. One person, one vote is a fundamental principle that democracy hinges on, and one can argue very successfully that it should make no difference where that one person lives, their vote is just as important - and should count the same - as a person living elsewhere.

We see, however, it doesn't. There is a disproportionate shift of power to urban areas in elections where the winner takes all, as in the electoral college process. While I'm not advocating a change in that process, I do think it warrants some discussion as to whether the system should be revised to more reflect the electoral college process in Maine and Nebraska, states that award electoral college points on proportional voting results, rather than simply a "winner take all."

If there is any hope for the next four years of government without gridlock, it only rests with compromise.

And, that compromise only will be achieved when all the nation's interests and concerns are addressed, not just small pockets filled with political power brokers. Go back to the popular vote and you quickly see relative parity between the two colors.

My feelings of being a minority dissipate when I look at the colored map of the United States, and see it washed in a sea of red. No, I need not feel in the minority. But I, and you, whatever color you represent, need to realize that in this nation of two countries, we need to quickly address each other's core values, honor them, and work together in respect to move our country forward.

United we stand.

Divided we fall.

It's as simple as that.



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