Batuhan: Confuse rather than clarify-A A +A
Friday, May 4, 2012
IT HAS been a couple of weeks since I returned from a month-long extended trip to the US. While there, in the midst of the primary season for this year’s presidential elections, I saw firsthand the process that they follow almost religiously in America, about how they choose their candidates, how they dissect and deliberate on the issues that are of pressing importance to the electorate, and how in the end they elect a leader based on their view of how he or she would tackle these issues.
The US has a very long-winded process in choosing their candidates to the presidential elections. Each party – though the Democrats skipped the process this year to automatically opt for the incumbent Barack Obama – go through the whole gamut of selecting individuals who come forth and identify themselves as potential standard bearers for their respective parties, to contest for the highest post of the land.
Issues of great importance to the American electorate would, of course, vary greatly from one election to the next. This year, along with most of the world, the economy takes centre stage. In fact, not just centre stage, but left, right and centre stage.
Yes, the US economy is not what it used to be. Losing its pristine triple-A sovereign rating was only the confirmation of an evolution that begun some years back, and culminated in the downgrade of the most powerful economy in the world.
And the repercussion on the Americans were plenty enough for them to make the economy as the main issue in this year’s presidential contest.
This is hardly the most significant personal observation of the process for me, however. What is most telling to me is how Americans are immensely loyal to the two-party system that they have, and how this system has served to make them the most admired democratic country in the world.
The Grand Old Party (Republicans) and the Democratic Party are the two protagonists in the American presidential contests. While it is not my intention to discuss the differences between each in this piece – as each one of them has fundamental divergences in everything – what I want to point out is that these differences are more or less permanent and unchanging, are accepted by the party leaders and faithful, and more or less define their party’s answers to solving the fundamental questions that may be confronting them at any point in time.
We had, once upon a time in the Philippines, something that worked similarly, until it was corrupted by the late president Marcos. We had the Nationalista and Liberal parties, and for a time they were the only parties that contested national elections (or at least were the only significant ones).
At least then, our people understood issues that were advanced by the party line, and were not just left to selecting candidates based on the sheer force of their personalities.
Today, we have parties all over the place. Nobody understands anymore what each stands more, and what makes them different among each other.
And as a result, we choose not based on principles, but based on personalities, and the popularity of the candidates.
Do we wonder then why we have so many people who seem to be unfit and unqualified for public office, become public officials? Do we wonder then why it almost seems prerequisite to have been in the entertainment profession, to be elected to public posts?
Maybe it is time for us to finally be educated in our approach to elections. Perhaps it is time to come home to the duality of the two-party system, as the answer to our proliferation of electoral candidates, that only serve to confuse, rather than clarify, our choices.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 05, 2012.