Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Obama/Romney - How to Elect a Good President in USA

This is my 100th blogpost. I also spent a great part of this summer in the101th country I’ve been to, Japan. More about lovely Japan later. Sorry for not writing for some time.

There is a power struggle going on in the two most powerful countries on this planet, USA and China. The aspirants would literally stop at nothing to become the chosen one. The United States is the self styled bastion of democracy. But choosing a president there is not very easy. Is character less important than issues? Fred Greenstein in his book The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush gives an excellent analysis of character traits and their balance as winning formulas.

Carefully listening to who really says what, gets gutted by the incessant slandering, mud-slinging and outright lies. Following the issues, whether they be the economy or social issues, in the debates is difficult because the language used is so confusing even for experts in their own fields.

Consider women’s issues. Would a candidate in any kind of election, who is seeking women’s votes, really be able to help women’s causes overnight? 17% of the 435 member House of Representative in USA are women. Compare this to Rwanda 56.3% and Cuba 45.2%. Are women's affairs any better there compared to USA?

Consider the issues important for the youth and young families. Do lawmakers really understand them? Only 8 of the 100 US senators are under 50. Over 65% are over 60 years old. Is being young now the same as having been young a few decades ago? Who can tell that? The young have no experience and the 'old' have forgotten.

The official system of popular votes and electoral college is extremely complicated. Here is a good explanation of how it really works, in case you are interested.

US Presidential Power/Influence Scope is Rather Limited, Paradoxically

Of the 230 million people of voting age in the USA, how many realize that the president of the USA can actually do very little in real life? Since America wants to be seen as the “only” superpower, the US president needs to be seen as powerful. The president cannot be seen getting publicly snubbed by anything. This is the irony of being the “most powerful” among democratically chosen rulers. 

In reality, the president has to co-operate and bargain with other politicians and interest groups, often the very ones he has to be seen as ‘attacking’ and ‘punishing’ during the campaign promises. A president can’t just start ordering about. He can suggest initiatives, which might then be promptly blocked by the congress, especially if the opposing party has majority.

Political Climates Define Presidencies

Many people like to think that the personality, character and political beliefs of a president are decisive factor. There is much more to the game, which decides what is achieved during the presidency. Strong presidents like FDR, Nixon and Clinton have clashed with the judiciary and had to give in. But the judiciary and most importantly the congress never challenged George W. Bush as he expanded presidential authority greatly in the post-911 climate.

Even the wise people choosing the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize thought, rather unsuccessfully, that they would pacify the world by giving the prize to Obama, a wartime president. Earlier sitting US presidents favoured with the Nobel Prize; Woodrow Wilson (1919) was too ill to start new wars while Theodore Roosevelt (1906) was very vociferous in wanting USA to join the First World War.

Photo source:

Is it wise to elect a president who will be there for just one term?

Every sensible American president wants to be re-elected and thus naturally doesn’t risk doing unpopular things. These unpopular actions might be the very things, which the country desperately needs, but nobody dares to do them for fear of being unpopular and losing re-election.

Does it then make sense to evaluate a president’s track record during the first term? How can one tell truth from lies, especially in politics? Besides, most of national level initiatives and actions begin to show results only after years or even ten years.

Presidents like Jimmy Carter, who try to do the right things for America and international relations (as they see it from a moral standpoint) are shown as being weak by the hawks and are never re-elected. Presidents like George W. Bush, who do everything to appear “strong” might, in reality be perfidious and take the nation on a fast track to ruination, yet they get joyfully re-elected.

Humorous guidelines for choosing a Good President

Forget your political party affiliations for a while. Dump the idea of automatically voting a democrat or a republican because you have always done so. There are other candidates too: Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green party) and Virgil Goode (Constitution party). Why not think about the qualities you would like to see in your president?

Let’s take a look at some past candidates and try to find ideal qualities personified.

Puritan Dream

If we think about sexual scandals, or rather a lack of them, the ideal model candidate would be – Samuel J. Tilden of the 1876 elections. He won a clear majority of the popular votes, but the electoral commission decided to choose Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden confided on his deathbed that he had never slept with a woman. Records don't mention sleeping with the other sex.

Gay 'Agenda': 

James Buchanan, the 15th president lived with William Rufus DeVane King for 16 years as a ‘close and dear friend’, even while King was vice president (for 45 days till he died). Don't ask, don't tell!

 Stealing for Self-improvement: 

The role model would be Millard Fillmore, the 13th president (1850-1853), who taught himself to read by stealing books. Lot's of drive in him!

Unusual Marriage

The 300 pound, great 22nd and 24th president, who at 49 married 22-year old Frances Folsom (the youngest ever first lady). Cleveland was the executor of her father’s will and her guardian. Definitely has the balls for being the big chief.

Draft dodging: 

Grover Cleveland, when drafted, paid a Polish
 immigrant $150 to take his place in the Union Army. Dodging by seeking and getting a student deferment – Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Dick Cheney and Mitt Romney. Great opportunist, a very handy quality in politics.

Woman Candidate

As a Spiritualist, courtesan, advocate of free love, divorcee, publisher and first woman stock broker on Wall Street, Victoria Claflin Woodhull in 1872, was much more controversial than Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman. They put her in jail on Election Day in 1872, charged with obscenity as she exposed an adulterous affair. Never a boring moment with such qualities.

Pets with Funny Names: 

John Adam’s dog was called Satan. Herbert Hoover’s German shepherd dog was called King Tut. Lyndon Johnson had Beagles named Him and Her. Teddy Roosevelt had a Garter snake called Emily Spinach. George Washington had dogs called Drunkard, Taster, Tippler and Tipsy. Family rated fun and warmth of a slightly naughty kind.

Syllables in the candidate’s name: 

The more the better. Winning candidates with more syllables won 28 times, while losing candidates had more syllables in the name only 12 times. Ken-ne-dy (3) won and Nix-on (2) lost in 1960. Not exactly conspiracy theory, but fun to know stuff. More info about syllables in candidates' names here

If you think religion is the deciding factor, you might be in for a surprise. Only 60% of voters know that Mitt Romney is a Mormon while 81% say that it doesn't matter in the least. 17% believe that Obama is a Muslim. Overall, 67% agree that a president should have strong religious beliefs, while 66% oppose churches or religious institutions endorsing candidates according to Pew Research Polls.

Still confused? 

To help you navigate the difficult issues and choose either of the Democrat/Republican candidates of 2012, Obama/Romney, here is a nice voting advice application published in far away Finland. 

There's a small challenge with the language as it's only in Finnish, sorry! Well, how much of the issues at stake and what 'they' do about them would you really and honestly understand, even if it weren't good ol' English, ask yourself!

Photo source: Screenshot of Helsingin Sanomat Voting Advice Application.

Well, it's your choice and everyone has to live with it. You can't blame, God, Elohim or Allah for what you choose.

Good luck with your choice!


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