If you’re a Democrat in America — where your party has just grabbed control of the House of Representatives – the system works. As predicted by polls and pundits, the US mid-term elections have just produced a major swing against the incumbent Republicans, primarily driven by popular disdain for the American role in the Iraq war (see stories in today’s edition).

But if you’re a Democrat in Australia – where your vote yesterday sealed the controversial stem cell legislation 34-32 in the Senate – the system works in a rather different way. As Democrat Senator Andrew Bartlett admits with refreshing candour on his blog:

I would have preferred the extra day or two to think further about the matter and discuss my concern with others, and I really didn’t reach a conclusive view in my head about how I would vote until the very final minutes…

Those in favour of the legislation seemed to be keen to just bring on the final vote as soon as possible – I presume because they had such a slim margin in favour and they were worried that waverers might change their view overnight.

My lack of enthusiasm for the vote I ended up casting in favour was such that it is possible I would have taken a different view tomorrow, so I guess in that sense their strategy worked…

And when we asked the Senator this morning whether he’d had second thoughts overnight, he was ever more candid: “I’m still not convinced I did the right thing”.

The system works. Sort of.

Peter Fray

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