The Funny Ways of Democratic Elections

I have been wanting to write about the U.S. elections for quite some time, but somehow did not get around to do it. But now that the election process is winding down, and the final debate is over (between the two candidates), I thought it would be appropriate to look back.

I have not had the time to analyze all the anomalies and follies of the U.S. elections, but there are a few points that do not fall into the ambit of a proper democratic process. You might wonder – is not the U.S. the best and most fair democracy in the world ? Why question anything that they do in electing their President ?

But look at the way they have gone about this time around. The candidates have fallen to the lowest level in many years of U.S. elections – they have hit each other much below the belt, leaving a very bad taste in the electorate as well as in the rest of the world. There have been many instances (by the way all well documented, as is everything in the U.S.) where they have taken lowly potshots at each other, and taken out what I would call rather obscene advertisements.

Two critical things hit my eyes – one is the amount collected from donors “officially” by both the candidates which has been reported to have crossed USD 2B (that is, more than 10,800 Crores). While it is an “open” process where each contribution is reported on the respective candidate/party websites, and probably there is an audit, etc., the amount is so huge to be spent on the electorate, mostly via campaigns and advertisement – who benefits ? Not the American people, but the newspapers and the electronic media and event management companies, and others who are gleeful to get the business from the Presidential candidates. The amount being spent this year on U.S. elections dwarfs what India spends under the increasingly watchful eyes of the Election Commission of India.

The other critical thing is how the U.S. corporations have been allowed to write to their employees, recommending one candidate or the other with a veiled threat that if, for example, President Obama gets re-elected, there will be more taxes and consequential unemployment – in effect, the companies are formally telling their employees to vote for Mitt Romney who would reduce taxes and healthcare costs for companies and so jobs will remain secure. This is absolutely ridiculous and amounts to a blatant blackmail. I do not really have the competence to evaluate the U.S. Supreme Court’s judgement which allowed this anomaly to occur in the first place (from 2010).

I am happy to note that the other leading democracies in the world (including India) do not permit such anomalies to happen. While there are other issues in the Indian electoral process (which we can discuss separately), the play of money power and corporate power in the U.S. elections can no longer be understated. It is a fact that the U.S. Presidents are beholden to their donors and will eventually be forced to take actions to support their constituents and donors.

I am sure the American citizens know all these stuff very well, but from my perspective I do not agree that the U.S. is setting up a role model for the rest of the world, and has no right to demand conformance from other nations – the others will simply ignore. I thought the U.S. should behave as a global leader with an emphasis on the rightful application of democratic principles and fairness in all its dealings and policies – whether internal or external to the U.S.

Apparently not.


Vijay Srinivasan
27th October 2012


One thought on “The Funny Ways of Democratic Elections

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