posted at 9:21 am on January 20, 2017 by Andrew Malcolm
You need not have endured a college course in Latin American Politics to detect the humor in observers from down there offering a democratic los Estados Unidos advice on running free and fair elections.
Still, that did not stop the Organization of American States from dispatching 41 experts from 18 South American countries to 12 different U.S. states to monitor the Nov. 8 election.
You may recall Senor Donald Trump captured that nationwide contest without one colonel ordering a rebel tank to fire a single round at the Presidential Palace. And the new commandante-in-chief takes over as 45th presidente today, not behind barbed wire in isolated Army barracks, but behind bulletproof glass in full view of scores of millions of Americans and others around the world.
The departing president will not be imprisoned or executed. In fact, he gets a courtesy jumbo-jet ride to a retirement vacation in Palm Springs, Calif. True, the freebie is one-way. But that’s because as a normal citizen — allbeit an extremely well-guarded one — the newly-minted-ex-president and his wife and his mother-in-law are expected to pay their own airfares now upon expiration of their eight-year lease in public housing.
So, when Barack Obama is done mooching luxurious Palm Springs accommodations from his ambassador to Spain, he intends to return to live in the nation’s capital to provide critical quotes to friendly D.C. media kibitzing his successor. Still, no arrest.
At root, it’s called a peaceful transfer of power, something that hasn’t always happened in the Southern Hemisphere, among other places.
The OAS commission was headed by Laura Chinchilla, a social conservative who was Costa Rica’s first female president from 2010-14. She also headed an OAS commission to monitor Mexico’s national elections in mid-2015.
The OAS report on the country’s elections and its political institutions was generally favorable, “based on its strong institutions, freedom of expression and press, balance of power, the rule of law and the principles on which the country was founded,” according to Chinchilla, a masters graduate from Georgetown University.
The South American experts determined the election was fair with only scattered irregularities and malfunctions and no evidence of election rigging, despite the victor’s early claims. It suggested more voting machines to speed the process.
One major commission suggestion was for lawmakers to drastically alter this arcane thing called the Electoral College, which is not really a campus. Trump handily won the necessary 270 votes there. But Democrats would have preferred only popular votes count this time because their candidate got many more of those in a few places. She too has not been arrested, yet.
The goal of the change, said the OAS report, would be “to ensure that presidential candidates campaign equally in all states and do not focus only on swing states.”
The Founding Fathers, however, were so sure such an awkward procedural compromise between popular votes and legislators’ votes was beneficial for America’s brand of democracy that they wrote it into the Constitution. Changing that requires an amendment, which includes approval by legislatures in three-quarters of the
57 50 states.
It might just take an Army coup to accomplish such a thing. So, buena suerte getting that idea through.
The OAS commission did encounter some difficulties in its monitoring activities. The United States over the years has freely suggested monitoring elections in other countries because, as everyone knows, foreigners cheat. But apparently many U.S. states are unfamiliar with the idea of foreign involvement in their elections, Russians aside. OAS monitors were barred in some places. But not arrested.