Is America showing the world how democracy should work?

Hello. Richard, Archy and Melinda in Oregon, Fomba in New York City, Abda in Cleveland, Hiam in Chicago, Anthony in Dar-es-Salaam, Jackson in Sudan and Job and Penny in the UK – thanks for signing up.


You could argue that yesterday’s voting in America was more indecisive than super, but whatever the results, plenty of people are hailing the process as more evidence that American democracy is in rude health.

Look at the range of candidates they say, look at the levels of participation, look at the media coverage and the amount of informal debate online.

So is this one of the great democracies showing what the world what it can do?

 No, comes the reply from critics of a system which requires a candidate to have hundreds of millions of dollars to stand a chance. And more so no, they continue, when corporate influence appears stronger than that of the voters once an election is done.

 If you’re in America, are you proud of this Presidential race?

If you’re part of the watching world, do you wish your country had a democracy that worked like this?

It’s worth having a read of this Ed Cohen article in the International Herald Tribune.

137 Responses to “Is America showing the world how democracy should work?”

  1. 1 Paul Rousseau
    February 6, 2008 at 13:45

    Being a USA citizen living in the USA, I beginning to feel a bit optimistic about the USA political system. Yes, there is a lot of money being spent, and there are is a lot of “politics” going on. Still, you can’t help feeling that “something” is going on with the Obama campaign. I like the idea that there is a generational shift going on, and that younger USA citizens are starting to pay attention to public life. The choice is clear in both parties, the boomers vs the up and coming generation. Anything that gets people being political again is a hopeful sign for democracy.

  2. 2 Brett
    February 6, 2008 at 13:47

    Is America showing the world how democracy should work?
    – NO NO NO, while certainly not the worst, we are no model for countries to explicitly follow.

    Am I proud of the Presidential Race?
    – No, its mostly a joke, where ‘issues’ are losely addressed and candidates spend more time smearing their opponents than discussing concrete plans/ideas.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  3. 3 Joey
    February 6, 2008 at 13:57

    Hi, this is definitly worth a read on democracy, from our cosmopolitan founding father, Benjamin Franklin.
    Colorado, USA

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

    When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.

    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty.

    Where liberty dwells, there is my country.

    God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: This is my country.

    Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

    He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.

    If you would not be forgotten
    As soon as you are dead and rotten,
    Either write things worthy reading,
    Or do things worth the writing.

    Never confuse motion with action.

    This will be the best security for maintaining our liberties. A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.

    Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.

    Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.

    To find out a girl’s faults, praise her to her girl friends.

    Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.

    Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

    Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.

    The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.

    He’s a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom.

    What is the use of a new-born child? (When asked the use of a new invention)

    …a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles…is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and keep a government free.

    There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and more frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.

  4. February 6, 2008 at 14:05

    Our voting system is ridiculous. I’m especially burned up right now about the whole Superdelegate concept, which means all these elected officials and other people who want to pay back the Clintons favors can exercise their vote at the Democratic National Convention, changing the results of the popular vote. That should simply not be allowed. There are 299 Superdelegates and, in a race like this, they can radically change the outcome.

    Why can’t we just have a popular vote? For nominees, for president? We’ve got this complicated, archaic system that very few people understand. It’s way over due to be scrapped in favor of straight-forward voting.

    The candidates ability to raise money for a campaign in a capitalist country is very important. It’s also important, however, that it’s transparent as to where that money is coming from. Barack Obama has raised a huge amount of money and none he claims from lobbyists, which shows a shrewdness. He can go back again and again to those sources for more cash, whereas the lobbyist groups who supported Clinton can’t; they’re maxed out. I see nothing wrong with money being in the equation as it’s so telling.

    While I admire the French rules of engagement — equal time for everyone on any medium, whether that’s TV or radio — the only thing that really bothers me is that it’s perfectly legal for candidates to lie in their campaign ads. They can say absolutely false things about themselves and others, and they cannot be sued. This is a travesty, I think. If it’s going to be a media war, it should at least be regulated. Thank goodness we have groups like FactCheck.org. But with so many people so easily influenced by television ads, FactCheck more than has their work cut out for them.

    Yet let’s not confuse the mechanics of the process for the process as a whole. The fact that we’re electing nominees without violence, poisonings, rapes, wars and devastation is a beautiful thing. I also think the character of our candidates — all of them — is very high. The only one with even a slightly shady background is Clinton, because of Whitewater and the way she distorted Obama’s words about Reagan (that was *very* underhanded, but not the end of the world). Yet I still think the overall integrity of our candidates is amazingly good. Even with all his money, Mitt Romney isn’t corrupt. He’s a good man fighting a hard campaign with other good men. I might not agree with them on a lot of issues, but I wouldn’t impugn their characters because of it.

    America might have issues right now, but she’s shining in her ability to hold a peaceful election process.

    (And before I sign off: YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! Sorry — had to get that out of my system. Whee!) 😀

  5. 5 John in Salem
    February 6, 2008 at 14:09

    We are showing the world how American democracy works in 2008 and we make no claim to having a perfect system. It was designed to be an evolving process and it’s strength lies in it’s ability to change.

  6. 6 Meren
    February 6, 2008 at 14:10

    No – this is not how democracy Should be done, but unfortunately, it is the way that it IS done, and that, as an American, angers me.

    The American people should be allowed to decide on these Candidates based on WHO they are and WHAT they believe in, rather than how much media they were able to buy or what big companies, churches or organizations are endorsing them. The days of a candidate running for office based on just who they are and what they have done are Long Over, and it is a shame. I believe that this is not the form of Democracy that the founding fathers fought for.

  7. 7 Meren
    February 6, 2008 at 14:14

    I left a comment just a moment ago, but it did not post.

    No, this is not the way Democracy should work, but unfortunately, it IS the way that Democracy works in modern day America and that angers me.

    Gone are the days of a candidate running based on Who they are and What they have done – now they run on the tide of how much Media coverage they can get, what companies are endorsing them, what churches are supporting them, and how much they can bring the other candidate’s reputations down into the dirt.

    It is my opinion that this is Not the democracy that our founding fathers fought for.

  8. 8 Malc Dow
    February 6, 2008 at 14:15

    America is not a Democracy, it is a Plutocracy.



  9. 9 Michael
    February 6, 2008 at 14:21

    I’m proud to be an American and have a representitive Government that works. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it works. yes, we’re showing the rest of the world that it works, but the reason that it DOES work is that we are one society and in the end, after the election, we settle down and let the elected leader get to work, whether we voted for him or hate him with a passion, it’s all water under the bridge on the next day.
    When a society self-destructs with violence and conflict, it stops growing and developing, allowing other nations to win the more important competition of world trade, standard of living, and technological developement.

    Portland, Oregon
    (unavailable by phone)

  10. 10 rosatkins
    February 6, 2008 at 14:28

    Dear Ros,

    With respect to popular participation, the Americans are really showing us how the democratic process should work. But with respect to democracy being exclusively for those with the big bucks, they’re making a bad example. But overall, the current American election have engendered a level of interest around the world that is unprecedented. Hope we can all copy the good parts of this US campaign.
    Lamii in Liberia

  11. 11 rosatkins
    February 6, 2008 at 14:29

    Dearest Ros : Hi… It’s so lovely to hear from you again my good friend ! Hope this email finds you well, safe, always happy, and (as always) full of life and energy ! I watch the American presidential elections and at the same time I feel so sorry for democracy in Iraq which is sadly still limping till now because of two endemic and very dangerous diseases : Sectarianism and Corruption ! With my love ! Your friend forever Lubna in Baghdad !

  12. 12 Nanci Hogan
    February 6, 2008 at 14:59

    Ros, what a lot of people don’t know is that the Obama campaign is totally funded by grassroots donors and not lobbyists or Political Action Committees. Therefore he’s not beholden to special interests or elites. This is what is so refreshing and novel about his campaign. Most donors give small donations of $100. I like it because people are putting their money where their values are. They want to change America and are invested in it because they’ve contributed out of their personal finances.

    That said, it really shouldn’t have to cost so much to run a campaign and I think some sort of reform is needed. The primary contest is long and drawn out.

    But, what you are seeing now is a conversation beginning about how to renew ourselves and our democracy. I am an American expat and I was proud to vote in the Global Democratic Primary yesterday and it is the first time I have ever voted in a primary contest. It’s the first vote I have cast in 20 years of voting that I feel I have ever voted for someone instead of against someone.

    So I think we are showing the world how democracy can be if the people own their own situation and say yes, it’s up to us to change the system and for us to make our voices heard rather than wait around like victims for someone else to rescue us and change the system for us.

    I do think this election has inspired the rest of the world. You only have to look at media reports in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kenya etc, to see that the world is watching the US and cheering us on.

  13. 13 Julie P
    February 6, 2008 at 15:11

    After reading this article, including many others, about our elections, or anything else, what I walk away believing we are hated and it will not matter what we do, it will be wrong. It seems nothing would make people more happy than for us to dissolve our Union. The biggest problem the world has is that it is widely believed they know everything about us, but know absolutely nothing and have no real interest in learning.

    America has the least corrupt, stable government in the world. It is currently the oldest democracy in existence. Our elections, even when they do not go well, like the 2000 elections, are peacefully resolved. America follows its democratic principles, which was demonstrated that year. We peacefully protested and the election was resolved in the United States Supreme Court. This is a shining example of how a true democracy works when it faces an internal crisis. We do not engage in mass rioting and murder when an election turns sour.

    Our politics is influenced by the need for money to run for the highest office, but it is also an extremely large country, which mandates large amounts of money to win. Also, like other countries, the rich and powerful have more influence than the masses. It may not be fair, but it is what is. Our special interest groups and corporations have a little more power than I care for, but we still have a voice in the process. Super Tuesday proves this.

    We are a nation of diversity. Many people from every of walk of life have come to our shores seeking a better way of life and this is reflected in the candidates who are running this year. We have candidates who represent many facets of the population, more so than any point in our history and far more than any nation on the face of the earth. Super Tuesday was a shining success of our political system, which is flourishing despite our detractors. Here is why: in spite of the overt influence of money and power the American People went out in droves to vote, to have their voices heard and it succeeded. We are having a real, honest debate about the direction we want our nation to take that cannot be eclipse by anyone or anything. We will continue this debate into our parties conventions and into our general election this November. Americans vote for its leaders and no one else.

  14. 14 Brett
    February 6, 2008 at 15:15

    I’m with Maria for a popular vote!

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  15. 15 George USA
    February 6, 2008 at 15:16

    We have two “democracies” in the USA.

    1. One is vibrant, dynamic, active, and looks great to the rest of the world. It is worthy of emulation.

    2. The other is-

    Diebold programs shaving votes, altering outcomes, changing elections.

