Monday, December 03, 2007


Amit has a post on the hypocrisy of Indian politics. For me, politics always comes with some dose of hypocrisy but I agree that Indian politics seems to be especially fond of it. Then he says that this seems to be less of a case with American politics, where candidates actually seem to care about voters' concerns.

So it was interesting that I was reading Noam Chomsky's Failed States" yesterday. In this book, Chomsky makes the accurate observation that in the past elections, true voter preferences have actually not entered the presidential campaigns and debates as major concerns. For example, surveys regularly showed and continue to show that the majority of the population is in support of signing the Kyoto treaty or a variant thereof. Yet this issue did not figure prominently in the 2000 and 2004 presidential debates.

More importantly, for all the hype about "socialized medicine" created by spin doctors, polls also regularly show that the majority of the population is actually in favour of large-scale government intervention in healthcare and in fact willing to pay higher taxes for universal and cheap or free healthcare. This issue clearly did not figure at the top in the 2000 and 2004 elections when public opinion was largely the same as it is now. Chomsky's point, increasingly true, is that just like in many other corrupt "democracies", the elite of the government in the US don't really care about public opinion but manage to make a good pretense that they do. Chomsky also emphasizes that in this context, it really does not matter who gets elected. Democrats might be a little better than Republicans but basically they also cater to elite opinion and lobbying than popular public opinion.

To me, this election campaign seems to be different. At least the Democratic candidates seem to talk about those issues that really matter to people; healthcare, the environment and of course the war in Iraq. Why has this change come about? Could we be so optimistic as to think that it is because the din made by the public finally has forced the candidates to put real public issues at the top of their concerns (irrespective of whether they will address these concerns when they come into office!)? Or could it just be because John Edwards, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama are fundamentally better and more concerned people than George Bush (duh) and John Kerry? I might be idealistic but I would like to think it's a little of both of these factors. There might be some hope for a proper democracy after all.



Blogger gawker said...

I think last election, the pace was set by George Bush who made defense the spotlight item and by accusing the democrats to be weak on defense, he forced Kerry to stress on defense as well. Plus, the entire country was still in a state of bedwetting over 911, plus the relatively newness of the Iraq war and the "support the troops" motif. Now that the Iraq eff up has kind of made people come back to their senses, politicians have the luxury of talking about other more important stuff without appearing to be "defeatists".

I don't think politics is corrupt. I think it's the people of this country, the majority of whom have their priorities skewed due to religion or patriotism or whatever. And, of course, the media which didn't do such a great job last time. Hopefully it should be better this time around.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

You are right, Bush did use a dastardly strategy. I can't wait for him to leave office. One thing I find encouraging is that I think almost all of the democratic candidates seem decent and knowledgable. After all, one of the reasons Bush managed to screw things up was because he was surrounded by a sordid cast of advisors, many even more insidious than him. Irrespective of whether Hilary or Obama gets elected, I think that if people like Richardson, Biden and even Kucinich get key cabinet positions, things would be in good shape. So I am optimistic.

10:15 AM  

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