Hard as mere students of politics and especially those chronic political junkies in the rest of the world might try, it is practically impossible to ignore American politics. As a means of detoxicating ourselves from the binge consumption we went through during their 2008 elections, many of us have resorted to stay away from American domestic news and to mind our business this time around. It is however now clear that such is not going to be the case, they have won again, we cannot resist the temptation and against our wishes and decision we are now being drawn back to peep into their business.
It must be said at this stage, the attraction for American politics is not just because the USA is still undoubtedly the world’s leading super power. If you meet someone tempted to forget, just remind him or her that the USA still has the gross economic size of China, it is as technologically advanced as Japan and it posses equal, some would argue more, strategic and military power than Russia. By the way, its population is still high up there too. There are other superpowers in the world but none of their domestic politics can boast of the attraction the USA gets.
The attraction for American politics has lot of things to do with the sheer drama of its clearly eclectic, sometimes eccentric candidates and the raw passion they bring and generate. It is in the speeches and the grand gestures the candidates provide thanks to the use of smart creative and intuitive strategists that guide and create narratives and choreographies for campaigns. It is naturally in the money too, in relative terms, American politicians spend almost as much as Nigerians politicians on elections.
We are drawn to their politics because of the transparency in the process and the scrutiny the participants undergo. In the US political arena nothing seems to be of limit. In the USA, they day you decide to run for office you are also saying “welcome to poke nose into my world”, you are saying “I am ready to talk about my past, my personal and professional life”. American candidates know that the press as well as their opponents will go through every single political and public action or utterance they have made and will throw it out there in the public domain to see if it matches what they are saying now.
The most original and perhaps the most intriguing trait of American domestic electioneering and politics in general is the role of its people and the status pundits and politicians ascribe to them in politics. Right from the beginning of any electoral process, contestants and observers agree and consequently treat voters as the lord and master of the whole process. Media investigations, interviews and analysis are done on their behalf, politicians go about all ways to reach voters, debates and speeches are made to convince and connect with them. In the US electoral process, the voters are so important that rulers strive to appear to be like just one of them. In such context and contest contenders like Mitt Romney that are clearly not a just one of the voters struggle to make headway.
It would be quite a trip to meander inside Mitt Romney’s head and get a feel of what he really thinks of the US politics now. The former Massachusetts governor and almost certainly republican presidential candidate for 2012 presidential elections has done practically everything a candidate should do: he has studied the role for years, travelled the country. He also bought practically everything money can buy a candidate. By the way Mitt Romney, is one also one of the few candidates in history that already looks like a president even before contesting. Yet and yet Mitt Romney is struggling, he is getting just about enough votes to get by and he is not blowing away voters in his own party. His major opponent, Rick Santorum with less money, less organization and less exposure is spoiling his party for him.
Brace yourself if you have not been following the republican primaries. Amongst his own party members, Mitt Romney’s problem is simply that he is too rich, too removed, too sophisticated to win people over.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine he was running in Nigeria. If Mitt Romney were Nigerian he would of course not be having any of these problems. In Nigeria, a Mitt Romney would be focusing on buying party delegates rather than convincing voters. If Mitt Romney were Nigerian, he would not be worried about connecting with his voters; it would not matter to most people in his party or in the press that he cannot feel the pains of the average Nigerian. They would be citing his ivy schools and qualification. Mitt Romney is a deeply religious man but he is careful not to make that an issue because he knows that the church he attends might divide voters. If Mitt Romney were Nigerian he would just align with the most popular or influential religious leaders and flash a divine calling.
If Mitt Romney were Nigerian how do you think the voters would react to him?