I’ve written about my views of American democracy vs. parliamentary democracy before. Now the Republican primaries are going on.
For Dutch people who may not follow everything leading up to the actual presidential election: Obama, being democrat, is automatically the democratic candidate for president in the 2012 presidential elections.
The republicans, however, have to first decide who their candidate is going to be. The primaries are elections in which republicans and independents can vote who they want to go up against Obama in November. Except they can’t.
Obscene amounts of money are involved in all American elections. But the primaries make the fact that the guy (or gal) with the most money wins painfully obvious. Because the primary election doesn’t take place on the same day all over the country.
To begin with there is the Iowa caucus, which isn’t exactly the same as an election, but people do vote in the caucus and whoever wins is more likely to be able to continue the campaign because they have just proven that they are “electable” and more people will support them financially.
Then the primary elections take place on different days, spread out over six months, in different states. Determining the schedule is an event in itself. So the contenders throw ridiculous sums at the first states to hold primaries, in the form of commercials, ads, and town hall meetings.
The biggest losers in each of the first primaries will most likely drop out of the race. So the American people don’t get to choose between all the initial contenders. They get to choose between two or three people who were able to hang on financially until the end.
Sure, some will argue that the primary election process is a trial that proves if someone is presidential material. If he doesn’t have the managerial and decision-making skills to make it through the primary, how could he possible make an effective president?
But let’s face it. Most of the primary election process is about who can afford the most attack ads against the other runners and who can afford the biggest campaign circus productions. It’s not about who has the best ideas. Not in this campaign, anyway. Not since Cain left the race. His 9-9-9 idea (comparable to Thatcher’s flat tax) was inane, but at least it was an idea.
The primary elections are spread out over six months, starting in January and ending in June, with Utah. By about February 7, only some six of the fifty states will have had their elections, and the contenders will already be down from… how many began the race? Eleven? Twelve? See, it’s already ancient history. Right now it’s between Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. By February 7 it might be down to two.
And that’s how a country with a population of three hundred million ends up having a choice between two people. Not necessarily the two people with the best ideas (or even any ideas), but the two people with the most money. That’s democracy in America.