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February 2001

How Others See The Election


Sometimes journalists around the world come up with some very strange views of United States politics. With almost no information on the history of political corruption and election fraud in this country many abroad have assumed that we were what we pretended to be: a model of democracy for the rest of the world.

That illusion has been shattered by our November elections. The press evaluation around the globe was uniformly negative:

Under the headline of "Electoral Burlesque," a Serbian newspaper asked if commentators were right in saying that the "fate of the Planet Earth depends on a handful of pensioners in Florida." (Belgrade, Yugoslavia)

"There is an iron law of American campaign politics. The only way to win is to have higher number than the other guy. The only way to improve your numbers is by television advertising. The only way to get the advertising slots that reach the voters is by paying for them. And the only way to pay for them is to raise millions and millions of dollars." (The Guardian, London, England)

Under the question, "Can American Teach Us About Democracy?" the answer was.... "The level of irregularities shown in these elections certainly make America the least qualified to sanction the authenticity of other countries' election processes." ( Harare, Zimbabwe)

The headline read, "Another Banana Republic" And the story read, "What words can be used to describe it [our elections]? Desperate. Confused. Incredible. Simply, purely insane." (Bangkok, Thailand)

Now that the dust has settled and we are on the eve of inaugurating our next president, will the humiliating revelations be forgotten? There are plenty of distractions. We can fight over abortion, gun control, Plan Colombia, Clinton's legacy, and Bush Junior's nominees. But stepping back from the trees to look at the forest the scene is much more pathetic. Here we have a puppet president who has been elected by one fourth of the vote, (and probably fewer when we take into account those who voted for the man they believed to be the lesser of two evils) putting up a show of diversification in his cabinet selections and, in keeping with the party custom of taking care of defeated candidates, nominating a man for Attorney General who is highly divisive and less popular with voters than he is.

But the pivotal fight will come after the nomination hearings. We should then be ready to concentrate not on the things that divide us, but on the biggest and best election reform we could possibly have: campaign finance reform. There have been changes in the Congress, and the new Senate might have a little more spine than the old one. Senator John McCain says he has the votes and that Congress will clean it up. Genuine reform would cause the establishment to lose control of our government, and they will pull out all the stops to defeat it. Senator McCain, you are right, but the public does not believe you can do it. from World Press Review, [email protected]

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