    The DNC removing delegates from states that favor one candidate to give to whom they want.

    The controlled media spinning the numbers and outcomes dramatically to over-shadow real will of the people to cram the decided candidate down the publics throat.

    The American people believe in and want real democracy.

    What we have is not real democracy.

    We have controlled elections and media to force an unlikable power hungry candidate down our throats through deceit and election fraud.

    The pretense of elections looks good from afar, but upon closer inspection are not elections at all.

    The USA stopped having real elections.

  16. 16 John in Germany
    February 6, 2008 at 15:21

    Hi Ros.

    At least they both start with the same letter “D” So here we go.

    The Americans have once again proven that its only the dollar that equals democracy as far as the elections go. And on top of that if the triers have been in some higher political position before hand. (Thats ok experience helps) or does it?.
    Its the American way of life, but is it a good example?.

    If one wants to maintain a position of authority, one need to set an example. Its the first step to achieve respect. The sick and hungry can only dis-like when they hear the news. If they have the chance to hear a radio, or see a TV.

    As a young soldier i had the luck to work with the Americans, and since then i have a lot of respect for the type of people i met, and the way we were looked after. And like most countries, voters do not have a real democratic will, you vote for some one and hope they keep their prommisses, even when you know in your heart it was only bait, and the American bait is just that more expensive.

    So sorry NO, but it proves one thing if you’ve got money you can rule the world.
    So as to speak!!

    John in Germany

  17. 17 Stephanie J
    February 6, 2008 at 15:22

    From a citizen of the U.S. comes one more vote against the presidential race, against the democracy joke, against the entire federal setup. I hate our two-party system. It is ridiculous. It favors money elites. No, it doesn’t just favor them; it excludes everybody else. It makes candidates take the well-trod, well-known-to-go-nowhere path instead of their own. That’s not democracy – that’s flipping a coin and having a money war to tilt the odds in one’s favor. No candidate will be honest. No candidate will commit to specific actions because they have to please too many people to win, and not winning first is losing completely. I would much rather have a parliamentary system, where voting for a party that actually represents my values would matter, and where voting for the Green party wouldn’t be a vote for the Republican party.

    ~Stephanie from Portland, Oregon

  18. 18 Anthony
    February 6, 2008 at 15:30

    Voting in the US still has huge problems, I went last night and was still a little upset. For one, if you’re registered as a Democrat you can only vote for the Democrats, if you’re registered Republican, you can only vote for Republicans. I’m registered as Non-Partisan, so I get to vote for who ever I want, but I saw people who didn’t want the Republican ticket, but was forced to since they were registered as a Republican. This is absolutely STUPID. How can we really know what the majority vote is with things like this?

    Also, everyone complaining about how all these politicians are horrible and a joke, well guess what? You can make a whole lot of money, kiss a whole lot of butt, and work your rear off and become the president (or another high position in government) if you want, so STOP COMPLAINING UNLESS YOUR GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

    P.S. President Clinton and Vice President Obama in 2008, you’ll see!

  19. 19 rosatkins
    February 6, 2008 at 15:34

    I am a Kenyan in the U.S. I very much admire the American democracy. Yes, you need a lot of money to campaign in this country. The good thing is that this money comes from voters. Look at somebody like Obama. He is not a rich man, but he has been able to raise money from mainly the poor people. Somebody like Huckabee is doing quite fine despite the fact that he’s running on a skeleton staff. John McCain’s campaign has been soldiering on despite that he’s not as monied as somebody like Mitt Romney. The fact of the matter is American voters don’t necessarily vote for somebody just because he has money. I would be happy to really participate in this program.

  20. 20 BritPatJax
    February 6, 2008 at 15:42

    I feel that too much money is wasted on it. I miss the old Party Political Broadcast in UK and the feeling of conservancy. Here Guiliano swamped Florida with TV adverts and got nothing for it. The advertizing companies are the only ones to benefit. You could feed the world just with the money wasted on advertizing what should be evident to most voters. Being a millionaire does not make you a good president and wasting so much on a lost cause does not make you even a good businessman?

  21. 21 George USA
    February 6, 2008 at 15:47

    The deciding factor of elections in the USA is not who votes for whom.

    The deciding factor is who the Diebold machines and scanners are programed to give the election to.

  22. 22 rosatkins
    February 6, 2008 at 15:56

    Good Morning Ros and everyone at WHYS……

    As an American, and a New Yorker, I would love to say that this is how a democracy works. However, because not enough people get involved in the process, it can get all sorts of skewed and lose focus. The majority of Americans don’t pay attention to politics or politicians until they have to. Bush has done such a wonderful job of offending not only the rest of the planet but Americans in general, that everyone is paying attention to this race. It may seem as if the only candidates that get attention are the ones that can afford to pay for the advertising to get into American homes, and to a certain extent that is true, but most of the candidates that run want to be in the White House years before they are able to, so they can position themselves to have a war chest ready to go. They get on the right committees and appear on the right Sunday morning news shows….they prep….for years…which is why it seems that only the wealthy can or do run.

    That being said…..this year’s Democratic race is incredibly tight…and wonderfully exciting. This year it isn’t about the lesser of two “who cares” candidates’…..both Clinton and Obama are fantastic, they are both energetic and competent, and fun to watch, and it really will come down to the Democratic Convention, which is how it’s supposed to be……a fight……a debate of idea’s, the country being so into it’s leadership that it is way to close to call. That is how Democracy is supposed to work, and I think this year more than ever, and certainly more so than any I have been able to vote in, is exactly how democracy is supposed to work. Americans can complain all they want about Bush….but the majority of them voted for him….twice……and for the most part that majority regrets it. I think this year the race to the White House is so popular, because complacency got Bush voted in last time…and no one wants to have that kind of president again, it’s too embarrassing.

    Cheers to you all……

  23. 23 Alison, Idaho
    February 6, 2008 at 16:13

    I think we’re a great example to the world. Agreed, it’s not perfect…I wish we had the popular vote, I wish there were more of a platform for third-party candidates, I wish it were not so expensive to run. But US citizens realize this is their chance to have their voice heard, and I don’t know anyone who votes for a candidate based on the money they’ve spent or the commercials they’ve seen.

    Yes you are only one vote, but you can’t sit around complaining if you’re not even going to use your vote. And if you think your vote doesn’t matter, then you should get out there and vote for the third party you do believe in. Use your voice. It’s really one of your only chances to tell these politicians what you really want from them.

    I think the excitement surrounding this campaign is great, and we will prove to the world that there is no place for violence and hatred in an election.

  24. February 6, 2008 at 16:14

    While the reason that the colonist picked up arms against their ruling government are various and unclear, their intents for a new form of government was very clear. They didn’t want to be ruled by families who felt they were divinely appointed. They were tired of their leaders sending their children off to endless wars that had no impact on the their own well being They wanted to encourage the best minds to come together and developed the best way a government can enable all willing citizens to obtain life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Cut to 250 years latter and we see that we are ruled by families of wealthy hypocritical self serving people. One of the main issues considered is their religion. Many of them claim a divine right to rule. For the past 50 years politicians have made up excuses to send our children off to war for nothing more then political and monetary gains of the few.

    Prior to 1776 The British, and the other major powers persuaded and intimidated it’s citizens with guns and violence. Today the ruling families have found a different technique to accomplish the same goal. They use the media and keep the general population ignorant and uneducated. Just like my dog is trained with a biscuit to come when his name is called and then eventually does it (of his own free will) when commanded later. So do the U.S. citizens blindly punch a name with out question only because it is something they recognize as a possible source of a treat. The only knowledge they have of a candidate is how “presidential they look on TV, and how effectively they can deliver 30 second sound clips.

    We are an impoverished nation living on credit and borrowed time. We have soldiers fighting a war that was pressed upon us via fraud, lies, and overstatement. Our real enemies send our children poisonous and hazardous toys and food everyday and we still buy it up like it’s the fruit of life. The system is so broken that it is inconceivable that it hasn’t collapsed upon itself. We are one step away from being post cold war Russia, and yet 90% of the citizen are oblivious to it.

    The only difference between the US and Kenya is we have the internet and TV to keep us distracted, occupied and distracted. Without these distractions we would be forced to talk to our families and neighbors and we would start to realize how un-American and non-democratic the government has become. Who knows, we might even take to the streets and demand fair and transparent elections.

  25. 25 Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako, London
    February 6, 2008 at 16:17

    I will go for any form of democracy any day, once all players agree to the rules of the game. I particularly don’t like the ‘Super-Delegate’ concept of the American system. I think it benefits candidates with long family tradition in the party, who may not necessarily be the favouraties of the majority of the members of the party. Take the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, for example. Looking at the popular votes and delegate list as of today, Barack Obama seems to be the favourate of the party ‘ordinaries’, who number in the millions. Yet Senator Clinton is leading the race because of a relatively few party officials called ‘Super-Delegates’, who only represent themselves. I don’t find it democratic at all when the voice of the majority is dwarfed by that of a few minority. But once again, since all parties seem confortable with the system and it seems to have worked for them over the years, then there’s everything to say for their kind of democracy.

  26. 26 Brett
    February 6, 2008 at 16:28

    Kudos to Dwight for the blog of the day!

    I completely agree with you Dwight, in every instance except the internet being a distraction. The internet has been one of the best (though at the same time worst) tools in information dissemination especially in the lies and corruption of government. I think of the internet as a vital tool rather than a distraction. But can also agree and see that when used incorrectly or not actively used in the search of ‘truth’ whether it be in politics, news, etc, that it can be a distraction away from problems and issues in our lives/country/community.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  27. 27 Xie_Ming
    February 6, 2008 at 16:40

    The American Revolution had a proclaimed goal of the “Pursuit of Happiness”. Strange phrase? It placated the “Sons of Liberty” who wanted free trade and protectionism for THEIR businesses- it meant pursuit of their felicity in commerce. So, commercial advantage has long been an American motive.

    Imperialism, sold by a jingoistic press, has been evident at least since the Mexican War and was classically illustrated in the Spanish-American War and the triumverate of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge,
    press baron William Randolph Hearst and Admiral William Thayer Mahan. (Even to the phony reports of abused Cubans!).

    These twin vectors have long been part of the American ethos, as have been waves of evangelism known as “Awakenings”.

    Wisely, no one has attempted to define “democracy”. This must remain everyone’s unexamined premise.

    For the American version, it would appear to include the ability to “turn the rascals out”.

  28. 28 Jane emails
    February 6, 2008 at 16:45

    In the last 8 years we have witnessed a general unraveling of the fabric of our Democracy. While there is no doubt that the entire election process needs reworking, right now it is the only hope for a reversal of what has been largely a Capitalist society. People are so hungry for change, I’m sure it’s great for ratings and putting even more money in the pockets of the corporations running the press. But, despite all of the flaws in the system we are so desperate for new leadership we can’t help but believe in what we have.

