Thanks to Newsvine, since 2008, I have been able to watch the American elections from close quarters; to see the progress or fall of the leading candidates and to even have my two cents worth from the hustings. For years, there appeared to be no other choices but white males for the public to elect, despite the diverse population. Suddenly we have a mixed race president and now the prospect of a female president is not far off the horizon either! No wonder the nation seems to be heavily divided and confused, because the presidential election has become unpredictable, with the future looking very promising for genuine competition.
However, from across the Pond, a few things haven't made sense in the selection process and I think they need to change for fairness to be seen to be done when the 2012 election dust has settled.
First, the length of the campaign: It is far too long. It should start much later in the current president's term and last only a year, no more than that, so that everything is conducted in his/her final year and then a hand-over at the end of it. Such a long campaign is debilitating and divisive. It needs to be briskly conducted and no hopers winnowed out quickly to concentrate on the leaders. The campaign length is also damaging to the economy because the uncertainty does not make for secure financial transactions or projections. Curtailing the length of the campaign should dramatically cut down on the next factor.
Second, the money required: It is obscene to need so much money to elect a president of the USA. And now that super PAC's can also spend unlimited sums, the opportunities for manipulating the office of president through PAC support is becoming disturbingly high. The only message that gives is that money makes a president, nothing else. The ones with the most money and loudest shout appear to win the race. That could also be why the 'wrong' people are perceived to be nominated for elections. Yet being president of America is the country's highest office, and regarded by the rest of the world as the most important in the world. It should be treated with the respect it deserves. It shouldn't be a time when the media makes a killing out of the candidates through advertising because all adverts should carry a hefty discount, or even be free, for example, to get the messages to the people as much as possible. Once money goes in place of democracy, who is really in charge? The voters or the corporates?
Third, the location of the first primaries: All early primaries should be rotated around the country so that every state has a chance to benefit from the clear economic gains of being the first primary, and also have a say in who the first winners are. To keep having the same states as front runners every time leads to jealousy, feelings of being sidelined and a desire to get in on the action, which happened to Michigan and Florida during the last presidential election when they were penalised for wanting their primaries earlier. Yet it is very natural to want that kind of media and economic benefit for one's state that Iowa and New Hampshire appear to enjoy each election. In today's media world it clearly does not make sense to have the same two states enjoying that first privilege every time. It really isn't fair to the other states who have to watch from the sidelines with a silent voice wishing they could be part of the action.
Fourth, the elitist presence of super delegates: There should be no super delegates in any fair elections, especially with the anomalous position of favouring someone their states voted against, neither should there be any clear support from governors for candidates until the convention. For example, it seemed unfair to me that Gov. Strickand of Ohio was openly favouring Hillary Clinton and was campaigning for her, hoping she won, when there were two candidates fighting for that state. No governor should indicate their personal choice until after a primary. That makes for a more level playing field to start with, especially in crucial deciding contests.
Fifth, the practice of endorsements: No one publicly endorses someone unless they want something in the process, even if it is simple acknowledgement, association with, or support from, the perceived winner. I think endorsements can come after the person is in the White House, when they have got there on their own steam and their own efforts and owe no one anything. But are all these people coming out of the woodwork to endorse a candidate a good thing for the country? Will they want some kind of payback at some time? And how can one please all those disparate interests and expectations? Endorsements imply that a person is not good on their own merit until someone else says so, that they are inadequate until propped up by some group or person, which is why America is in the mess it is in from too many party and lobbying interests. Endorsements tie presidents to unwritten promises and give undue privilege to certain sections of society which immediately disenfranchise the rest of the population.
I think if these five factors were to be changed, there would be a fairer and clearer election process. This is the Internet age and it has had the biggest influence on the 2008 election, a clear pointer to the future elections. Things cannot run the way they used to run, as Obama's very successful campaign demonstrated .
And to anyone who might be tempted to say that 'this is how things have always been done', a genuine desire for all -round change among the population is why Barack Obama is heading for a second term.