Friday, October 31, 2008

Triumph of Democracy

Democracy is very messy but it is the best we have to provide for a representative government. Though America tends to characterise itself as "young" it is now 232 years old and the longest living unbroken democracy. Ofcourse many would be quick to point out the dark ages of slavery and the fact that Afro-Americans did not get voting rights as recently as 1965. Given the age and time in which America declared its independence expecting it to have universal suffrage is asking for the moon. That America set on its journey so firmly 230 years back is tribute enough to the founding fathers. A constitution that has been amended less than 30 times (of which the first ten - the bill of rights was done at inception) is testimony to prescient wisdom.

Next week US will elect its 44th President. We would have elected either the first African-American as President or the first woman as V.P. This election is making history on all benchmarks, the most hotly contested primary involving a first lady garnering 18 million votes, spending that crosses $1 billion, the longest ad war stretching over 24 months, the highest expected turnover that may blow out all past voting patterns and in process completely re-draw the electoral map of US for a generation.

Contrary to cynics I see a healthy trend over the past 4 elections. Starting with 1996 there has been a steady increase of voters, the highest so far being 2004 . 1992 -- 104 million , 1996-86 million, 2000 - 102 million, 2004-121 million. Note the explosion of electorate in 2004. A year marked by concerns of terrorism and war. George Bush got elected with 50.7 % popular vote, nobody since 1992 had crossed 50%. Of course one could say that 48.3% who voted for Kerry did not want him and point it as evidence of the poor method of representation. Arnold Toynbee justifiably lamented at how humans, so imaginative in so many areas could not imagine anything better when it came to proportional representation.

The election will of course leave the supporters of the losers with much to grumble about. If McCain loses, as is expected, the familiar grumbling would be, economy, Bush, War, Celebrity obsessed media, spending by Obama etc. If Obama loses, the list starts with serious setbacks on race relations (unfair but true), Bradley effect, conservative America, religion clingers etc. Either of that will be unjust. Anybody who somes out of a winner in the most gruelling election season in human memory deserves to be at the Oval office. with all my misgivings on Obama, I am increasingly of the view he does deserve to win. Just today NYT ran an article how the Obama campaign, though flush in cash, is parsimonious in spending it and watches every penny. I sadly remember how Hillary who started with a huge war chest burned through it with bad planning.

For the Obama supporters who proudly point to how Obama tightly ran a campaign and say that is evidence of how he would run the country, I say 2 words "George W Bush". Bush ran a disciplined campaign as against Kerry.

The democrats cried hoarse for ages about Supreme Court handing over the presidency to Bush in 2000 but did not raise a squeak of praise when the same court (with more conservative judges today) supported Ohio state secretary (Dem) in the case against her by republicans concerning voter registration irregularities in Ohio (ACORN scandal).

As Alexander Pope says "a people gets the government it deserves". May the best candidate win.

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