I realize now that I made a mistake moving back to the US during the 2016 US presidential election. In so many ways I am reminded daily of just how broken our political system has become.
Let me state upfront that I support neither candidate, albeit for different reasons. Suffice it to say that I don’t believe either is the leader America needs today. In such a great nation I believe we can do better – much better.
What has struck me most about this election, however, is how little difference there is between how China chooses its leaders and how the US does. The US can no longer claim any kind of superiority – moral or ideological – for the political system now in place. It is not the legacy of the Founding Fathers by any stretch. (Or my own father, for that matter.)
The Chinese political system gets frequently criticized on several fronts:
- Lack of Transparency
- Censorship of Media
- Concentration of Power
Now let’s look at presidential politics in the US through this same lens.
- If you define democracy as one man, one vote, the Electoral College alone disqualifies the current American system. Add in the arcane rules of the US primary system, including the power wielded by super-delegates responsible to no one, and it’s hard to argue that we have true democracy. Trump is right on this one: The system is rigged. Just ask the Bern’s supporters.
- Back-room politics has been around in the US for a long time. After thousands of internal DNC e-mails were recently released, however, it appears it has been taken to new heights. The DNC claimed impartiality when it clearly wasn’t. How is that not a lack of transparency?
- Corruption is all about buying influence. Why would Goldman Sachs pay a candidate $400,000 for two short speeches to an industry she has absolutely no experience in? (Besides, whatever knowledge she had the taxpayers already paid her for.) Campaign finance reform has clearly failed. Money is obviously critical to getting elected and the electorate, in the end, has no idea where it’s all coming from or what the motivation is. Big donors don’t have to stand for election.
- Whenever a Western media outlet covers a story in the Chinese media supportive of the current Chinese administration the Western media always starts with the derogatory observation that such and such news outlet is “state-owned”, “government-run”, or “a mouthpiece for the Communist Party.” The implication, of course, is that this makes the report biased and untrustworthy. Any objective analysis of the media coverage of this election, however, would make it clear that if the electorate were motivated solely by the media, Bozo the Clown could beat Donald Trump. The media ownership structure may be different but the result is the same. (I personally don’t think this bias has anything to do with ideology.)
- If nothing else, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders accomplished one thing. They have unveiled the longtime truth that politics is not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s all about the insiders and the outsiders – the incumbents (the establishment) and the change agents. What does it mean to be a member of a political party that got you elected if you turn around and support the other side when a disruptor threatens the status quo?
I have no idea who will win the 2016 presidential election. It all comes down to how tired the American people are of eating cake.
Whichever candidate wins, however, the US has lost any right to tout its political system as the best of the best or to claim any kind of moral or populist superiority over China or any other country.
The system is rigged; ‘corruption’ is rampant; power is concentrated in the hands of the few, many of whom never leave the back room and show their faces; and the average citizen is governed by nothing close to a representative government.
How else could we be limited to a choice between two candidates, neither of whom the majority of Americans really wants to vote for?
By the way, in the last poll I saw President Xi Jinping enjoyed a 95% approval rating, the highest among all of the countries surveyed, including the US and many European powers.
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