Thursday, December 18, 2008

A lesson on American politics..

I had published this post on my blog a few months ago, but I guess the content is absolutely valid on this forum. In it, I talk about the good aspects of the American democratic system, and what we should incorporate into our system. Of course, theirs is a different society, with different capacity and probably with slightly different ideals. But we can definitely learn from them and pick and choose what suits our system.

"What can be called as a good election? As America votes on Nov. 4 to elect their new leader, in the midst of all the politically charged speeches, huge public rallies, glitzy TV ads and unprecedented patriotic fervor, I guess only an outsider like me will think of such a question. I have been following the the election proceedings for so many months now, and I have only praise for it. Polls repeatedly suggest that the Democrats are heading towards a massive win, but nobody can firmly say much. I don't want to get into who is better suited to win the election for two reasons - firstly, because it's hardly going to change my life in any direct way (!), and secondly, I am no political pundit to write about it! There are many capable men round the world who are doing this job right now!

But I can definitely write about the positives of this election from a 3rd person's point of view. Here they are -
1) The way each major party (there are 2 to be precise, and I am a major advocate of this idea) chooses it's Presidential candidate is commendable. There are inter-party primaries in which candidates contest against each other and the winner is selected in a fully democratic fashion. This hardly leaves any room for favoritism, autocracy and "dynastic" politics.

2) Most of the law-makers there are either Democrats, Republicans or Independents. However, they do not blindly follow the party diktat; if they disagree on some issue, they won't budge to oppose it openly. These actions are not overtly opportunistic either. Take for example Colin Powell's (Secy. Of State under George Bush Jr.) endorsement of Barack Obama as President; or Alan Greenspan's (who considers himself a "Libertarian Republican") (Chairman of the Fed. Reserve who served under George Bush Jr.) comments about Bill Clinton, a Democrat, being the best President he worked for. Ditto with Joe Lieberman, a Democrat who went to the RNC to endorse McCain in this election.

3) The DNC (Democratic National Convention) and RNC (Republican National Convention) are very big events there, and are telecast on TV just the way a football match would be. What struck me most about these events was not just the grandeur or the candidates' fiery speeches, but the fact that these leaders make it a point to introduce their families to the public. They make sure the public knows what their family members do, big or small, and that they themselves are family-oriented candidates.

4) The 3-level Presidential Debate system is a very good feature. Sponsored by the 'Commission of Presidential Debates', these debates are telecast on TV and watched by literally millions of people. The content of the debates is completely relevant to the pressing problems Americans face, rather than stupid personal accusations and political talk. Common people like us send their questions beforehand, and the best of them are posed to the candidates. This not only gives the people a clear idea of the contestants' experience and education, it also tells them what stand they are taking on various issues. The candidates also appear extremely well-read because of the way they present their points and give statistics to counter the opponent. Their views and utterances are scrutinized sometimes by the media to the point of ridiculousness. From the point of view of Americans, there is really very dim scope of the wrong guy becoming the right guy (George Bush is an exception, though!).

5) Political parties have very effective ways of lapping up supporters and volunteers. Also worth noting is the open-ness of campaign funding. There is remarkable transparency about how much money has been collected, how it is being used, who all has contributed etc. By this, the people not only know who has advantage, but also how their donated money is being used. A snapshot of the campaign money different candidates managed to collect (From the NY Times)-

The money is also used in a decent way. They spend it on
a) Hiring well qualified finance experts, foreign policy experts and election managers who tutor them.
b) Ads which are almost completely substance oriented
c) Creating highly informative websites for the people to make their decision (snapshot attached. From

A very good system is public donation to campaigns. Eg: Axelrod's (Obama's campaign adviser) elaborate use of the Internet helped Obama to organize under-30 voters and build over 475,000 donors in 2007, most of whom were Internet donors contributing less than $100 each (source- Wiki). As a passing remark, it's worthy to mention that Barack Obama broke all previous records of campaign money collection.

6) The poll ratings are pretty much correct, if not perfect.

All this dispelled some misconceptions about the common American that I had. They are not fools as much as they appear to be. When it comes to the matters most important, they are very clinical and careful. As far as Presidency goes, after such exhausting campaigns in which they dissect each word and expression of yours, one may wonder if the winner is even left with the energy to run the 'mess' for 4 years. But history shows they do. It is a tough test, but that's precisely the reason why you come to be regarded as the most powerful person on the planet."

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