Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Politic... tick... ticks

We find the whole United States election process very entertaining, as it is so different from that in Australia. Elections are held on a Tuesday (rather than on Saturday like Australia) – with little evident fanfare given to the actual voting process despite all the electioneering that goes on: the bumper bars, yard signs, phone canvassing, media hype, paraphernalia within peoples windows, canvassers in the street, etc.

Last week, elections were held for the office of Mayor for the City of Chicago. After the event, there was so little coverage it was blatantly apparent! I think Australian politics seem to be far more subject to the election post mortem. 

People in the US are very much Republican or Democrat – in much the same way as Australians are Ford or Holden!  Although people are willing to express allegiance to a particular party, this does not always translate into a vote – as voting is not compulsory. People appear to be more vociferous about stating their allegiance to a particular party as opposed to Australians who largely keep their voting practices to themselves. I guess Australians, on the whole, are more likely to ‘swing’ dependent upon policy, who might be standing, potential effect upon their own particular circumstances, susceptibility to scare mongering, etc.  

As voting is not compulsory, it is difficult to determine whether the population is made up of swinging voters or perhaps, which part of the population or party members might be more motivated to vote in a particular election. A great deal of electioneering that goes on is to motivate certain sections of the population to vote: young people, minority groups, the poor, etc. 

Even though the next Presidential elections are not held until November 4th 2008, a whole heap of electioneering is currently taking place for party preselection. The Democrats have several possible contenders with Hillary Rodham Clinton (Bill’s wife, formerly or Illinois, current New York senator), Barack Obama (from Illinois, African American, senator for Illinois, anti-Iraq war), and John Edwards (former senator and nominee for vice-president with John Kerry in 2004) all formally announcing that they wish to be a candidate for President. The big question is whether or not Al Gore (former vice-president, ‘former next-president’ and champion of a green world) will announce his candidature. 

On the Republican front, John McCain (current senator for Arizona, lost out to George W in 2000, supporter of Iraq war), Rudy Giuliani (former very popular mayor of New York City), and Mitt Romney (former Massachusetts Governor) seem to be at the forefront and are running around the country seeking support.

Support for a candidate at this early stage is very much to do with raising money. A candidate needs a huge wad of money to run their political machine. This is why wild cards, including billionaire Ross Perot, have a chance – political nous and experience is not as key as having MONEY. It is expected that each nominee will need to raise $100 million this year in order to contest the primaries for the 2008 presidential election. 

This is quite a departure from elections in Australia where independents (who are not obscenely wealthy) are still able to run (even though they have no chance of being Prime Minister in Australia’s two party preferred system). 

The mood, as an outsider and at this early stage, appears to be positive. The apparent strength and popularity of the Democrat forerunners is palpable. I’m not sure if this is because both Clinton and Obama hail from Illinois (as were past presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan), but it can only be making the Republicans very nervous. 

Photo: some of the architecture found in Lincoln Park (named after the very popular Abe). Illinois’s state slogan is the “Land of Lincoln” 

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