America. The greatest democracy in the world. Or so they claim. But being ‘murica, they don’t stop at claiming. They want to prove it. So they hold a pageant every four years. A carnival of democracy and all it entails. It goes on for almost two years, and affects how the government functions, how they react to crises and what Americans watch on TV. They call it the Presidential Campaign, and it’s already on in full swing. Here’s an early overview.
First off, this campaign is for the president who will take oath in 2017. And it already been on for a few months. In fact there have already been TV debates and tens of not hundreds of millions collected and spent. And we are not even close to deciding who will contest the election. We are just trying to decide the candidates.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This was supposed to be easy. It was going to be Clinton v/s Bush. Just like old times. Hillary Clinton was called the “presumptive Democratic nominee” for a long time. Till Bernie Sanders happened. Never heard of him? Neither had
Americans. He came with Socialist tattooed on his chest, railing against the business, and soon the left wing of Democratic Party, unhappy with the pro-business Clintons, bent their knees and elected him their Pope, or Czar, or
whatever those guys think is next to God. He’s worryingly close to Clinton in polls and the aura of inevitability is all but gone.
And if left wing populism has disrupted Democrats, right wing populism has devastated the republican race. The leader of the pack is currently Donald Trump. Best known for being tacky, tasteless and rude in reality shows. Yes. He’s a reality star, and super rich because his dad was. He’s like older, American Rahul Mahajan. And he’s super racist and not afraid to show it. He has no consistent policy other than being anti-immigration. His biggest promise is to build a wall all along the Mexican border. And he’s leading by a healthy margin for most of the time the campaign has been on.
His closest competitor is Ben Carson. A neurosurgeon. He was practically unknown and never considered a contender. Till he started breathing fire against Trump. And their fiery exchange has put them at the top. Lost in the little league are the former stalwart governors like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Rick Parry. And then there is the super successful Tech CEO Carly Fiorina. All with single digit support. Looking at each other and wondering what happened. The republican base that used to reward experience is now rewarding drama.
Oh there’s the Oh-So-Not-Indian Bobby Jindal too, but no one cares about him. Even without him, though, this must all seem familiar to Indian audience. The dynasty politics, playing to vote banks, and mindless populism. This is an electorate so tired of business as usual that they are willing to stake their future to someone who just talks about bringing a “new kind of politics”. Just that phrase is sometimes enough for rational, sober people to abandon caution and take a bet. In India this has happened repeatedly via the many socialist coalitions elected in center and various states. Never remember it ending well. But when this happens in US, the effects are felt on a global scale.
So imagine Rahul Mahajan or Arvind Kejriwal as the proverbial “most powerful person in the world”. In fact the “safe” options are either the wife of a former president, or a guy with two presidents in his immediate family. That feels familiar too, right?
The “greatest democracy” has become the greatest carnival of democracy. If that doesn’t make you take interest, nothing will.