The counting conundrum that makes US democracy a joke
From the first debate to the final counting, everything was a joke. The extravagant freedom granted by the US democracy to the candidates and voters has finally made the election carnival a funny game. The US needs to change its presidential model with a two-part ballot battle to offer a wider choice for people. If an American does not like both their presidential candidates, he or she has little choice for another one. However, in India, there are many candidates based on a voter’s political choice and individual liking.
It seemed, democracy was a joke and election was fun for the Americans. The exchange of poking fun between two Presidential candidates, of whom one is an incumbent. The US Presidential candidates’ first face-off called debate was termed entertainment at its best, setting aside a stream of brilliant wits exchanged through social media. The debate was called a cat-fight. The now leading Joe Biden called President Donald Trump a clown. Both of them do not own a tag of brilliant candidates. In the last US Presidential election, some celebrated Americans vowed to move to New Zealand, if Donald Trump was elected President. So enraged they were about their Presidential candidate.
In the first face-off, CBS News counted Trump’s interruption 73 times and his cry of “shut up” sounding strange for a US standard. Incidentally, the debate at Ohio was said to be a serious policy discussion. The serious policy discussion turned into a cat-fight and gave the world a big stock of fun to remember. Had it happened in India, Americans and open-school intellectuals would have called it an uncivilized land of jokers. The US cannot be called so.
The US Presidential candidates’ rampant exchange of fun and rage is only a comedy of errors. The exchange even passed through personal attacks like Biden’s son’s discharge from the US Navy six years ago for taking cocaine. Trump did not want Biden to mention himself as smart as he Graduated with the lowest grade, lowest in his class. BBC’s North American reporter called the debate the political equivalent of food-fight. In all terms, the world used to enjoy the fun.
A nation of great freedom elects its president every four years. In the last two terms, the US carnival of democracy became more hilarious. The counting rejection of the incumbent President has made the election a joke. Unlike India’s counting model, US vote counting is a bit complicated, mainly because 80 per cent of the States – 40 out of 50 States- in the US allow vote processing before the scheduled election day. For Indians, it is surprising that most of the States in the US begin counting of votes before the closing of the election days. Still, some States couldn’t help finishing the count quickly like what we see in India. Only six states allow voting on the election day, while the rest has a system of flexible voting dates. There is a variance in voting statistics that determine the final verdict in India compared with the US. The voting pattern in the Presidential election can distort the popular mode, unlike India’s voting to the representatives of a prospective national leader.
Three times bigger than India in terms of geography but with a quarter of India’s electorates, the US Presidential election astounded every Indian, when the incumbent President refused to concede to his defeat. He declared he wouldn’t accept the verdict as he found it a massive counting foul. He mistrusted his system that he ruled for four years as the President. That is a typical American joke. He wanted his counting officers to stop their work that did not favour his numbers and anticipation. When he found his vote was insurmountable he smelt foul and went to the extent of filing a lawsuit. In India, an election is a serious business and highly sanctified process. A serious contender admits whatever be the verdict.
In India, the arguments like what Trump made out could be called a big fun or utter madness. Trump found those who are engaged in counting the votes “swooped in to perpetrate a fraud on the American Public”. In India’s democracy, even those who voted for such a candidate would have called the argument a sheer mockery of democracy or utter rubbish. An ordinary Indian had some respect for America for being it the world’s largest economy, one of the biggest democracies and as a land known for an amazing achievement in every sphere. There was a time the US was sarcastically called the “world police”. So powerful the country was and so proud were the NATO members. Overnight every respect has evaporated.
When there is an astounding delay in counting of votes, the US’ efficiency in managing an event that is just a quarter of India’s election has come to be questioned. The reason was said to be the larger number of mailed-in votes due to American voters’ coronavirus fear. Still, the US was expected to do well because of its level of technology sophistication.
Indian election was called the world’s largest carnival of democracy with four times more voters casting votes than the second biggest democracy in the world. There are good and bad candidates, good and bad parties, besides a large number of independent candidates and, of course, NOTA. Never in history, a major candidate seriously doubted the flawlessness and truthfulness of the system to declare that the verdict was unacceptable. There were cases of dispute settlements post declaration. However, the overall system was flawless and unblemished.
The US has the Federal Election Commission with limited power that did not function since July this year. The Commission deals with election finance without being an independent constitutional authority of elections. They have many things to learn from India’s constitutionally powerful and independent election commission.
Joe Biden, a stiff democrat, is of course too old for the US to have as a state head these days when China challenges the global supremacy of America. The world needs America more than it needs China or similar dictatorship. Better America is better for the world. Biden or Trump, Americans will continue to live with the same democratic system without indulging into day-to-day politics. They know, their life is not going to change with the change of Presidents every four years of eight years. Hence, they seemingly do not mind whether their president is a joker or intellectual, serious or funny and energetic or lousy.
The US has an architecture set for itself, be it in terms of foreign policy, trade and economic matters or issues of immigrants. Indian media used to report Biden’s pro-Pakistan mindset and soft-corner with China sending an alert. That might have made Indians pray for either a change in Biden’s policy approach or Trump’s return. But India is largely unmoved, though more Indians have been keenly watching the US election results. Nevertheless, today, the US needs India more than India needs the US. Indians can hope the US cannot revisit the foreign policy it used to hold in the Soviet era. Biden cannot be the same person who opposed the Gulf war. The global equation has changed. Democracy is not fun. India offers a longer list of candidates for more flexible choice unlike the US, where choice is between the two. Both India and the US have good lessons for the world. Being democracies both are natural allies. America under the new ruler has to decide which road to be taken. Peace and prosperity of the world hinge on the actions of the new President and how well the US administration makes use of India’s support.
(Writer is an Author of By Heart, Blogger and Agripreneur)