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Guest Notes

MT Vernon notes

12 November 2016

9:00 AM

12 November 2016

9:00 AM

Finally the US Presidential elections are over; it is Trump after all. After a visit to both coasts stateside, I fear the US Supreme Court may still be involved down the track, as was the case in 2000.

Bush v. Gore led to a jarring recount in Florida in 2000, that was ultimately suspended by the US Supreme Court or SCOTUS; they ordered the recount stopped by five votes to four plus a paragraph saying the ruling was not a precedent for the future.

One problem is that, as at the 8th November, there are only 8 members of SCOTUS, with the Republican dominated Senate not even considering the Obama nomination to fill the vacancy, a nomination made months ago.

Out of interest, in any Electoral College tie the decision goes to the House of Representatives, with each State delegation having one vote. There was a tie in 1800, and it took 36 ballots in the House to resolve, with Thomas Jefferson being elected as third US President after George Washington and John Adams.

Only when the Delaware delegate submitted a blank vote after 36 ballots over seven days in February 1801, was the issue resolved in favour of Jefferson. This scenario is unlikely but still it cannot be ruled out that the Reps may be involved.

In exploring the mood of America and doing some informal canvassing, clearly many couples split their vote, seemingly along gender lines as politely as I could ascertain. Other couples and individuals just rolled their eyes and said both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were not good candidates. Deep seated resentment of the establishment and the beltway is set to continue.


There is belated support for the Obama administration and especially for the first lady, Michelle Obama.

Mt Vernon downstream of Washington DC is the superb estate and museum of the George Washington family, held in a Trust, which has restored the imposing family home and the many out buildings, including a huge kitchen and slave quarters. The gardens are just superb in the fall, with golden colours everywhere and sweeping views across the Potomac River, a mile wide at this juncture, and Washington’s shipments of Madeira wine from Portugal would arrive by boat at the family jetty.

What the first President of the USA would make of the shenanigans of today we will never know but remember he declined to be made President for life and declined to contest a third consecutive term, in other words he voluntarily took a step back and gave up power.

Eventually after FDR had won four consecutive elections, the US Constitution was formally amended to impose the restriction today to two consecutive Presidential terms only. Perhaps the Washington guidance and example will be needed again; certainly the corrosiveness of bitter partisanship and equally bitter feuding within the two big parties does not augur well, especially after a tight and contested result involving high powered litigation.

Still, the USA is not to be too easily written off as it enters another phase of democracy. It survived the 2000 elections saga and the disgrace of the Florida count and recount, albeit giving the world Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfield and the 2003 Iraq War. It will survive the 2016 Presidential elections, but would be helped by staying with some of the George Washington endeavours. The mood of nearby Maryland, and for that matter of both the east and west coasts, is one of concern. Certainly, this election and its bitter aftermath looms so much larger than any since 2000.

There is an Australian aspect of George Washington also looming large. At the Melbourne Shrine last weekend, 6 November, the Saluting Monash Council was launched, helped by a declaration by Josh Frydenberg. The objective is to win adoption of the Jerilderie Proposition. In other words, after years of discrimination, the posthumous promotion of Sir John Monash one step in rank to Field Marshal is sought as a symbolic salute long overdue to Monash, but also as a salute to all members of the AIF as the centenary of Hamel and Armistice looms.

In 1976, George Washington was likewise promoted, one of several posthumous promotions by the USA. Even Canada to this day does posthumous promotions. Now I have sighted the Washington posthumous promotion as I returned from Crop Trust meetings, I have every confidence that momentum will build here to win, on a non partisan basis, promotion of Monash.

Australia has just three Australian Field Marshal: 1925 British Indian General Birdwood, 1950 Sir Thomas Blamey on his sick bed, and 1954 Prince Philip, a nomination made by Menzies with the bonus that he established the precedent Australia could act alone on these matters.

All of this in accord with the great precedent of George Washington and both Monash and Washington were great Generals and great leaders of their nations, Washington as first President and Monash as democracy saviour, at a critical juncture in the Great Depression, declining to lead a coup to suspend all Parliaments as requested by the New Guard. Monash wrote and I quote ‘The only hope for Australia is the ballot box and good education’. Amen, shalom, salem and the same quote could be applied to the USA today.

Ps. Only in America – but now the heavy lifting begins to see if DC can revamp and perform, the Washington swamp will never be the same again.


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