    Jane from the States

  29. 29 Rob by email from Texas
    February 6, 2008 at 16:46

    Yes, the world should stand and take note of the electoral process in the US. It’s messy and expensive but it works and it’s how we get rid of politicians who do not respond to the will of the majority and how we slowly change the course of American policy. That policy affects the rest of the world too, as we have so sadly watched in recent years.

    Of particular note to developing nations should be the aftermath of our elections. The loser doesn’t claim “fraud” and refuse to abide by the majority will. The winner only exacts political tolls from the loser, not blood revenge and killing of opposition supporters. No body usually is hurt or dies because they don’t like the election results. We can influence the assholes who won even if we didn’t support them.

    Like Winnie Churchill said “Democracy is a shitty form of government but a whole lot better than whatever is next best” or something to that effect.

    Rob from Montgomery, Texas

  30. 30 John in Salem
    February 6, 2008 at 16:47

    For those who would scrap the system~

    In a perfect world we would have a perfect democracy with fair campaigns that are beyond corporate influence. Everyone’s vote would count equally and we could be assured that the best qualified would be elected.
    But the fact is that we don’t live in a perfect world nor will we ever.
    If Obama or Clinton is elected it will be proof that the system can still work in spite of it’s flaws. We will continue to tinker with it and refine it and improve it and those that follow us will do the same.
    But it will never be perfect. It’s just the best thing we’ve come up with so far.

  31. 31 Ken in Cleveland by email
    February 6, 2008 at 16:50

    I’ll be the first to admit that the American electoral process isn’t perfect, but to say it’s in “rude health” is a little offensive to me. Campaign finance needs to be looked at closely, but I highly doubt any other countries have poor people elected to public office.

    I think we’re seeing a lot of indecision because people that voted for the prior administration have been sorely disappointed and don’t know where to turn. People like me that never wanted to see Bush elected are still on point. We want a progressive candidate that isn’t interested in cutting breaks for corporations, can solve the crisis in Iraq and actually cares about the working class.

    Barack Obama is my first choice, but if McCain is chosen to be the Republican candidate and elected president, I would be proud to have an American war hero serving our country that has the guts to stand up to Christian Conservatives.

    Ken in Cleveland

  32. February 6, 2008 at 16:52

    The American election system is a slap in the face for democracy. Not only for the reasons you listed, Ros, about corporate media and needing corporate financing, but also the restrictive ballot access laws, limited debate topics on TV, and the institution of the Electoral College, which does not allow the American people to directly elect the president. The really big problem that nobody talks about in the mainstream news is not voter fraud but election fraud. In the 2000 elections in Florida and 2004 elections in Ohio, there were thousands of voters who were not allowed to vote for whatever reason (90,000+ in Florida alone). Had the government launched a thorough investigation into either of these cases, we would have had a different president for the past 8 (or 4) years.

    From a fiscal perspective, primary elections cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Not only would instant runoff voting save us these much needed dollars, but also requires that the winner has a 50% majority to win. From a practical perspective, it also forces voters to go to the polls more than once, while IRV would get it all done in one day.

  33. 33 gary
    February 6, 2008 at 16:56

    Hello All,
    The US should not be taken as a model for democracy, primarily because we are not a democracy; but are a republic. Neither should we be presented as a good model of democratic republic. Our “two party system” usually leaves a substantial percentage, sometimes a majority, without reasonably faithful representation in governance. I myself feel this loss. I am a fiscally conservative, Christian, anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, green, pro-“If they’re not asking you to do their sexual activity, leave them the hell alone,” liberal. I like Hillary and McCain, and honestly believe I would call Mr. Putin a friend, if I ever meet him. He’s a hard guy; but I think fundamentally a good guy. I am an independant. I’ve voted, at least once, for every sitting president since I reached majority. Neither party appeals to me. If we had twenty parties or so, then maybe I could find some candidates with whom I might closely identify. Messy? Yes; but then so is the rest of life.

  34. 34 Paul, Liberia
    February 6, 2008 at 17:24

    No! The US is playing a game for us that has already been played in the dark. It is just repeat broadcast. They are trying to show others that this is “Democracy”, but in other words, they are say, “Warning: Don’t try this at home kids”. ….

  35. 35 Mary
    February 6, 2008 at 17:31

    A huge thing that is archaic and broken in the American Presidential election is the delegate factor. This system was set up back when someone had to ride a horse from the frontier to Washington DC to tell the capital how the frontier voted. It’s still in existence. So instead of counting the popular vote, we count delegates. This leads to problems when a candidate wins the popular vote, but the delegates of the states won didn’t add up to as high a number as an opponent’s delegates (example: Bush vs. Gore… don’t even get me started). We have election fraud, we have partisan politics where none should exist (the Supreme Court deciding that Bush should be president when Gore won – the CONSERVATIVE Supreme Court). And yes, there’s the obscene money factor: Abraham Lincoln was a poor boy from the woods who grew up to be president, and didn’t spend a fortune achieving that post. That doesn’t happen anymore. It’s a pity. Perhaps it’s a good sign though, that the current election’s rich kid, Mitt Romney, can’t buy victory (apparently). Is America’s brand of democracy perfect? No. Is it better than Pakistan’s, the Congo’s, Kenya’s, China’s, etc, etc, etc.? Of course. I’ll keep ours, I’ll keep voting, and I’ll keep supporting candidates who don’t lasso themselves to corporations, lobbyists, and religion. That’s the best I can do for now. I hope the next president is an improvement over the current one: but that isn’t really a question. ANYONE would have to be better than the current president.

    Mary — Seattle, WA

  36. 36 Bryan in San Francisco
    February 6, 2008 at 17:32

    No. We need a parliamentary system, wtih less power to the president, and run-off votes so people can vote their hearts first.

  37. 37 Sarah - New York
    February 6, 2008 at 17:40

    I am very proud of the direction this year’s election is going. The enthusiasm of my generation to vote and how they are getting excited about a candidate is very inspiring. I have always voted, but now I don’t have to roll my eyes at my friends when they say they don’t care about the election process. They are studying the candidates platforms online, making decisions for themselves, and voting!

    I also cannot tell you how happy I am to see a woman and a black man as real contenders for the presidency. Change is here!

  38. 38 Ian from Arizona
    February 6, 2008 at 17:41

    Ros & WHYS Staff:

    Hi to all my friends at the BBC and to my good friend Lubna.

    So is this one of the great democracies showing what the world what it can do?

    My American Government teacher in high school once told me that America has one of the few governments in the world that peacefully changed power from one ruling party to another. We have done this once every four to eight years for the last two hundred twenty plus years. I believe that this is a clear example of how democracy can work in the world.

    However, comments about the hundred of millions of dollars need to run and the strong corporate influence is something that I am very disappointed in. Sadly, this is how our government works, always has and probably always will.

    Regardless of that, as Americans’, we have the choice of who will be our President. We vote for the person who closely resembles our values (or against the person who is opposed to our values). It is our choice.

    If you’re in America, are you proud of this Presidential race?

    I am mostly proud of this Presidential race. I am proud of the involvement of the American public (the highest it has ever been, by far) in all forms. I am also very happy with the wide choices of candidates and that more of the populace is represented. I am saddened by the pointless bickering and standard avoiding of talking about the difficult topics.

    I am registered as a Democrat and voted for a Democrat in my Primary yesterday. However, I am waiting to see who will be the final two in the general election before I decided who I will vote for. I am happy with voting for either Clinton or Obama, but I am interested in Romney, a Republican.

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to listening to this program!

    All the best!

    Ian from Arizona

  39. 39 Ros Atkins
    February 6, 2008 at 17:46

    Although I am heartened that the US doesn’t have the usual white- man running for President, that there is a woman and a man of mixed ethnicity I am still disgusted by this process of showmanship and disgusting waste of money. The candidates all speak of helping those less financially fortunate while they spend millions of dollars on ads, signs, travel and “air time”. This is Democracy run by Capitalism.

    I would like to see what they can do if they had to run on an even playing field. No one is allowed to spend more them $57,000. ( the low end of the middle class yearly income), whether its their own money or someone else’s. No company or individual should profit from the running of a candidate. I also would like to give them only 6 months of campaigning. If they start before that they are kicked out.

    On another note, I got this email from a family member in Alaska that I thought you might enjoy.

    We went out to caucus tonight. First we couldn’t get in the
    parking lot. It was full. Then after walking from about a block away
    we got in the door to a mob scene. The person directed us to a room
    we couldn’t fit into. They couldn’t start the caucus because people
    were still trying to get in. Then the fire department showed up and
    announced they were shutting us down. I asked an organizer why they
    hadn’t arranged for a bigger place. They said they were expecting 40
    people. At that point there were over 1000. Finally the police showed
    up and we were all escorted in a long automobile parade over to the
    high school gym five miles away. All this in 10 below 0 and a god
    awful wind chill. Finally 3 hours later we had our delegates. The
    vote was 72% for Obama, 27 % for Hilary. It was really exciting.

    I enjoy listening when I can, I hope you all have a wonderful day,


  40. 40 Meren
    February 6, 2008 at 18:02

    “The deciding factor of elections in the USA is not who votes for whom.

    The deciding factor is who the Diebold machines and scanners are programed to give the election to.”

    I Agree with you George, and this is deplorable.

    It is also EXACTLY what happened in the 2004 “Race”.

    It is deplorable that the people’s votes do not really count, even though we are told that they do.

    It is despicable that the Electoral College will be the ones to truly elect the President and Vice-President, and not the votes of the people (although we are told that the Electoral College votes the vote of the people – but there is evidence to prove that is not the case — http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1115-02.htm ).

    And it is even more reprehensible that the political parties will “punish” states that do not fall in line with the party as to when their elections are held, by removing their delegates from the convention.

    “The national party punished Florida Democrats for scheduling their primary before Feb. 5 by stripping all 210 delegates to the convention .” FoxNew.com January 26, 2008.

    I am very proud to be an American, and I would not live in any other country for this is where I was born, but I am not proud of our political system as it stands today, and I would not recommend that any country use the present system in the U.S. as a template for how their own democratic elections should be done.

  41. 41 Denise in chicago
    February 6, 2008 at 18:04

    I don’t believe America is trying to show the world how democracy works. It’s not a matter of pride – this is simply our voting process works. I’m grateful I have the right.

