(K Krishna Saagar Rao)
US Presidential Election 2020 and its aftermath has shocked the world. Many outsiders who has little or no exposure to US politics are wondering what is underway in USA since the Election Day on November 3rd. It is 3 days by now and there is no result called out for the election of ‘The leader of the free world’.
American democracy is a role model for many democracies in the world. It is robust, functional and transparent. However, the ongoing episode is exhibiting chinks in the armor of American electoral system. World is watching with wide eyes, the visible and vertical split of USA voters on ideological lines. While it’s a representative of a mighty democracy, the opposition to any elected President both at Senate and House level will be quite an ordeal.
This is a historic and unprecedented close contest, especially when the entire election process is impacted by COVID19 counter measures, leading to more mail-in-ballots and early voting. There is explicit chaos and confusion on the ground and the pace of counting election results is highlighting it.
President Donald Trump’s statement calling out fraud and manipulation in counting, in certain states ruled by Democrats has certainly made the US voters and the world more edgy. There are almost equal number of voters on either side wishing for their candidate to win this election.
There are millions of Americans supporting and trusting President Trump’s claim of mischief to defeat him and millions of those who are calling it below-the-belt politics by President Trump, as he is losing. Few more hours, days or weeks will end this long and tiring episode for American voters.
There are some fundamental questions and observations which can lead to reasons for this bitterness and division in US Presidential Elections.
‘Two Party’ Vs ‘Multi-Party’ electoral play?
In any functional democracy with multi-party system, parties are ideologically founded to attract voters on the basis of their political agenda. In nations where there are more than two or three strong parties at play, the voters spread out their ideological support leading to less consolidation. Elections in India, United Kingdom, France are some examples of multiple parties at electoral play with and without alliances.
There’s nothing which stops a third political party rise in USA and there have been attempts for the same for a very long time. However, none could find traction against the leading two parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. This is one of the primary reasons for large scale and concentrated electoral support base, leading to bitter battles.
Does strong leaders divide or unite?
In a democracy led by ideologically supported and elected governments, strong leaders unite their party cadre more than ever. Their conviction to party ideology, political agenda leading up to the governance agenda if in power, consolidates the strength of the party from grassroots all the way to the top.
A strong elected leader in power, in a functional democracy does polarize the ideological groups in a nation towards him and against him. Consolidation of ideological support base naturally leads to polarization of other groups against the leader and his party. Especially in a nation like USA where there are only two main stream ideologies, the polarization is naturally more concentrated and bitter.
Is federalism flawed?
There is no flawless governance framework in the world. Democracy has been around only since French Revolution and some proclaimed democracies in the contemporary world are more hybrid than real. However, democracy by far is the most efficient system which is more representative of a nation’s citizens than any other format available to the world, as of today.
The span of independence for States in a nation, is certainly a contentious subject in a democratic frame work. Especially in large nations with historic backdrop of union and annexation of regions. Nations like India and USA are comparable in this context.
USA is certainly the model federal union in the entire world with unprecedented independence resting in State Governments. Any misuse of this independence by the party in power can lead to massive national conflicts. Sometimes abuse of power locally in a state can impact a national course. It is commendable that USA has been a full-scale, functional federal union of states for over 243 years.
India was structured by its constitutional architects as a ‘quasi-federal union’. To manage even partial independence of states is a huge challenge, in this side of the world. Especially, when there are multiple regional parties with regional agendas, at times even overriding the national agenda for political expediency.
Imagine in a country like India, if there is no Central Election Commission and states are free to conduct full spectrum of elections by themselves, for both State and Central elections. Today’s conflicts in US Election System are reflective of issues surrounding the level of decentralization in their federal framework, especially in Presidential Elections.
The US Elections 2020 results will be out soon and the nation will elect its President. It is essential for USA to showcase to the world, that the entire process of electing its President is fair, transparent and tamper-proof, for it to retain its respect amongst the committee of nations in the world.
I am very certain, this glorious democracy and its spirit will win, no matter which candidate fails to be the President of USA in this election. (The author is the Chief Spokesperson of BJP’s Telangana state unit)