Our political institutions work remarkably well. They are designed to clang against each other. The noise is democracy at work.
There have already been a number of important elections this year: Vladimir Putin was elected president of Russia for an unprecedented third term and assumed office on May 7th; François Hollande was elected president of France and assumed office on May 15th. There are important upcoming elections in Greece on June 17th, Egypt on June 16th and 17th, Mexico on July 1st and Israel on September 4th.
Without a doubt, all of these elections are important on the national and regional levels and certainly to the citizens of these nations. Yet, the one that the whole world will be watching is the American presidential election. Despite misgivings by some, the most important election, however, still remains the presidential elections in the United States scheduled for November 6th. It will pit President Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate against presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
One can argue that this will be the most important U.S. presidential election since 1980, and for reasons similar to then. This election will be between two persons with very different ideas and visions of America. Such is always the message. Focus on the differences.
The election will also focus on two very different men who have had very different backgrounds and formative influences. Now, one can say this about all presidential elections in the U.S. (and elsewhere), but in the 2012 elections it's more true. At least that's the message. Mitt Romney grew up in a privileged way, and he makes no secret about it. For him that and his business experience, notably at Bain Capital, are benefits and show that he is a leader who understands business and what it will take to help create jobs and revive an American economy that is sluggish.
For Obama and his supporters, Bain Capital reflects the problem with Romney, suggesting a heartless wealthy man, and thus explains the attack ads. If Romney hopes to win, it would be important if he makes his views on the important issues more clear, notably if he wants the support of those who are not social conservatives. Romney's platform is actually quite centrist and moderate across the board.
As great as the differences between these two men and the parties they represent seem , they are not as major as the differences between parties in Russia, in France, in Greece and in Egypt. It's true that Democrats and Republicans disagree on many major economic and social issues and minor ones too, but their differences are not as great as the party faithful make it out to be. They are both capitalists and have successfully taken advantage of the American economic and political systems.
Although some Republicans might say President Obama is a socialist or even a communist, he's really not. And some Democrats might say Romney is a heartless capitalist, whose decisions closed companies and laid off thousands, well, that is the way capitalism and business works—it is independent of whether the decision-maker is a Republican or Democrat. Consider the alternative. In Greece, for example, there are real Marxists trying to form a government. In Russia, Communists still command some respect and garner a significant share of the votes. In the U.S., branding someone a socialist is hardball politics and part of the rhetoric of trying to win.
For those loyal to the Obama vision, he needs another four years to complete his task, including creating jobs. For his detractors, another four years will ruin America, and Mitt Romney is the only right and sane choice. This election will come down to the economy and voters will cast their ballot based on whom they believe" will make it better for themselves personally. Foreign policy issues rarely influence the decision-making process. No doubt, this will be a polarizing and nasty election, reflecting greatly the state of America itself. Again, depending on how you view politics, such polarization is either good or bad for democracy. I tend to view that it is generally a good thing to have candidates with distinct views. Such is the clanging sound of democracy. After all, do we really want two candidates who think alike?
Now, I am not an American citizen, so I won't be voting in the upcoming elections in the U.S. Yet as a Canadian I will be watching it intently. It would seem that the race will be close, with a certain percentage sticking to party allegiances. Whomever becomes the victor come November 6th, he will have the knowledge that at least 50 per cent of the population didn't vote for him. A good president will take that into consideration; it would be the smart thing to do.