  42. 42 Jon
    February 6, 2008 at 18:07

    The responses to this question are as interesting as they are varied. For those who contend that the primary process is too drawn out and there should be a general popular vote for party candidates, I would argue that this change would destroy the federal system that emphasizes the state as a significant entity. A general primary would negate the ability of smaller states to have a voice in the presidential process, thereby allowing states with the greatest populations to control the agenda at the cost of local realities. Local participation and voice is absolutely crutial for candidates to prove the viability of their positions on a broad, national level.

    For those who argue that only candidates with money can compete in the presidential election process, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee provide a vivid exception to this notion. Mike Huckabee in particular has demonstrated that a reasonably articulate individual with extremely limited resources can play with the money-makers when they are able to connect with a particular constituency. While his platform and ideas may alarm many, the silver lining in his candidacy has been his ability to unsettle the prevailing wisdom regarding money and political impact.

    Obama’s ability to raise funds from a broad constituency tells a similar story, with a twist. Obama has been able to generate a vast ammount of financial support in keeping with the limits set forth by McCain-Feingold reforms. This is significant and should be applauded.

    Finally, for all those who believe that money is a detriment to the political process, remember that the transparency we demand to decide who to elect comes at a cost. I would rather have the candidates themselves footing the bill for this costly necessity, than have another level of bureaucracy between their message and my ears. With the finance reforms that are in place, ideas become the product that generates currency for candidates. This is a good thing.

  43. February 6, 2008 at 18:13

    The last 2 presidential elections in America were a travesty. Corruption, obstruction of justice, trammeling voter rights, fraudulent vote tallies, and the appointment of federal judges likely to dismiss all cases filed by civil rights groups and individuals trying to obtain redress for election irregularities. Further, “Faith Based Charities” are little more than hired guns who, like their counterparts at the US’s mercenary Blackwater army, perform a variety of political dirty tricks violating the bounadry between Church and State. These dirty tricks range from tossing select voter registrations into the trash while manning “unofficial” registration stations, jamming phone lines with crank calls, sending busloads of hired protestors to political rallies. and posing as constituencies by fraudulently authoring letters to congressmen using names and addresses of people listed on registrar of voters directories; all this funded by taxpayer dollars distributed by the current administration. Elections have become a mayhem of special interests – not just corporate, but foreign PACs.

    The 3 safest places for GWB to “appear” for incident-free coverage cameos are on the deck of a US aircraft carrier, AIPAC (American Israeli Political Action Committee)headquarters, and Bob Jones University (a Christian fundamentalist school). Why? They are all beneficiaries of the current administration’s tax-based largess.

    How can the US consider this mentoring? The use of armies of fundamentalist zealots is little better than regressing into Islamist terrorism or engaging in tribal warfare. If the US is to set an example, the corrupting influences ruling US elections have to be weeded out and publicly humiliated for truly anti-American activities that have detracted from any prestige this form of government once possessed.


  44. February 6, 2008 at 18:15

    BOTTOM LINE: Obama appears to have won both the popular vote AND delegate count last night
    …and is forced into fighting a war of attrition against the 193-106 margin of undemocratic ‘party machine votes’ of superdelegates (‘super’ = ‘above’ the electoral process) pledged to Hillary thus far.

    So in New York, Hillary has 42% more than Barack on the elected delegate count, but 3,800% (YES, 3,800% !!!) more of the unelected party-machine votes.

    Call this democracy???

    Martin in Amsterdam

  45. February 6, 2008 at 18:16

    How can the BBC report on th results of these primaries without mentioning that the Republican ones are following the “winner takes all”
    while the Democratic ones are by proportional representation ?
    john somerhausen

  46. February 6, 2008 at 18:19

    Contrary to your daily email, you don’t need millions of dollars to “have a chance”. Romney is the wealthiest candidate, worth about $500 million. McCain, by contrast, has been a public servant his whole life. His net assests don’t even amount to $ 1 million. He takes out loans to finance his campaign, and guess what, he’s leading.

    Obama too is not wealthy. He’s a Yale Law graduate, but chose public service. Even had he chosen private practice, he’d only be worth a couple million dollars by now as a partner in a Wall Street firm, small change compared to the Clintons.

    But it is true that yo will have to raise millions to have a successful campaign. But a good leader should be able to get people to part with their money, they are sales people after all.


  47. February 6, 2008 at 18:20

    I suspect that Bush preaches democracy because he knows how to corrupt it. Remember that he got his power by corruption! He had Judge Rhenquist suspend the US Constitution and appoint Bush/Cheney to the Presidential office. And ever since then he has ruled as what Cheney calls a “Unitary Executive” which the rest of the world would call a dictator, he ignores the Congress and makes his own rules.

    Bush is showing the world how Democracy should not work!

    Tom in Bend, Oregon

  48. 48 Trena
    February 6, 2008 at 18:22

    Our party nomination system is a TOTAL MESS, and we in Oregon feel exceedingly neglected (except for being constantly asked for money)… but it sure is exciting to see the level of engagement and enthusiasm across the country this year. I have mixed feelings about the possibility of the Democratic race staying tight through the end of May. Oregon’s primary could miraculously, finally have an influence! But I will breathe easier if Obama’s nomination is secure by then. And stop biting my nails. 😉

  49. February 6, 2008 at 18:23

    Dear WHYS,

    Great topic! Nothing gets my attention more than a good discussion of Us politics!

    The first thing to know about the US is that it wasn’t set up as a democracy. It was originally a republic with limits on who was eligible to vote. White, land owning male was the requirement. If you were missing even one of them, forget about it. The Founding Fathers didn’t like the notion of mass participation. They thought a few ruling elites, for lack of a better term, was the best way to govern the country. It wasn’t until the early 1800’s that there was universal male suffrage in the US. In 1865, black males received the right to vote and in 1920 women, both by amending the Constitution. In 1913 the Senate was now elected by popular vote instead of being appointed by a stated legislature, again by amending the Constitution.

    We have direct elections of our representatives up to the presidential level. At that point, it becomes amazingly undemocratic. It is then that the Electoral College ultimately decides who gets the White House. You see, when we vote in November, we won’t actually be voting for whatever candidate. Instead, we are voting for electors who will go on to cast their votes for the candidates. The Founders didn’t want popular elections and weren’t really keen on the Congress selecting the president. So they came up with this. Nice, eh? There have been calls to abolish this system. Most recently after the 2000 elections. To abolish it would take another amendment to the Constitution, something neither party is willing to do.

    Archaic as it is, the College perpetuates the two party system in this country. It is the reason why third parties can spoil an election. The best example of this was the 1992 election. If Ross Perot hadn’t been on the ballots, either Bill Clinton would have won a larger proportion of the popular vote or Bush Sr. might have won a second term. It is in the interest of the parties to maintain the dominance they have by keeping the Electoral College. It will remain despite being grossly undemocratic.

    So, in a way, voting in the primaries is more democratic than voting in November. You are actually voting for the person you want to stand in the general election. The mechanisms of selecting the actual nominee is again, on the Democratic side, is another adventure in how democracy shouldn’t function. Super delegates came into being after the 1972 election and the nomination, by popular vote in the convention, of McGovern. The party didn’t want that to happen again. So they decided that these super delegates would have a say in the process. It means that the will of the people in the primaries can over ruled. The way things are going right now, I afariad that might truly happen this year. It just gives me a warm felling inside just thinking about it.

    With all of this in mind, it baffles me that we lecture people on how to conduct their elections when have so problems with our own.

    Mary in Harrisburg, Oregon

  50. 50 Linsay Rousseau Burnett
    February 6, 2008 at 18:23

    One thing that not many people are talking about are the thousands and possibly millions of disenfranchised absentee voters. I’m a registered Virginia voter, whose primary election is not until February 12. I sent in my absentee ballot several weeks ago (where I had to pay for the postage), voting for John Edwards, before he pulled (the same could be said for Rudy Guliani). Virginia, like most states, does not allow for a ranked voting ballot. Had John Edwards pulled out before I voted my vote would have gone to Sen. Obama. Is this a form of disenfranchisement?

    Linsay Rousseau Burnett

  51. February 6, 2008 at 18:23

    sigh. to reemphasize, the US is not a democracy but rather a republic, and this distinction is not semantic. the framers of the constitution lived in a time when democracy was considered a dirty word, synonymous with mob rule. this is why the framers made sure that the states would decide in the form of the electoral college, Americans elect representatives, who appoint electors, who elect the president.

    Justin in Portland, Oregon

  52. February 6, 2008 at 18:24

    The current American version of democracy gives the illusion that people have some say in government when the reality is that popular leaders with real ideas are marginalized by the Corporately owned media.

    The media makes incredible amounts of money from renting out the publicly owned airwaves, so elections are just another business, just another way of making money.

    Actual ideas have essentially no chance of being heard and discussed!

    Tom in Bend, Oregon

  53. February 6, 2008 at 18:25

    Let’s not forget that this is the same democracy that brought us George W Bush. Someone who would not be elected in this country for a local council job.

    Javad in London

  54. February 6, 2008 at 18:25

    Democracy in the US is in name only. Few in the world have any respect left for it. The reality is that only those connected with powerful familiar and corporate american dynasties can attain political power.
    The US today is in many ways reminiscent of 18th century Britain. I trust I need not point out the irony.

    Douglas in Canada

  55. February 6, 2008 at 18:26

    Hi there,
    I am a very active participant in the democratic process here in the US. However, in many ways my vote is a moot point. Although we ‘vote’ in the US for president, the president is NOT elected by popular vote. The electoral college is who selects the next president and this old institution is why we have George W Bush as our current president, as he lost the popular vote in his second term. I believe the electoral college needs to be eliminated if we are to have a true democracy.


  56. February 6, 2008 at 18:26

    It sounds strange to me not hearing about thugs disrupting the voting process or hear of massive rigging . it may be expensive but it is free and fair which is what we need here in nigeria.

    Dami from nigeria

  57. 57 Clara
    February 6, 2008 at 18:26

    Being an Oregonian, I believe that there has been an impending feeling of doom when it comes to the political processes because our primary isn’t until May, which is awfully late, giving us the feeling that our choice won’t matter. However due to Super Tuesday now, we may just be given a chance to voice ourselves, which is refreshing. I think that democracy is working here, but that we’ve been running into hick-ups that have snowballed into larger problems. I think its time to update the process of caucuses and primaries and the electoral collage even. I think that we’ve become a country, especially in the last 8 years, that is tired of the overbearing control of big money, bad media, and bad politics, and wants our government to work for us…finally. Its time.

  58. February 6, 2008 at 18:27

    NO. Democracy in america only works for america. The ethnic make up of a country should dictate the make up of the government it creates. This question is insensitive to the countries that are struggling to form there own form of government.

    KALW, San Francisco

  59. February 6, 2008 at 18:27

    Not so Super Tuesday I feel. I loved Voting for Obama. He didn’t win NY though, so did it matter? I don’t care. I voted for him, I hope he wins but I guess I have to go with who wins? I don’t like it. How about we elect dual presidents? Trap them in a room and not allow them to come out until they have good solid Ideas. This election process is tiring, and we’re spending way too much time discussing the problems, instead of solving them. We’re waisting time. People still dying here and Iraq, Our economy is still dropping, and the hole that the current administration is digging is just getting deeper and deeper. We need change now, not in 10 months.

    That’s how I feel.

    Eliel From Brooklyn

  60. February 6, 2008 at 18:28

    I live in Oregon and my vote NEVER counts. I’m tired of delegates, I’m tired of the electoral college. If we were a true democracy, the popular vote would count and the last 8 years wouldn’t have been such a nightmare!


  61. February 6, 2008 at 18:28

    The political system in the United States is disgusting, the amount of money spent and the time and effort expended by the candidates is ridiculous, to win what essentially amounts to a popularity contest. I voted for Obama, and it was nice to actually cast a vote that counts, when the General Election occurs, my vote, for which ever Democrat is the nominee, will be totally wasted as Utah is a solid Republican state, so the the electoral votes will go to them. It is encouraging that there seems to be more excitement for this race than in previous years, maybe we will have more than 50% of the eligible voters take part in our system to select the next President who will be at the will of the corporations and the Oil lobby.


  62. February 6, 2008 at 18:29

    Dear Ros and WHYS,

    My vote doesn’t seem to matter much in the primaries as I am registered independent. That being said, I am very excited to see that Oregon’s primaries may indeed play a role in deciding the democrat’s nominee. If Obama and Clinton continue to stay close in the poles, Oregon may have a chance to make a difference.

    Take Care,


  63. February 6, 2008 at 18:29

    I AM SO PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN TODAY!!. Democracy has been corrupt since Roman times – and while we could and should do better ( election reform) THIS IS A PROUD DAY. The last seven years have been a living nightmare for us politically but we didn’t assassinate anyone of have a coup de’etat- we just waited for our turn to vote. I hope this repairs some of out heavily damaged relationship with the rest of the world! To show them that we hate Bush as much as they do, we hate this war, but we respect our system even if it is somewhat corrupt!

  64. February 6, 2008 at 18:30

    Not to nay-say too much. However, as much as the democracy practiced in America is a better example than most of how democracy should work, I don’t think we should be all so applauded for this facet of our culture. And that is the key point: this is our culture. Many “democratic” countries you hear about in the news often mentions them in the light that their current leader has decreed they will “step down”. That is a foreign concept to the American culture because we were raised and have lived with the FACT that the president only serves two terms. There isn’t ever a question whether or not Bush will “step down”.

    That raises the nature of our ‘democracy’ is a back bone of our culture, where in Africa, and the Middle East, and many other formerly dictatorial cultures aren’t used to it, and they haven’t had the time and exposure to this life style, and case and point some don’t want it.

    That being said, America is not perfect. We are a republic, which means we elect our leaders, and as well our States governments have some say in how our federal government is run, so there is PLENTY of room for corruption as we have seen over the past 100 years of American governments. Corruption and stolen elections are not limited to Africa, they are limited to the Human Species.

  65. February 6, 2008 at 18:30

    Do you think that we still need a system of caucuses and delegates, in this age of such powerful technology? In your respective opinions, what is the benefit of this system as opposed to a straight 1 voter = 1 vote system?

    Jennifer in Los Angeles

  66. February 6, 2008 at 18:30

    One thing that not many people are talking about are the thousands and possibly millions of disenfranchised absentee voters. I’m a registered Virginia voter, whose primary election is not until February 12. I sent in my absentee ballot several weeks ago (where I had to pay for the postage), voting for John Edwards, before he pulled. Virginia, like most states, does not allow for a ranked voting ballot. Had John Edwards pulled out before I voted my vote would have gone to Sen. Obama. Is this a form of disenfranchisement?


  67. 67 Mark
    February 6, 2008 at 18:33

    I live in Oregon and I have remained only marginally interested in the primary races. First off, my feeling has been that our primary is going to be so late in the process that it will have been pretty much decided by the time we vote. It is starting to sound like we may matter after all, but I still won’t be involved because I am not registered with any party. That means I will not be allowed to vote in the primaries. There has been effort to change that in the past (most recently in Washington state), but the big parties usually squelch any such efforts. The big parties continue to rule in the US.

  68. 68 Gene/Chicago
    February 6, 2008 at 18:33

    Americans’ interest in this election is a result of our disgust with the current administration.

  69. February 6, 2008 at 18:34

    Dear Ros,

    Our parliamentary democracies in Canada and the UK are just as good as the US. We have never experienced the same issue they did in 2000 with the Bush vs. Gore chaos. So in this euphoria over Super-Tuesday – remember that the US is not the be all and end all of representative government.


    PS – we are celebrating 250 years of representative government in Canada this year – long before American Independence!

    Matt Halifax, NS

  70. February 6, 2008 at 18:35

    The superdelegate system exists as a safety value to prevent a demogogue who might be charismatic enough to convince the general public to elect them, from simply doing that.

    It allow for a balance between those who actually work in government and understand how it works, to balance the simply mob rule of those who do not.

    The founding fathers of the United States founded the nation as a Republic for the same reason.

    They felt that a direct democracy contained the dangers of allowing such a demogogue to come to power, and they have been proven correct many times. Men like Adolph Hitler were elected basically by a more “direct” democratic process that could have been circumvented by the less direct process that exists in the United States.

    The optomist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this may be true

    (James Branch Cabell 1879-1958)


  71. 71 Laura Hughes
    February 6, 2008 at 18:35

    I was on the show earlier this hour, just wanted to add to the show this: People my age are desperate to change how the world sees us. We don’t support torture, we don’t support the war, and we don’t support the bush administration. We want change just as badly as the world does. Don’t give up on us yet!

  72. 72 Casandra in the USA
    February 6, 2008 at 18:36

    I am NOT proud of our electoral process. The popular vote should count, otherwise the numbers are not true and accurate.

  73. February 6, 2008 at 18:36

    The US media is a disgrace – it is them who are electing the next president, not the people! It’s an insult to our constitution!


  74. February 6, 2008 at 18:37

    It is a shame that the US has had to sink to such lows to get such a large voter turnout. This election is not about democracy at all. It is largely a demonstration of public anger and shame at the direction their country has been led in. The US is an economic. social, and moral disaster. I hope I live to see the end of its iron grip on this planet.

    BC Canada

  75. 75 John in Salem
    February 6, 2008 at 18:38

    Some on the show are saying that the little guy doesn’t have a chance of making a difference in a national election. They have apparently forgotten that it was Ralph Nader who gave us the first four years of George Bush.

  76. 76 Charles in Portland
    February 6, 2008 at 18:39

    I’m leaning towards Obama and I’ve noticed something (new) about the mainstream media that’s really been bothering me. No one is saying what the delegate count from last night alone is. If Obama has as much momentum as seemed to have going into “Super Tuesday” this seems likely to undermine or at least dull that momentum. The extremes range from CNN where they seem to adding the super-delegates as well as Florida(!) and Michigan(!) into the count to the NYT website which isn’t listing any delegates that aren’t definitive. Did Obama or Hilary get the majority of delegates from last night? Does anyone know? I think the media in general does too much to sway elections in a way which they seem to think will somehow improve ratings.

  77. 77 melinda
    February 6, 2008 at 18:42

    If the America Electoral System is truly democratic, what then is the answer to the brazen manipulation of the 2000 results by the Supreme Court? There was such a hullabaloo at the time that the process (Electoral College) would definitely be changed. Now that i have just learned that there is President Bush has appointed no individual to head the Election Commission, isn’t that just a way to assure a contested result? If the Republicans do not prevail, then they can claim that the Democrats raised money in inappropriate ways and the results of the election should be reversed. There are perfect ways (in theory) to practice democracy but it seldom is perfectly practiced. Mason and the other individual are correct. We are controlled by corporate interests and that’s how America practices democracy. Thank you.

  78. 78 K MJUMBE
    February 6, 2008 at 18:42

    06 Feb 2008

    The US political process is mortally bankrupt. As long as there are only two parties allowed to compete or contend and these are stalked with laywers or lobbyist-backed “talking media figureheads” the populace is doomed from serious political process.

    If France can have five republics, why cannot the US scrap the constitution and re-write it less amendments and do away with the electoral colleges and these silly delegates. A system of popular vote should suffice.

    Also, given the marred electronic processing of votes and the denial of voters to excerise their voter rights due to the migration from paper to electronic casting, it is obvious that the system[s] are corrupt and flawed.

    The same problems that occurred with the second Bush-Gore election were evident yesterday. How come? The US is not a popular democracy as much as a budding fascist dollar dictatorship that is losing its economic global position with declining dollar value.

    Any populace that would elect a former WalMat director who nicely sheparded through their jobs losses for profit; a former PTSD VietNam veteran who intones his desire to bomb an islamic republic under breathe in a Beach Boys song; or anybody that does not present a viable economic betterment platform is doomed.

    But of course this is young nation-state that has in the past elected former B-movie actors, former cocaine addicts, and a whole panoply of white male goofballs as representatives of their “democratic” political process.

  79. 79 Jonny
    February 6, 2008 at 18:46

    While I agree that the primary/caucus nomination process is not perfect, to have a “national primary” would require more money, and less personal one on one interaction. You would find candidates staking claims in states with big populations.

    To bemoan our two party system is to fail to recognize that even in Parliamentary systems, there are coalitions that have to be built to create governments. Because of the size of the United States, there are regional factions within the two parties. There are also much talked about “wings” of each party.

  80. 80 Michelle
    February 6, 2008 at 18:46

    What about voter fraud? I myself am cynical and believe that the “man behind the curtain” will determine the outcome, not the people.

  81. 81 melinda
    February 6, 2008 at 18:46

    Third parties do indeed have a huge impact on the election of President; witness the Green Candidate Ralph Nader and how he absolutely swung the election to the Republicans because he split the Democratic vote.

  82. 82 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:46

    I just heard that you want to hear from people in Oregon. I live in London but vote by absentee ballot as a Democrat in Oregon, and our primary isn’t until May. I heard on the news broadcasts today that the decision for the Democratic nominee may be decided “in a few weeks”. If true, that means that Oregon votes don’t have any influence on who the nominee will be, but it does mean that we can still influence the distribution of delegates to the Democratic convention. I haven’t yet made up my mind but am leaning towards Obama.

    Judith in London, UK

  83. 83 Moha
    February 6, 2008 at 18:47

    Moha in Nairobi by text:

    Bravo, bravo US citizens! Whatever is said about you, you have proved that you can accept diversity, and that a black and a woman can slug it out in the Superpower. Tuesday has shown the world Democracy is still evolving.

  84. 84 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:47

    Hillary is a lot more than just a “Former President’s Wife”. Check into her background mister!


  85. 85 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:48

    I should have applied for citizenship rather than renewing my green card.
    Wish I could vote right now!
    If I could I’d perhaps lean towards Obama.
    That being said could ALL candidates have a REAL debate!

    Shirley, Portland, Oregon

  86. 86 melinda
    February 6, 2008 at 18:48

    Control of the electoral process is truly directed by the media who are in fact controlled by corporate interests. Money has become the coin of all realms. Why don’t Obama and Clinton raise the $4million and $3million dollars after they are elected to be contributed to food programs across the world?

  87. 87 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:48

    The mass media in America seems to only provide coverage on supposed “Front Runners”. Even so called “debates” are not fair and equal. Take for instance the last republican debate on CNN. Huckabee and Ron Paul were ignored while the two front runners were given more time. Even the moderator had more time speaking than Ron Paul. Until the media is forced to provide equal and fair coverage of all the candidates, I cannot see a true representative of freedom and democracy being elected.


  88. 88 Brian
    February 6, 2008 at 18:49

    I think third parties do a great job introducing new issues into the national discussion, but multi-party systems dilute the vote. When Bill Clinton won the election in 1992, he won with less than 50%… which means that the majority of voters wanted someone other than Bill Clinton.

  89. 89 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:49

    This is the most exciting election since John Kennedy.

    I’m looking forward to voting in May.

    Many of your listeners feel that money from special interests is overpowering the vote.

    Not so. Politicians get money from thousands of sources; they don’t have to be beholden

    to any one group.

    Jerry from Salem, Oregon

  90. 90 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:50

    I find the election process in the US confusing. While most democrats might vote for one candidate, say Clinton, Obama might be the most popular among all parties. This would mean that the winner of the presidential race is not really the choice of the majority of Americans.

    Danna, San Francisco.

  91. 91 Vivienne
    February 6, 2008 at 18:50

    Apart from financial issues, look at the gender/ethnic/age breakdown: Democrats have a white older woman vs black younger male; Republicans have white older male(s). Women, to quote Martin Amis(!), are not a minority, but you would be forgiven for thinking so the way this and other so-called democracies operate.

  92. 92 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:50

    When I heard your caller comment about Hillary and her lack of qualifications as presidential material, I only suggest that this caller listen to our current president and judge his educational and political background and then take another look at Hillary !….. or any of the other candidates…… James

  93. 93 Lwanga Lwole
    February 6, 2008 at 18:50

    Lwanga Lwole of Kakamega, Kenya.

    It is not a perfect democracy: otherwise Obama would not be the only African American in the Senate!

  94. 94 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:51

    Some call primary processes unfair, but a party has a right to decide its rules. This is freedom of association. -John, Santa Cruz CA

  95. 95 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:51

    Those people congratulating the US on their democracy in comparison to their own would do well to remember that the failure of so many democracies around the world is in large part due to the bribery and corruption – much of which originates from US political power.
    Jack Frost, Canada

  96. 96 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:52

    In theory anybody could run for president in the United States, but realistically the vast majority don’t have access to the funds necessary to mount an effective campaign. Many candidates simply are never able to deliver their message to the American public because they don’t have the money to get attention from the media. I don’t like the way media plays such a decisive role in who is and isn’t heard. The powerful carefully control the information that gets out to the public.

    The American democratic model has many wonderful points, but the election system is flawed. In this age of modern technology there is no reason why government can’t be elected by popular vote. Instead people are marginalized by a system of electoral colleges, etc. Personally I grew up in a very conservative state, and my vote for the Democratic party candidates that I’ve supported haven’t really counted for anything. The candidates I’ve supported weren’t helped in any way by my vote simply because of where I lived. I can accept a candidate losing because they aren’t the popular candidate, but that’s not always the case.


  97. 97 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:53

    I will say that the level of democracy demonstrated in the U.S elections is quite high compared to many third world countries. However, why is it that the candidates who win must come from Yale, Harvard, Princeton and the likes? What are the chances for those who graduate from smaller, public schools?

    Patricia, Philadelphia.

  98. 98 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:53

    The debate and election process in america is not public anymore.
    Corperations and mass media is funding, running, and deciding who can participate in the political process. This combined with paid punditry only narrows the scope of issues raised and subsequently frames an election to what will best suit the funder, not the american.
    Portland OR

  99. 99 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:54

    I believe we have in place one of the most corrupt administrations since Grant elected with less than a majority of the populous. Third party politics is denounced as taking votes from one party or the other. However, a long as corporate interest maintain predominance in our government, Government of the people, by the people, and for the people will remain an illusion. You want real change? Cast the money changers out of the temple of democracy.
    Bill in Bend Oregon

  100. 100 Carolyn
    February 6, 2008 at 18:54

    I am disappointed that in New York state, among many others, one has to be registered with a party to vote in the primary. I am invested in the quality of this country’s government, and it is insulting that we are confined by party registration! Even if I were registered, I would have to vote from the ballot of my party of registration.

    New York

  101. 101 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:55

    I am disappointed by how much the American election resembles a junior high student election at this point. With Obama’s Oprah Book Club like popularity no one bothers to look at his 3 year resume, or the fact that he doesn’t vote on abortion,welfare and poverty or women’s issues. We need to elect people the way we hire someone for a job, not just because they are likeable!

    Do you want someone who says he is going to get children health care?
    -Or someone like HRC who already got life saving health care for 6 million children? Those 6 million children matter much more than Obama’s popularity!

    Please look at resumes before you hire our next president, see votesmart.org. Let’s not vote on sheer emotion the way we did last time with George Bush!


  102. 102 June in Gresham
    February 6, 2008 at 18:55


    One of the more astute pundits, reflecting upon the state of American politics over the last several years, recently remarked in a throw-away line that the poetry had all gone out of it. That may appear to be a strange metaphor, but it is, in fact, very apt. To understand why, it is necessary to understand the nature of poetry and the effect it has on the human spirit.
    Unlike prose, which more often than not merely describes and relates, a poem – a real poem – means. It cuts through the mundane to the essence of things. It reaches into where we live, jolting into acute awareness a sudden recognition of our own inner being. “Yes!” we say to the poet. “Yes, that is how exactly how I feel too! You have found me out and opened this bond between us that validates who I am, and who I am is no longer alone in the universe!” Put another way, poetry is a spark that lights a candle within us, illuminating the darkness that was isolation, revealing assets and potentials of which we had previously been ignorant and connecting us to kindred souls.
    Following the deaths of Martin Luther King, of John and Bobby Kennedy and the defeat of Eugene McCarthy, those of us who had been summoned by them to greater heights of personal endeavor by the vision of loftier goals than had previously been set for our generation were thrust back by the forces of prosaic business as usual. That is not to say progress wasn’t subsequently made in some areas, but it came without a sense of triumph and pride, for it rode in on the coattails of sheer expediency and pragmatism, achieved not as an expression of right prevailing over wrong, but as a means to what often became selfish and even nefarious ends.
    Jesus is alleged to have said that perfect love casts out all fear. Who has not witnessed the truth of this? Men have faced the most daunting obstacles and dangers for the women they love, mothers for their children. Such displays of courage are by no means limited to these commonplace examples. When people speak of being inspired, as many among the young are now inspired by Barack Obama, what they’re expressing is his capacity for casting out of them their fear to act, their fear of failing, their fear of censure, their fear of revealing who they are. This is the “romance” of politics that has been missing for so long: that unspoken but powerful attraction between a leader who is loved and those eager to prove themselves worthy of implementing the cause he promotes.
    In the cause lies the nitty-gritty, and it is, of course, essential. But there is nothing to suggest that Obama does not have a firm grasp of all that involves. What he lends to the mundane details of forging policies and putting them into action with what may well be painful effort is the difference between doing a job grudgingly merely to earn a living and doing it joyfully with a sense of fulfillment and pride.
    I am happy for our nation’s youth, happy that they have been given this opportunity to identify themselves with something nobler than partisanship and narrow self-interest. The truly great leader is the one who leaves us with smiles on our faces, not with our fists in the air; who stirs us to jubilation, not anger; and who defeats his enemies by treating them like friends.

  103. 103 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:56

    Response to Des in South Africa: Sir, with respect, Hillary Clinton has been an elected Senator from the state of New York since 2000. You seemed to have overlooked this fact when assessing her candidacy.

    I dislike being cynical about our electoral process but where we don’t have thugs at the polling places, the manipulation of the process is more subtle. “Free and fair” sometimes make me wince, especially in view of Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 where the vote counting was questionable. There is other anecdotal evidence of discouraging voters or discounting votes from these elections as well.

    As both of President Bush’s Presidential elections were clouded with allegations of cheating, it makes me uneasy to hear him talk about the necessity for free and fair elections overseas, even more so when the Bush administration refuses to work with a politician who has been elected cleanly.

    Susan Oregon

  104. 104 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:56

    To the gentleman from South Africa who said he does not want a democracy like U.S. for Africa, may I ask? Then what kind of presidential election do you expect? The one like in Kenya where the power-hungry leech-like politicians in broad daylight stole an election which was won fairly by the oppositon? Or do you want one like in Uganda, where the Museveni changed the constitution so that he could run for ever? Or the one like in Chad where that coup leader changed the constitution three times to continue in power?

    Mathew in Nairobi.

  105. 105 Nick in Kensington, California
    February 6, 2008 at 18:57

    Great to see such a good turnout yesterday, even if short of many other countries. I voted for Obama. I’m originally a Brit, and now a naturalized American. How come we only seem to be comparing our democracy with third world nations like Chad and Columbia, or Kenya (at present). We always do that. There are plenty of other democracies in the World–Australia, New Zealand, France, UK, Scandanavia, Switzerland and others in Europe. All more democratic than here. We’re well below them in health care, life expectancy, education. Yes, we are better than Chad and Afghanistan, but what a ridiculous comparison.

  106. 106 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:57

    World Have Your Say

    Not to nay-say too much. However, as much as the democracy practiced in America is a better example than most of how democracy should work, I don’t think we should be all so applauded for this facet of our culture. And that is the key point: this is our culture. Many “democratic” countries you hear about in the news often mentions them in the light that their current leader has decreed they will “step down”. That is a foreign concept to the American culture because we were raised and have lived with the FACT that the president only serves two terms. There isn’t ever a question whether or not Bush will “step down”.

    That raises the nature of our ‘democracy’ is a back bone of our culture, where in Africa, and the Middle East, and many other formerly dictatorial cultures aren’t used to it, and they haven’t had the time and exposure to this life style, and case and point some don’t want it.

