The editor of the Guardian Newspaper wrote an editorial published on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 about the present American presidential primaries. In his well serialized and consciously crafted words, he saw the primaries from the premise of voter victory and “beauty of democracy”. However, he failed to alert his readers and Nigerians in totality that other interest groups hijack the primaries and thereby guarding their own “particularistic and pecuniary interests” just like “tin gods” themselves.
Three key things make this American presidential primaries tick on the global clock: one is the crop of candidates both parties are parading, with particular emphasis on the Democratic Party side, and, secondly the need to change the Washingtonian way of life, in my opinion. Lastly is to recover the already dwindled image of America in the global caucus.
Talking about the candidates, the party with executive power in America, i.e. the Republican Party has fielded Mike Huckabee (a former governor of Arkansas and a preacher), Mitt Romney (a Mormon and former Massachusetts governor whose dad was a governor in Michigan), John McCain (a serving senator and veteran), Rudy Giuliani (ex-New York mayor) Fred Thompson (former senator and actor in the movie “Law and Order”) and Ron Paul (a Texas representative in the U.S.House).
On the Democratic side, they have Senators Barrack Obama, Hilary Clinton and John Edward, Governor Bill Richardson and others who have dropped out of the race like Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.
The juice in this American presidential primary is that it fielded candidates with the “firsts” viz: the first African-American presidential candidate (Barrack Obama), the first woman presidential candidate (Hilary Clinton) and the first Hispanic presidential candidate (Bill Richardson).
The other thing is this; almost 90% of the candidates in both sides of the isle are talking about change.
In American politics, corporate greed and control is seen as a sanctity that must be shielded. Lobbyists for insurance companies, oil companies, and pharmaceutical organizations are major deciders on who becomes the president of the United States of America. They inject tons of money into the campaign of various candidates. They run certain adverts that purport support of the mainstream presidential candidates who will protect their interest.
Disenfranchisement of voters constitutes another dilemma in American politics. Just like in developing countries where eligible voters are not allowed to vote for either not being registered to vote or duplication of names and, or falsification, American voters are equally suffering from electoral disenfranchisement. It will be recalled that during the 2001 American Election, many voters in some Southern states received letters in their mails saying that they cannot vote if they have ever served jail term. People who have never even committed crime were listed on the felons list and got letters on the mail that they are ineligible to vote. And again, many Black voters were not allowed to vote because their names did not appear on the voter rolls.
In the light of the above, let us quickly remind ourselves that ideological issues like the economy, war in Iraq, Iran, illegal immigration et al are all political abracadabra and mere expressions that do not really translate into real-life action. They are only employed by politicians to get what they want from the voters. Take for instance the issue of illegal immigration. This only rings bell during election period. It dies once politicians are elected into office. Another ideological issue that is dangled at the face of gullible American voters is the Iraq war. What has been done about it by politicians and even the present presidential candidates since the so called American voters have risen against it? NOTHING. It is still going on. It is going on because politicians in Washington do not have the moral and legal will to put a stop to the invasion of a country. It is still going on because politicians do not want to grant the wishes of the voters and American people. It is going on because corporations and individuals are making a kill out of the war. Take a look at the voting records of some of these presidential candidates and tell me where they stand on the Iraq war. Listen to their take on the war and tell me on whose side they are. Is it the voters? Of course no. Is it the will of the people? Whosai!
Ideological barrenness and political god-fatherism are core ingredients of American politics too. These are not Nigerian political languages only. That a political party has what it stands for does not in any way mean that the wishes of the people are met. Endorsement of presidential candidates in American politics is too much of a god-father-like sponsorship of same candidate in Nigeria for instance. Corporate support, sponsorship and donation are all god-father acts in a modernized fashion. By the time this candidate becomes the president he simply will carry out the wishes of his or her corporate sponsors or individual endorsers (Ngige vs. Uba).
Politics is the same everywhere. It is even dirtier in America than in Nigeria. In America, politicians are dug up from belly to grave. Chiefly among campaign tools used in American politics is character assassination. Two examples are John Kerry and Barrack Obama. Opponents of the above two individuals utilized and are using false information against these candidates. For John Kerry it was the Swift Boat and Barrack Obama it is either his middle name or that he attended madrassa (Islamic kindergarten) or that he swore to a Koran, amongst others. To my mind, better kill a person instantly than slowly.
Bottom-line, all politics is local. The content and context of it is not only determined by the people (after all, the people are not even catered for even after voting in their candidates, same “promises upon promises) but by other interest groups as we were thought in Government class and as I see it today being played out in American and global politics.
“Factionalism, violence, rigging and manipulation” are equally characteristics of politics in America and some other developed and developing countries. It not Nigeria-specific. “Marginalization” of voters, “chaos, instability and political disillusionment” are headaches and bottlenecks in contemporary American politics. There is so much division and tension in the air. Confusion and insufficient political knowledge worries the voters. There are so many political disconnections in American politics as we have even in today’s Nigeria.
All over the world, voters matter only during elections. After elections they grumble over their mistakes and crumble in their lack of political facts and knowledge. There is no beauty in politics. It is the same everywhere-Nigeria, Great Britain, Canada, Russia, China, America etc. I am yet to see the beauty of democracy as well. If only democracy means the expression and expansion of hegemony over lesser powers, and execution of corporate will, on the one hand and the realization of individualistic and personal interest, on the other hand, then I have seen the beauty of democracy.