Political gambling in Americaby Mohammad Amjad Hossain
It appears to be amazing and ludicrous indeed, after a close look at the current debates being held all around the United States of America to select a presidential nominee of the Republican Party, known as GOP (Grand old party), to contest against the presumed nominee of the Democratic Party, the incumbent President Barack Obama, in November this year. Major themes of these debates relate to the safety of Israel from imaginary attacks by Iran (which is allegedly making an atomic bomb by enriching uranium in secret places), while America is now branded as economically powerless, coupled with a declining education system, an 8 point plus percent unemployment rate and over 40 million living under the poverty level. The latter fact has been reflected in the appeals made by non-government charitable organisations as well as religious institutions in the country, including churches and mosques. No one is talking about these hapless Americans.
China is another country which is under attack by the presidential candidates because of violation of human rights in China and China’s reckless manipulating of its currency which has caused a wide gap in business between the two countries. Scathing attacks have been launched against President Obama, who is not taking drastic action against Iran by bombing its nuclear facilities and also remained a silent spectator when dissident Iranians stormed the streets of Iran against the Iranian Mullah Regime. President Obama was also blamed for not imposing stringent sanctions against Iran to cripple the economy, and make it bow down to the pressure of the international community to abandon enrichment of uranium.
One of the candidates is so candid to appease Israel and Jewish voters in America that he described Palestinians as an ‘invented people’. He is former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. There is no doubt that Palestinians are ethnically Arab but they have been living in Palestinian territories before the occupation by the Ottoman empire, and since the defeat of the Ottoman in the first world war, the League of Nations handed over the area to the British to rule. Even Israelis were invented after the war of 1967; the idea of nationhood will only cross 45 years this year. This expression has evoked criticism worldwide.
Apart from criticising Iran and China, the handling of the economy and the foreign policy of the Obama administration, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich has spoken of establishing the first permanent base on the moon if he is elected President. This sort of expression reflects a funny idea and at the same time it indirectly goes against President Obama’s policy of cutting budget on manned space program. Spending hundreds of billions on manned space flight would be an absurd waste of money. A CNN report indicates that moon mission of 1960’s were the product of cold war between US and Soviet Union. But today NASA’s robotic missions are exploring Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter in exquisite detail at a fraction of the cost of manned missions to the moon.
Mitt Romney, after having won the primary elections on February 28 in Arizona and Michigan (his birth place), the former Governor of Massachusetts reclaimed his front runner status by defeating Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania, while a visibly angry Newt Gingrich, who vowed to fight until the summer after the defeat in Florida, lost four consecutive primary battles and placed in third position. Outspoken congressman Ron Paul could not do well in the primary elections of the Republican Party. He is against attacking Iran when the country is still heavily indebted to foreign countries. He is also against maintaining foreign bases for policing foreign countries instead of nation building in the United States of America. Congressman Ron Paul is of the opinion that diplomacy could avert any disaster, but diplomacy is not allowed to play its proper role. He gave an example of diplomacy by John Kennedy to avert nuclear disaster with the Soviet Union while pursuing the Cuban missile crisis with President Nikita. Both USA and Soviet Union withdrew missiles from Turkey and Cuba to ease rising tensions
Debates are a common feature in the presidential elections of the United States, to allow the candidates to expose more about their policy on the issues to be pursued by an elected President. This exercise is being done to allow voters to form an opinion of the candidates in the election. Significantly, the agenda of the debates has been decided by broadcast media people.
Like in past years money plays a dominant role in the campaign. In a landmark decision, in a Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission case two years back, the Supreme Court opened the door for wealthy citizens and corporations to spend unlimited amount of money on political advertisements on TV and Radio channels. Super PACS (Political Action Committee), shadowy organisation, have been slinging mud on the opposition candidates contesting to seek nomination of the Republican Party. In the Iowa caucus pro-Romney super PAC destroyed former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s poll lead in a matter of days with a barrage of advertisements attacking Newt Gingrich. Similarly, Newt Gingrich availed of the opportunity in South Carolina when pro- Newt Gingrich super PAC launched blistering attacks on Mitt Romney’s venture capital company which resulted defeating Mitt Romney. Here, Mitt Romney lost the game despite endorsement by Governor of South Carolina and Senator John McCain. Super PACs also raised their ugly heads when former Senator Rick Santorum was leading in the polls in Michigan after winning in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota. Super PAC began attacking on Rick Santorum because a loss in Michigan will bring disgrace to Mitt Romney since his birth place is Michigan and his father was Governor of the state. Apart from Super PAC’s contribution to adverse advertisements against Rick Santorum, billionaire Donald Trump and Senator John McCain campaigned for Mitt Romney in Michigan and Arizona. In spite of these campaigns Mitt Romney won Michigan by a relatively narrow margin in a state where he grew up, where his father was Governor and his mother contested for Senator. Mitt Romney secured a little over 3 percent of the votes compared to Santorum. However, Mitt Romney easily won Arizona State. More debates and more primary elections are in the offing.
Allowing Super PACs to spend unlimited money in the campaign has caused damage to ‘American democracy’ as 62 percent of the population is opposed to the decision of the Supreme Court. A reform in the Electoral College system and banning unlimited spending in election campaign has become imperative.
The writer is retired Bangladeshi diplomat and former President of Nova chapter of Toastmasters International Club, writes from Virginia
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