    That being said, America is not perfect. We are a republic, which means we elect our leaders, and as well our States governments have some say in how our federal government is run, so there is PLENTY of room for corruption as we have seen over the past 100 years of American governments. Corruption and stolen elections are not limited to Africa, they are limited to the Human Species.


  107. 107 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:58

    I think that sometimes we Americans misunderstand our own democracy. We are a democratically elected representative federation. In other words, we sometimes think that we should have a say/vote in every decision government makes.

    We vote for a representative, and those who elect the representative have a say. Therefore, those who run the government and who make the decisions are swayed by there constituents. The problem is, that with more and more money needed to become elected, the richer and richer the supporters need to be, and so the supporters become constituents, etc.

    If the US Government would institute publicly funded elections, only allowing a fixed amount to be spent, we would take the big money constituent out of the picture.

    Blake in Portland

  108. 108 Eric
    February 6, 2008 at 18:58

    There is no third party in the U.S. Ron Paul gets no media coverage. The top candidates raise millions and spend it on on media coverage.
    That is the way candidates get votes. Ron Paul gets no media coverage meaning his chance to win is non existent.
    He raised so much money from personal and military contributions because the people that hear his message love what he stands for.
    If he was supporting the immoral stance of corporate dominance he would have a better chance of getting media coverage. Big business sponsors democracy.

  109. 109 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 18:58

    the money spent on the media in the American primaries highlights a serious issue in American politics: the soundbite, the videoclip are simply forms of advertising. Voters are not invited to engage in and debate the issues, they know for example that one candidate stands for ‘change’, another for ‘experience.’
    This is not a democratic process.

    Barbara, Saskatchewan, Canada

  110. 110 Chernor Jalloh
    February 6, 2008 at 18:59

    America should not teach the world the type of

    democrcy it has.The American democracy in Iraq is

    absolutely not working and neither of that in Afghanistan nor Somalia to say the least.

    The Americans say do as I say,but donot do as I do.

  111. 111 Sarah
    February 6, 2008 at 19:02

    There is a problem with the way the system is set up, or rather how it evolved into being, since Washington strongly objected to having parties stating that it would divide the nation. Well, he was right, but taking the reality of the situation, there’s no changing that. The candidates should have sanctioned time on the public airwaves, they shouldn’t be allowed to start as early as two years before the national election, and money shouldn’t play such a significant role. There are many scholars in the US who are trying to fix that, and there is a debate that is starting, and if the situation continues as is, will probably catch national attention. But how does this reflect upon democracy in the rest of the world -well, as an American, I know it is not the best system, but it works, and can be fixed, and people are not killing each other over politics. You lose, you get up set, you go home, sulk for a couple of days, and work to change it through your work and everyday actions, not violence. The other thing is, there will never be a perfect democracy, unless it was in a small village. Do I love the system, no, but it can be fixed, and I believe it will. I also don’t think that voting should be made mandatory -you can’t force someone to be free (that would be oxymoronic), people are signing up in larger numbers now because they feel that there is something at stake. I know Obama has influenced me to get signed up and vote in the primaries, something I’d never thought I’d do.

  112. 112 Anthony
    February 6, 2008 at 19:04

    Free Air For Candidates?

    Are you kidding me? Can you imagine what kind of wackos would be running for President and they things they’d say.

    Elections aren’t just about showing up and casting a vote. Fundraising is a huge part of it.

    Obama is running an amazing campaign by raising money at the grassroot level. I’m a proud contributor of $50 but that combined with 3 million other people makes a diffence.

  113. 113 Brian
    February 6, 2008 at 19:13

    I was the last caller on todays program and didnt bring up the bigger issue for me of being a registered independent and not being able to vote in the Oregon primary because i dont make an affiliation with the two major parties.
    What i did make a comment on was that a true popular vote in my oppinion would be the real democratic process and to do away with the electoral college all together, which by the way is elected by local/ state officicals so the local elections are where we actually vote in our president!!
    I think the topic of the money being raised and spent as well as the total length of the campaign are worthy of a program in of itself!

  114. 114 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 19:20

    I am a Barack Obama supporter. The exciting thing about the Obama campaign is that the large amount of money he has received has been from millions of very small doners in amounts of a few dollars to tens of dollars. His huge January donation outpouring came from small doners. This shows the extent of support that he has from millions of regular people, not corporations. He is the only candidate who has that kind of support.

  115. 115 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 19:21

    Regarding the comment about states rights and how it relates to the election process:

    States rights have been basically ignored by the federal government since the civil war. The feds have effectively wiped their arses with those clauses in the constitution. Recent instances of the central government trumping state’s rights include the emissions bills passed in California being rejected and the federal drug enforcement agency versus legal state medical marijuana usage.


    Portland, OR

  116. 116 martinvennard
    February 6, 2008 at 19:22

    The political system is only a Democracy in name, the fact that you have to be a member of one of two parties in order to stand a chance to win eliminates real choice, and the enormous amount of money required is not only gross, but it also means that the rich, subject to extreme cooperate influence, hold all of the power in our country.

    Mason, Park City Utah

  117. 117 lorraine
    February 6, 2008 at 20:12

    commenting from california.

    At the age of 59 I KNOW that the possibility of back room politics, including everything from threatening candidate’s existing elected seats to murder, are very real. The term “conspiracy theory” was coined to turn these realities into weirdo, fringe ideas. Look deeper into the recent events for candidates who are not now running.

    There is only ONE party at this point. There are no truly Democratic candidates left. ALL candidates are not THAT different in their voting records. Look at [websites for] Dennis Kucinich’s platform & record for a politician who defends our Constitution and Bill of Rights, BUT who will not accept corporate $. Ron Paul, made out to be a clown in debates, also speaks a different and truer story of our countries affairs. Other parties are cut out of debates. Bush was NOT elected. There are so many problems with this system that this is too short a time to enumerate. Read Noam Chomsky’s books. Listen to “Your Call” and KPFA’s Public Affairs & News shows, http://kpfa.org/archives/index.php?type=news.

    Of course “largER” numbers of voters turned out. We may have finally woken up to what we’ve done to ourselves and other nations. But what percent of the population has voted? Many of us are disillusioned … and others are brainwashed, not in a small way by popular media that is owned by a few corporations.

    Our “elections” are a sham. But those in power allow us to have a sense of empowerment once in a while, give us the illusion that we have real freedom & choices. For instance, we have buying choices, but we don’t have choices as to WHAT we choose from. The population is overwhelmingly in favor of creating a small carbon footprint, but instead, we wait for the industrial complex to decide what they will offer us to choose from [not in any way what is needed to stop the destruction of our planet and it’s inhabitants]. When it comes to choices of real power, we the people have none. The neo-conservative industrial complex constructed the illusion of choice, keeps us fighting amongst ourselves for crumbs and so much more so that we don’t have a real revolution here.

    Why do you think we haven’t impeached bush?! Americans are ready, but the “Democrats” let us down, saying “impeachment is off the table”. The people have no real voice anymore. People’s protests are not put on the media, nor are they allowed near important debates & other important media-covered events.

    Pardon me for saying this, but Ros, you obviously have your head up the … of American corporate media. How dare you talk down Rose Aguilar, a respected reporter and host of, “Your Call”, http://www.kalw.org/. You’re showing your ignorance, maybe in the spirit of debate, but please, these times require more intelligent, responsible & sincere debate on real issues affecting all beings on this planet.

    And, yes, I vote, as my duty.

  118. 118 Thomas Murray
    February 6, 2008 at 22:35

    Is America showing the world how democracy should work?


    Every country gets the government they deserve.

    In our case, we tend to elect generalists as president.

    Simple, uncomplicated souls who know a little about everything who don’t have anything particularly controversial in their past when magnified by the blast furnace intensity of the public spotlight during a presidential race.

    That’s why the winning candidate is often an idealogical gravitational field who sucks in so many like-minded advisors that he becomes protected from any other point of view, as well as insulated from any disaster he might cause to the rest of the world.

    And our Electoral College — a holdover from the horse and buggy days — is also cumbersome. And, in its own way, it technically makes us more of a republic than a democracy. (Call up the U.S. Census Bureau website to see how it’s calculated.) I think we keep it around to keep us from electing a Hitler.

    But the very best thing about our democracy is UNSEEN. One can write one’s congressperson, even the president, about controversial issues even to the point of vociferous disagreement. And instead of getting arrested, they’ll occasionally accept your advice.

    The only caveat is that you have to be very very careful what you write to them. Because, if you really make your argument stick, they might do EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAY.

    So the U.S. has flaws, but at least we can complain about them.

  119. 119 Andre Carrington
    February 6, 2008 at 22:54

    As an American, I think that the election system needs a fair amount of work over here. How can a person who really stands for the poor run? John Edwards tried represent the interests of the poor but since he isn’t poor it was difficult for many poor people to identify with him.

    The big problem is that the money required means that only a few people can make a serious run for the presidency. I believe that America should examine the concept of a public fund for presidential campaigns. All that would be needed to qualify for these funds is a certain percentage of voter signatures in, say, 35 or 40 states. That way, people could run “insurgent” campaigns via the internet or through places of worship etcetera.

    Yes, it is true that Americans are no longer so prejudiced that only white males can make a serious run at the presidency but we need much more than that. Fast forward two or three years – if Hillary or Obama is in the White House do you still think we will be excited about the woman/African-American concept? We’ll be far more interested in the state of the economy, foreign relations and security – we are simply acknowledging that effective leaders can come from any of America’s diverse nationalities.

  120. 120 Jon
    February 6, 2008 at 22:57

    The American electoral process works and its worth should be judged on the basis of pragmatism. If the same issues that divide Americans politically were argued in many other countries, their “democratic process” would be nothing more than a recipe for civil war.

    To play devils advocate here against the strongly represented Hillary ’08 contigent, can you at least see why electing someone who was a member of/worked for the Black Panthers makes some individuals queezy? That being said, anyone who deny’s her political ability or credentials needs only to look at her senate election to realize their error. She took a senate seat in a state that she had only established legal residence in for 6 weeks. This fact should not be used by her opponents to impune her political savy but should serve as a demonstration of her broad political understanding and popular appeal.

  121. February 7, 2008 at 00:00

    It is not enough to sit around saying how bad the system is, the question is what should be done to fix it/ improve it. Personally I recommend 3 major changes.

    1)Debate formats conducted acrossed the blogisphere. Candidates would have all the time they need to answer. They can post links and state checkable facts. They would be held accountable for what they wrote. A better description can be found herehttp://logicandpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-about-this-as-debate-format.html

    2)Hold elections not by picking a name, but by answering questions about how you feel about issues. For continuing in Iraq, or against it. If for, how do you plan on getting out. For stronger Illegal immigration policies, How much stronger? The Ballot would have say ten major issues with ten to twenty sub-questions. In the end it would spit out a recommendation that you could or could not caste your vote for. Your responses would line up with the candidates responses and record. A better description can be found here.

