George F. Will: Taking America's pulse as Election Day nears

Published: November 4, 2012
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Maryland is one of several states voting on measures pertaining to same-sex marriage. Maryland's would block the law passed by the Legislature to legalize such marriage. If the measure to block it fails, this will be particularly interesting because Maryland has the highest percentage of African-Americans (31 percent) of any state outside the Deep South, and social conservatism disposes many African-Americans against redefining marriage. If Maryland and other states endorse gay marriage in popular votes, this will call into question the necessity, and hence the wisdom, of a litigation strategy rather than a democratic persuasion strategy for advancing gay rights. The abortion debate became embittered when the Supreme Court's judicial fiat with Roe v. Wade (1973) truncated democratic deliberations that in the previous five years had liberalized abortion laws in 16 states with 41 percent of the nation's population.

Prohibition watch: Colorado, Oregon and Washington, which are among the 17 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana, are voting on legalization for recreational use.

Finally, when Maine used to elect members of Congress in September, the saying was, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.” Then in 1936, when President Franklin Roosevelt beat Alf Landon in 46 of 48 states, the joke was, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.” Tuesday evening the saying could be “As Maine's Second Congressional District goes, so goes the presidency.” Forty-eight states allocate all their electoral votes to the winner of the statewide popular vote. Nebraska and Maine, however, award two votes to the statewide winner, but one to whomever carries each congressional district. Obama will win Maine's popular vote, but Romney might win the Second District. Conceivably, one electoral vote could be the difference between 270-268 and 269-269 with the House of Representatives picking the president.

So, there. Enjoy Tuesday evening, after voting with Woody Allen's wisdom in mind: “One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

George Will's email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP