Richard Ellis always votes no. Since moving to Oregon in
1990 to teach political science at Willamette University, Ellis has been asked to
pass judgment on 74 statewide initiatives, an average of more than 12 per
election. Initiatives are proposed laws or constitutional amendments placed on a
state's ballot by citizen petition (that's how they differ from referenda, which
originate in the legislature). In the last decade alone, Oregonians have been
required to make binding decisions on proposals to roll back property taxes,
reduce public-employee benefits, impose term limits on legislators, and make
prisoners work 40-hour weeks, among dozens of other mostly right-wing measures.
Last June, before Hobbits and Harry Potter began crowding out all other arts coverage, The New York Times ran a front-page story about The Chronicles of Narnia, the seven-volume series of children's fantasy books written by the English novelist C.S. Lewis in the 1950s. The article was called "Marketing 'Narnia' without a Christian Lion" -- and apparently the headline was as far as either Andrew Greeley or Charles Colson got before throwing down their newspapers in disgust. Greeley (who is a gadfly sociologist, priest, and romance novelist) and Colson (the famously born-again Watergate-era adviser to Richard Nixon) are widely published Christian commentators.
The November 1, 1948, issue of Life magazine is a collector's item because of a picture on page 37 that is captioned, "The next president travels by ferry over the broad waters of San Francisco bay." The picture is of Thomas E. Dewey.
Until the election of George Bush the elder in 1988, no incumbent vice president had been elected president since Martin Van Buren in 1836. (Bush opened his first post-election news conference by saying, "It's been a long time, Marty.") Yet it also is true that, starting with Harry S. Truman in 1945, five of the last 10 presidents have been former vice presidents: Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Bush. Death or resignation accounts for the ascensions of Truman, Johnson, and Ford, but each of them except Ford subsequently won at least one presidential election on his own.
The electoral college is a constitutional time bomb that has been ticking for more than a century. It finally exploded on election day. Unkind as it is to say so--hasn't Al Gore suffered enough?--it's only fitting that it blew up in the Democrats' face.