Pubdate: Thu, 08 Nov 2012
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc


The people have spoken. Now it's the markets' turn.

Tuesday's election left the new government looking a lot like the old
government, with President Obama in the White House, Democrats in
control of the Senate and Republicans running the House. So who can
blame investors for being skeptical that the same gridlocked crowd
will do any better this time around?

They sent the stock market into a 313-point swoon Wednesday, which
ought to put Washington on notice that constituents will be
financially clobbered if leaders can't come together on pressing matters.

Those include the year-end "fiscal cliff" of big tax hikes and abrupt
spending cuts that could drive the nation back into recession, the
likelihood of more brinksmanship over raising the federal debt
ceiling, and the prospect of continued runaway deficits.

For Obama, the message from the markets: Restart negotiations with
lawmakers on a grand bargain to bring long-term deficits under
control. Massage egos. Twist arms. Go back out on the road to sell a
plan to the American people. You might think that you're above this
nitty-gritty kind of politics. But someone has to lead.

For congressional Democrats, the message: Be willing to curb benefit 
programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that are the 
biggest drivers of long-term deficits. For congressional Republicans: 
Get over you rigid adherence to anti-tax doctrine.

One hopeful sign is that both Obama and House Speaker John Boehner,
R-Ohio, are sounding the right notes about finding common ground and
pursuing tax reform that raises new revenue.

Voters may see a status quo election. Washington would be wise to see
it the markets' way, as a sweeping mandate for change.

Gay rights votes historic

Supporters of gay rights made history on Election Day. Maryland and
Maine became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular
vote, and Minnesota turned back a ballot measure to ban it.

The results ended one of the longest losing streaks in politics,
during which voters in 30 states had banned gay marriage and, in some
cases, civil unions as well.

Polls show dramatic increases in support for gay marriage over the
past decade, but Tuesday's breakthroughs don't end the debate or heal
the divide. Most Democrats, liberals and young people favor same-sex
marriage. Most Republicans, conservatives, evangelicals and black
Protestants are opposed.

Tuesday's votes affirmed the most important principle, equal treatment
under the law. There might be other paths to the same end - civil
unions or getting government out of the marriage business - but simply
outlawing the practice won't work.

Hold the high on pot

Pot smokers in Colorado and Washington are celebrating passage of
ballot measures that make recreational use of marijuana there legal,
and tokerssmokers elsewhere are already planning "pot-cations."

But let's take a deep breath here. Marijuana is still illegal under
federal law. Federal agents can still bust users, sellers and growers.
Federal prosecutors can still bring them to trial and send them to
prison. Talk about a buzz kill.

The open question is what the Obama administration, which opposed the
ballot measures, will do now. As a practical matter, federal officials
defer to state and local authorities to make the vast majority of
busts. On Wednesday, the Justice Department said only that it's
reviewing the initiatives.

Justice should stand firm. Any benefits from legalization for
non-medicinal purposes are outweighed by risks that more kids will use
pot, and more people will drive stoned.

Extremism on abortion, rape

Tuesday's election brought little cheer to opponents of

Candidates who expressed extreme views on the issue cost Republicans
two Senate races. Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Todd Akin of
Missouri alienated voters by arguing, clumsily, that abortion should
be banned even in cases of rape.

Obviously, the entire movement is not as extreme. But the candidates'
fumbles underscore a long-standing conundrum: If you believe life
begins at conception and must be protected, how is the way the life
began relevant? The rape exception exists only because the alternative
is politically unpalatable.

How unpalatable? In exit polls Tuesday, just 13% of voters said
abortion should be illegal in all cases . In 1975, two years after Roe
v. Wade, Gallup put the number at 22%.

The fight will go on, but the argument isn't moving the meter much.
Abortion will remain legal.

Better to make it unnecessary.

Ineptitude caused long lines

No one should have to wait for hours to vote, but that's what happened
to too many voters in too many places on Tuesday.

A precinct in Virginia's Prince William County had lines
four-and-a-half hours long at one point. Huge lines were also reported
in Florida, New York, Texas and Wisconsin, among other places.

"By the way, we have to fix that," President Obama said in his victory
speech. Yes, we do.

Early voting, preferably conducted during the two weeks between the
final presidential debate and Election Day, is an increasingly popular
way to ease the Tuesday crush at the polls. But it's not meant to
relieve elections officials of their basic responsibilities.

Those officials cited plenty of scapegoats for Tuesday's queues: A
shortage of electronic voter rolls for checking voters' names. Too few
voting machines. Unexpectedly high turnout.

Really? These excuses are an insult to citizens who take the time to
vote, only to encounter official indifference and ineptitude. Similar
problems were exposed by the Florida voting fiasco of 2000, yet there
they were again Tuesday, with the same pitiful excuses.

It's bad enough when incompetence makes voting difficult; worse is
when officials deliberately set out to do that. In the battleground
state of Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott reacted to the Democratic
edge in early voting in 2008 by cutting early voting days from 14 to
eight. Predictably, early voting lines backed up for as long as seven
hours this year.

Whether created on purpose or by accident, long lines that impede a
citizen's right to vote are unacceptable.

Voters who spent most of a workday to cast their ballots deserve high
praise for doing the jobs democracy demands of them. The same can't be
said for the elections officials who kept them waiting in line.
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MAP posted-by: Matt