Democracy or self-feeding monster?


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Category: International Date: 12 Nov 00

‘That is the sort of thing you would expect from a banana republic and could leave America in chaos for weeks. If the extra ballots, mistaken votes and recount still leave the election hung, it will have to wait for postal votes to be counted. The simplest thing might be for President Clinton to be asked to stay on for another four years. But the way things are in the States at the moment, the letter asking him to do that would probably get lost in the post.’

Daily Mirror, London


After the sleepy hairdresser from Curepe singed my scalp for the second time I asked her irritably, why she HAD to stay up all night to watch the latest on the US election.

“But I must! Who they vote affect everything from the products I sell, to the video games my grandchildren play, to the sneakers them young boys kill for.” Smart woman.


I thought of reports out of Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Rwanda, where even the most left-wing journalists have admitted the American troops were keeping bloodshed at bay. I thought of people of splintered Russia, of Israel, of Cuba.


This has got to be among the closest watched elections in history. America has had a stake in the world for so long that no wonder, the world feels it’s got a stake in America.


From the deep recesses of Ramallah to Curepe, people have been glued to their TV and computer screens to watch the Americans make fools of themselves on their own networks. For the second time in as many years, the Americans have found their cultural and imperial infiltration worldwide through television and Internet is a double-edged sword.


The first time, the world watched their embarrassed president descend to the depths of making public announcements such as “I did not have sex with that woman - Miss Lewinsky,” only to be proved a liar.


This time we get to watch the soap opera of their jumbled election count, court action, confusing ballots, which shows an election machinery that is incompetent at best, corrupt at worst, despite the use of the most sophisticated computers in the world.


Already, as in the aftermath of Clinton’s sex fiasco, their election is being ridiculed around the world. Africa’s Independent quoted a German analyst calling the Electoral College “idiotic.” The Cuban newspaper Granma dripped with sarcasm saying, while nobody was sure who had won the presidency, it was clear a dead man had won a senate seat in Missouri. The Times of London wrote contemptuously: “What can be described only as an absolute charade of an election will have given hope to dictatorships everywhere.”


We won’t know the winner of the grand prize of the Western world till late this week, after the electoral recount is done. Even so, in the bizarre display of how democracy can turn into a monster that feeds upon itself, the new president will have won with the tiniest sliver of votes, and without the authority, moral or otherwise, to be able to speak for his entire country, since he is representative of only half.


God must be a Trinidadian since there are lessons in here somewhere for us as we prepare to go to the polls on December 11. History always tells us events themselves are unimportant, it’s our reaction to them that is.


My initial reaction to the two presidential candidates was they were both terrible. I disliked Gore because he is smug, flash and ruthlessly self-serving, disloyal, riding on Clinton’s policies without wanting his to be tarnished by his presence. Bush was less terrible because he was less false. A right-wing father figure, but his appeal over Gore was still his relative humility, so I (now) am ashamed to admit I chose him. As the election fiasco unfolded, two things dawned upon me.


I chose Bush like a Trinidadian - based on personality. I liked him better and didn’t question his politics. This approach can prove to be fatal. I came to this conclusion because some research yielded the following information on Bush.

George Bush the president will:

Withdraw peacekeeping forces from everywhere. He will refuse to send US troops to stop Rwanda-type genocide or “ethnic cleansing” unless vital US strategic interests were at stake.

Appoint conservative judges in 665 district and 179 appellate judgeships, thus obliquely sweep away thousands of Clinton’s reforms including taking away hard-won rights from all minority groups including Blacks and Asians, women, gays and lesbians.

Reject the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty that requires the United States and other industrialised nations to dramatically curtail the emissions of global-warming gases.

Go for a broad-based tax cut, which would primarily benefit the wealthy and do little to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.

Reverse the Clinton administration’s financial rescue efforts for countries such as Mexico, threatened with financial ruin.

Bring sweeping changes to labour laws, reducing worker benefits and rights with the support of the business lobby.

Practically privatise medical care.


That’s the tip of the iceberg that could sink the world. It is frightening to think this man is in charge of nuclear missiles! The American fiasco seems heaven sent, to remind us (election fiasco apart) to demand our politicians position on issues that will change our lives, rather than getting carried away with who we like and the texture of their hair.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur