The American campaign trail is a thing of beauty. An exhibition of pure democracy at work, it really encapsulated Churchill’s quotation: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”. Nowhere else would you find an Ivy League elitist engaging in high level debates with the farmers, steel workers and college drop-outs of the American heartland. The idealistic virtues of politics are exemplified and the devious natures of political manipulation are forgotten. “…5 minutes with the average voter”, rather than the “best argument against democracy” (again Churchill) I think it perfectly demonstrates the essence of it. With the addition of Hollywood glamour, the alluring factor of election season becomes irresistible. If anyone has seen/iPlayered the film about the election story of Barack Obama last week, they will have see the struggles, hopes and triumphs of a Presidential election. A story any Hollywood producer would have been proud of, the “American dream” has never been more enticing, much like the silicone infested body of Pamela Anderson.
However, like Pamela Anderson, American democracy is unfortunately all show and no substance. Take the case of Barack Obama, a person so full of hope and promise, destined to lead America out of the depths of despair and into a new age of glory. One year after “Obamaina”, it is difficult to see what he has actually done to change America let alone deserve a Nobel Prize (ironically “Change” essentially won him the election). Obama has just about tried everything to make an impact but even the air of promise has been suffocated by the poisons of Washington. The much hyped healthcare reform so central to his campaign finally passed the Senate on Christmas Eve and after going through the reshaping of the US Congress, it has been maimed beyond recognition, a far cry from Obama’s initial dream of government funded universal healthcare. Countless other Obama initiatives, foreign and domestic including key campaign issues such as Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, Climate and Economy are stuck in the monotonous grinding processes of the House and Senate and it is difficult to see how long it would be until any results are seen.
It is easy to criticise the US Congress on delaying issues for the sake of political shenanigans but I think the US Democratic system is to blame. Yes the very democracy that I championed at the start of the article is indeed the root of the problem. Herein lies the problem and it is a wonder that anything ever gets done in American politics: 4 years in a presidency, 2nd year midterms, 4th year re-election therefore need to campaign therefore nothing substantial gets done; 3rd year is after midterms which means Congress has changed therefore new people can appear on the scene to satisfy or you might have lost the majority and you need to think about re-election therefore minimal things get done. This only leaves the first year to get anything done and if it takes 11 months to pass a healthcare bill then how can a president deliver on his promises highlighted so poetically in the campaign?
I really do hope the idea of democracy in America in more than mere debate, great rhetoric in campaigns and political manipulation in government. Mario Cuomo said that “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose” and I wish more life-changing prose can be written from the Oval Office. In fact American democracy could not be simpler: either run for elections or delay actually governing until another one comes along! Like Pamela Anderson, American democracy entices you with its tantalizing appeal of elections, but Hollywood surgery only serves to look good and nothing more.