ARRIVED in the US this week and found familiar echoes of a coming election. Like us there at home, there is a presidential election in the offing here (November 2016 to our May) that is taking precedence in the public discourse.
Poll survey results are in focus as candidates present themselves to run for president. The survey results are topics of much observation and comment. Based on them a coming debate on television among the many (10) declared Republican candidates will determine position on stage. Those with better polls currently, in the center, those with less to the sides. But this is just the preliminary step. The US has a two-party system, unlike us, that notwithstanding poll results, will nominate party candidates via a political convention that will come up with the official and recognized party candidate. Self-nominations end at party conventions. So, there will only be two major candidates representing the two major parties. But an independent can make it a three-way race.
On paper the process seems simple and orderly but it is actually lengthy and fervid. There will be more poll results to track, primaries to navigate in several states, public positions on current issues to be stated and lots of opportunities to make consequential errors.
As of today the Republican Party has a total of 10 would-be candidates and counting while the Democratic Party has one overwhelming candidate (Hilary Rodham Clinton) with others not yet visible, comparatively speaking. But the current Vice President, a Democrat, is expected to throw his hat in the ring.
On the Republican side, it is curious that a certain Donald Trump, a developer and media figure noted for his flamboyance, rather than as a politician (never been elected to public office) is leading the polls by a huge percentage over his nearest rival. But his lead does not seem to worry his opponents who see it as an initial name recall phenomenon attached to his persona of politically incorrect statements that will soon have to address national issues as the campaign unfolds. In other words, poll surveys will eventually be based on how a candidate conducts his campaign.
Some of these issues are the continuing incidents of random mass killings of innocent persons in public places by disaffected and deranged individuals who have had easy access to high-powered weapons to carry out their dystopian designs. In most instances, despite ominous early signs of their ability to wreak violence, society safety nets have failed to stop them. Bureaucratic errors have caused them to fall through the cracks and allowed them to disrupt society in frightful and unexpected incidents of mayhem.
Violence also is an issue in connection with the police. Minor infractions of the law like traffic violations and other simple misdemeanors have been dealt with by police excessive violence and seeming racial profiling resulting in unconscionable deaths. In implementing the law, crimes have been committed by policemen. It has been occurring too often raising a backlash of suspicion and criticism demanding investigation and punishment of the culprits. Obviously, these violent incidents emanating from the police as they deal with the public is unacceptable in any society, particularly in a democratic dispensation. We too have this issue in our midst.
The US role in the upheavals of the Middle East from where the country cannot yet extricate itself will be in the forefront of campaign debate. The nuclear treaty with Iran will have to seek approval from Congress and a bitter debate seems to be shaping up with Israel, an influential US ally, bitterly against the deal.
Meanwhile, Africa claims US attention with the recent visit of President Obama there prodding the various countries to respect human rights and democratic practices. And a watchful eye to Chinese influence by way of their economic and political presence on the continent. The Chinese moves in our neighboring waters is under US government observation and countermoves but so far it is absent from public discourse in this initial phase of the electoral campaign.
The US economy is on the road to recovery but there remains public unease regarding the disparity of income between big business and it’s so called “too big to fail” enterprises like banks and insurance companies (where government bailouts of taxpayers’ money have been used), and their highly overcompensated executives to the exclusion of the majority. Indeed, the malaise in the economy is obvious causing criticism and discontent. This too is a local situation for us.
All presidential candidates are expected to address the above issues and present their solutions in the coming electoral campaign.
In the Philippines where our electoral campaigns differ from the US where issues are pre-eminent, we simplify and reduce everything to a matter of personalities, ours and that of the candidates. Thus physical attraction, popularity via the common touch, celebrity, ability to deliver handouts or be glib or charming as well as appeal to our tribal inclinations take precedence over experience, integrity, vision, hard work and other properties.
It is instructive to observe how two societies of different geographies and cultural backgrounds and claim the same democratic politics manage their presidential elections.