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US elections unmasked the ugly side of democracy
US elections unmasked the ugly side of democracy
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By Opiyo Oloya

THE vindication of democracy in America is that issues still drive elections and voters to the polls.

This presidential campaign hinged mostly on the ailing US economy, and whether President Barack Obama was the best leader to lead America into recovery over the next four years.

The job numbers were slowly inching up monthly as more Americans enter the workforce.

But there were other issues that were just as important. Republican challenger Mitt Romney, for example, argued that taxes needed to be lowered on small businesses and the healthcare also known as Obamacare be repealed.

The way to grow economy, he argued persuasively, is by freeing entrepreneurs by eliminating red-tape and legislations that discourage business initiatives.

In the end, despite the numerous side issues that came up (terror attack in Benghazi, Iran nuclear weapon programme, shipping jobs to China and so forth), voters chose Obama as the person with steady hands in shepherding economic recovery.

Romney may have had stellar business credentials, but his net negatives coupled with his penchant for shifting from one position to another, doomed his bid for the US presidency.

Voters went with the known quantity that Obama provided rather the unknown promise that Romney wooed them with.
The real story, however, was not the re-election of Obama, but the exposure of the ugly side of democracy in America today.

American democracy, it is apparent now, is held hostage by the inordinate amount of money that goes into the elections.

By the time Obama was declared re-elected (by the news networks) well over $4b was spent on the campaigns to elect the congressional, senatorial and presidential candidates.

The money came from well documented sources as well as from the shadows where nobody is held accountable.

Both Obama and Romney raised hundreds of millions from their supporters through internet donations and other direct fundraisings.

A huge chunk of money, however, was fundraised by organisations buying airtime and targeted advertisement in support of either candidate.

Romney, for example, was supported by two very powerful conservative organisations, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS which took tens of millions of dollars from wealthy Americans to shoot all possible arrows at Obama and other democratic candidates.

Not to be outdone, Obama and the Democrats also had entities like MoveOn. org and Democracy for America supporting their bid.

All the while, millions of dollars were poured into polling the so-called battleground states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado and so forth.

The polls themselves began to reflect the wishes of big money rather than the reality out there.

A good example of the corrupting power of money happened when with a few days before the election, Gallup, a well-respected American polling institution, showed Mitt Romney leading nationally by 5% over Obama.

Other conservative polls like Rasmussen and Pew also showed Romney leading Obama in battleground states like Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado.

For the record, with the exception of North Carolina, Obama swept all those states where Romney was supposed to have gained an unassailable lead.

But the saddest of it all was the complicit role played by the media which was engaged in deliberate partisan distortion to favour one candidate over the other.

A good example of media bias came during the first presidential debates. In October when Obama was supposedly beaten by Romney, the media pushed the story to the point that Obama was all but finished.

However, when Obama returned well prepared in the second and third presidential debates, and overwhelmed Romney, conservative media continued to push the story that Romney was no longer catchable because he was a long way gone since the first debate.

Indeed, the cosy relationship between the media and pundits pushing for one or the other candidate backfired on Election Day when Carl Rove, the Republican election prodigy refused to accept that Romney had lost Ohio.

The question this election brought to mind was this: Is America really democratic when elections are literally bought by the highest bidders, movers and shakers?

Yes, there were instances where conservative candidates outspent their opponents almost seven to one, yet went on to lose the elections.

Still, should you wish to run as a candidate at any level (including dog-catcher) in America, you must have plenty of money or at least be well connected to money.

Obama is not a rich man by any stretch, but he quickly learned how to raise millions from ordinary folks sending him $5 here and $10 dollars there.

That fact alone, namely, that ordinary folks could pool together millions of dollars to compete against wealthy industrialists may be the biggest legacy Obama re-election will have in the history of American democracy. 

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