Friday, September 05, 2008

The selection of the American President

The presidential elections for the United States are due first week of November. The contenders have been finalized by their parties this week - Barack Obama the Democrat, with Joe Biden as the VP candidate; and John McCain, the Republican with Sarah Palin as the VP candidate.
What do the American elections have to do with India? Although the TV news shows cover it, they focus on the outsourcing question. The predominant view is that the Democrats would fix loopholes in tax law and thus work against the money flow to India.
Yet, the American elections are of critical interest (beyond outsourcing) to India and to the rest of the world. We have to remember that the United States has launched two aggressive wars in our neighborhood and currently the US Army is engaged in operations in Pakistan NWFP. It is a country that is the driving force of world economy, and is also seriously in debt. Our government is seeking a nuclear deal with them on the basis of which the ruling party almost caved in.
Certainly, more than ever before, the United States is held in very high regard by Indians (India is one of the very few countries in the world that has favorable opinions of the USA). Our economic model is hinged on free market policies championed there. So much so that the very real fight within the USA against free market fundamentalism is not even visible here. Indians also tend to see the American government, the American public and American corporations as the same entity.
Thus the selection of the American President has an effect on us and the rest of the world. Considering America's military might, and far-flung bases, people have suggested that citizens of the world's nations need to have voting rights in the American elections.

Considering all of these, you would expect that the American election process is a very serious business, and that Americans weigh the candidates throughly and consider all implications before voting for a candidate. You would be wrong.

How Is The Campaigning Going?

The first bad news is this - the 72 year old Republican candidate, John McCain selected his running mate, VP pick last week. Who did he choose as the probable leader of his country (in case something happens to him in term)? Remember, this person has a shot to have their hand on the nuclear button; decides how to "protect" American interests; and basically has the biggest fighting force in history under their thumb.
John McCain chose Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska (Alaska has one-tenth the population of greater Chennai). She has been governor for all of two years. She thinks the theory of evolution got it wrong and wants to introduce teaching in schools about how God created Earth. She also believes that the war in Iraq is a task to America directly from God.
The reason McCain chose Sarah, apparently was because she would energize right-wing religious voters.
Where does that leave the world?

You see where I am going with this? Us, poor people around the world are thinking that the "greatest democracy in history" is going about delivering its four-year lesson in democratic functioning to the rest of us. Meanwhile, "all politics is local" and McCain was obviously thinking about winning - not particularly concerned about putting the nuclear button (and our lives) in the hands of a person who believes in the End Times.

This is why the world order is all wrong.

The American elections are conducted more like a reality show than policy debates. The elections are completely given over to images and "dogwhistles" on race, gender and religion.
In terms of competency in debates and policy positions, Democrats like John Kerry and Barack Obama tower way, way above the Republicans - yet George Bush won the 2004 elections. He won the elections AFTER it was found that Iraq had NO WMD. 51% of the voters voted for him even though they knew he lied and caused misery elsewhere in the world. I was in the United States at the time of the 2004 elections and the explanation for Bush's winning was that "values" voters chose him. Well, obviously those values did not include killing innocents.
Locals vote for local issues. There are low-information voters who have no idea what is going on in politics. The media has a big role in deflecting from issues to keep viewership. All of these are factors in Indian elections and in American elections. But the leaders chosen by American voters control the beast - the military-industrial complex of the USA.

There is no relation between the weight of the responsibility on American voters and their ability. I don't think most American voters even consider the implications of their choice. Definitely John McCain has not - and hence Sarah Palin may very well start new "tasks" from God.

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