    3)Jell-O wrestling, Jell-O wrestling, Jell-O wrestling. Candidates should have to prove their self worth and vigor by participating in a contest of many different college frat type games. Including Jell-O wrestling, which they may recommend a talented younger more female representative of their organization to represent their platform. Prez and vice prez candidates should have to participate in the team sport of beer pong. Finish the whole thing off with a version of “are you smarter than….” I think this will be way more effective way for us to get to know the candidates then the current debate system.

    A last note on the electoral college. The point was to not give highly concentrates areas of the country more power then less dense areas. Lets say there was a billion dollars in aid up for grabs. It was going to be awarded to one of two states by whoever had the most votes. Only the two states could vote for the money. Now let us say that the states were New York and Connecticut. Which state is going to have the most votes every time? I don’t know if it works quite like they meant it to. But the idea was to give strength to the minority groups by not glopping them in with a majority.

  122. February 7, 2008 at 03:46

    I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be in Britain was run by just a few elite families. Yuk.

  123. 123 pendkar
    February 7, 2008 at 06:26

    American elections are wonderful because they are able to generate a new set of political leaders every four years. The ability to replace leaders regularly is most important for any democracy. No matter how great one individual leader or the party is, the country is doomed if it has no way of replacing these individuals. It is great to see the process where candidates from the same party can openly contest against each other for nomination. I yearn for the day when this kind of thing can happen in India(and the other south asian countries).

  124. 124 Des Currie
    February 7, 2008 at 10:46

    If the circus road show of American politics was practised around the globe, clowns would rule the entire world. And maybe they should. It would give us all a bit of comic relief.
    Des Currie.

  125. 125 Ros Atkins
    February 7, 2008 at 11:03

    The arguement that you have to have money in order to enter politics is not that valid. The two Republicans, John McCain, and Gov. Huckabee both have very little money and they have managed to run more on their personalities and style. It is rather sad in that we do not get the best and brightest, for the most part, to run and attempt to participate in the quest to help solve a lot of our problems and directions. Obama does seem to be a fellow who is smart and has managed to emerge as a worthy contender. Ms. Clinton never seems to say much except for generalities. Romney has a lot of money and is Presidential, but he does not seem to be doing as well as the ones who just use the internet to get people to send them money for their run. Ron Paul is a keen example of a common man who seems to be not smart nor attractive, but is sincere and calls it the way he sees it. He sure generates money on the net. A lot of Rich guys have run in the past and have not done well, because they have to pass the sale test of how they communicate and operate dealing with people and masses. It is a strange collection of events and conducts that seem to be at play in order to get people to give their very, very little one vote to anyone.

    troop, oregon

  126. 126 Xie_Ming
    February 7, 2008 at 13:05

    How a particular system does or does not work well, has little to say about “democracy”.

    Being able to “throw the rascals out” is a good criterion. The idea that rioting in the streets shows failed democracy seem to be to be rather superficial. Consider the public demonsrations/riots of 1968.

    California, I believe, has provisions for initiative, referendum, and recall. I would suggest these as criteria of a “democratic” system,.

    Others may argue that a dictator, acting on behalf of the people, is very “democratic”.

  127. 127 rudy_bourgeois
    February 7, 2008 at 14:03

    American democracy is completely sold out to corporate interests.
    The worst corruption is legitimised corruption.

  128. 128 Angeli, Chicago
    February 7, 2008 at 15:49

    I don’t think the US system is perfect … I particularly agree with Maria Alexander about superdelegates … but I have to say I really like voting. I like that even under the rule of unapologetic autocrats like the current Administration, every few years I get to say, “You are not the boss of me. I am the boss of you.”

    It isn’t as trivial a matter as people think. If it was, would candidates spend so much money trying to influence our votes? If it was only about who had the most money, Mike Huckabee would be out of the race. Huckabee is not my candidate of choice, but I admire the way he has kept his race alive with no money to speak of.

    For all its failures, on January 23, 2009, George W. Bush will leave office. He will do it peacefully. He will do it because the rule of law will demand it. If he could get around it you don’t think he’d hesitate. They’ve pulled every string they could to hold on to power. But there are no more strings to pull. Time’s up. You’re out, sucker. Have a nice day, and here’s a library just for you. I like that a lot.

  129. February 7, 2008 at 17:04


    He will leave peacefully only because there is still cable TV to watch, cars to buy, credit cards to redeem miles from, a constant stream of electricity, and an ATM machine that will spit your hard earned money out willfully at the Indian ran Casinos. Remove economic, infrastructural, or distractive power from the system and there will be riots.

    These system have been built so strong, what we don’t know is where is the breaking point?

  130. 130 Angeli, Chicago
    February 7, 2008 at 17:38

    Dwight, I disagree. I think that economic or infrastructural chaos would encourage US citizens to put aside the rule of law in favor of “not changing horses in mid-stream.”

    One takeaway lesson from 9/11 and its aftermath is what panic does to good old common sense in this country.

  131. 131 Jane
    February 7, 2008 at 18:47

    The Founding Fathers, revered by Americans, especially in political speeches, really got this wrong. One idea was that the powers that did not specificially belong to the federal government As a result, where powers that weren’t directly assigned to the Federal Government, they went to the States–and over the years, the cry of States’ rights has been used for everything from segregation to voting rights. Therefore, as the idea of primary elections came about, each state was allowed to design its own system, and, of course, there were a variety of patterns permitted. To the people mof Europe this crazy quilt of designs must seem awkward, and it is, but that’s how we do it, for better or worse. With such a large country and 50 political divisions, there must be a better way, but we haven’t looked, nor have we found it.

  132. February 7, 2008 at 19:12

    Well I guess you were not in LA during the riots, in Detroit after they won a sporting event, in New Orleans when the city lost all and people were seen breaking into stores to steal TV’s.

    In the grand scheme of things 9/11 was not that big of a deal. you could still watch it on TV. You could still get gas, cook a mean, buy groceries, and get money out of an ATM. Imagine a world where that isn’t the case, and American civilty wouldn’t be so tollerant.

    Economically we are on a path that resembles the end of and post cold war Russia. through some meericle the money has not run out.

  133. 133 Angeli, Chicago
    February 8, 2008 at 00:37

    Dwight, sounds like you are making my case for me … nothing like a taste of real chaos to give people tolerance for autocratic dictatorship!

  134. 134 Stephanie J
    February 8, 2008 at 07:01

    To Anthony who said “Free Air For Candidates? Are you kidding me? Can you imagine what kind of wackos would be running for President and they things they’d say. (sic)”

    You don’t think the recent presidents and candidates are crazy? I do. Human rights abuses, illegal wars, and an easy willingness to lie for power and money don’t constitute sanity.

  135. 135 Shirley
    February 8, 2008 at 19:13

    I do not think that America’s version of democracy is yet worth emulating. First we need to implement a “one man, one vote” method of vote-counting for the presidential race. The current system of proportional allotment of votes according to either delegates or the electoral college is a miscarriage of the basic idea of democracy: government by the people, for the people.

    Then we need to return to paper ballots and international monitoring. It is sad that some can say of us that we have a third-world elections system.

  136. 136 Howard via email
    February 11, 2008 at 18:13


    If I may, I would like to digress from current topics to comment on the U S elections topic from a week or so ago, then ask a question of other participants regarding the issue of health care. As I recall, the broadcast topic questions included, “Is the current U S presidential election a good example of the democratic process in action?”

    From the perspective of this retired transportation planner who had to deal regularly with elected officials, the current U S presidential election presents a very mixed image of democracy at work. On the plus side, retirement (via term limits, a potential negative) of the incumbent president (widely regarded as America’s worst ever) opened the election to a large number of contenders from various points on the political spectrum. The wide variety of ideas initially presented by these varied candidates — more extensively via the internet than via the popular media — stimulated extensive interest and participation in the election process.

    On the negative side, far too many of these candidates’ varied perspectives were given little or no exposure via the popular media. Several candidates were excluded from various broadcast debates, usually by the debate sponsors and/or broadcasters. The primary excuse for this exclusion was that such candidates had demonstrated little or no popular support — Catch 22 at its worst! Ignore minority ideas then exclude their spokespersons because they lack popularity. Just how can new ideas gain popularity if few people have an opportunity to hear and consider them?

    One of my country’s greatest needs is vastly improved health care coverage for all of us. Many presidential candidates purport to address this need with various schemes touted as improvements, but the discussion is clouded by lack of details and by naysayers who dismiss most proposed changes as “socialized medicine”, “government-controlled healthcare”, “a bureaucratic nightmare”, or worse. Neither the proponents nor the critics of healthcare changes demonstrate much if any understanding of how other nations organize and manage their national healthcare systems.Rare indeed is the candidate who suggests that we might learn much from analyzing the German, French, Swedish, British, Canadian, Japanese or Australian healthcare system.

    Perhaps most dismaying is that all of the proposed “fixes” for U S healthcare consist primarily of tinkering superficially at the margins of the existing bureaucratic nightmare with which we currently struggle. But it is this non-functional mess that is largely responsible for my country spending more per person than nearly all other nations to produce results that are, on average, inferior to results in most other industrialized nations.

    My questions, therefore, include:
    * How does the healthcare program of your country actually work?
    * How is it paid for?
    * Who decides who gets what services?
    * What, if any, out-of-pocket costs do you have to pay for routine healthcare (dentistry, vision care, routine checkups, etc)?
    * How long, typically does it take to get emergency care?
    * How is long-term care provided?
    * How well are you satisfied with the healthcare available to you and your family members?
    * Have you had experience with healthcares in the U.S.? If yes, how would you compare U.S. and your country’s healthcare program?

    Akron, OH USA

  137. 137 Frederic Jaques
    October 24, 2009 at 00:59

    The USA spent trillions of dollars fighting Communism but is now doing exactly the same thing trying to shove Democracy down the throats of every country of the world. What right have we to do this any more than than the Russians etc., tried to do the same thing with Communism?
    Democracy is fine for the USA and some other countries, though personally I feel that Democracy has become the excuse used by the “Powers that be” in Congress to accomplish their own selfish objectives and not the objectives of their constituents. These people should remember that in the UK during the war, we were considered, loud and overdressed, over paid, over fed and over here and that we are not God’s gift to the world.
    The conflict in Afghanistan will never be resolved and we will depart with our tail between our legs just as we did in Viet Nam. Those who don’t learn by the mistakes of history are bound to repeat them.

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