Voters had to wait in line too long in some places, the election cost way too much money. The entire process of choosing a candidate takes far too much time, and the system is a crazy patchwork of different rules. And yet, American democracy passed a crucial test in this election. It worked.
The list of complaints, of valid complaints about the American electoral system — about America’s democracy — is long and it must be addressed. But claims that the system is broken, or charges by publicity-hungry real estate moguls that this is not a democracy are ridiculous.
The election of 2012, despite all it showed us about what is wrong with American democracy, showed most of all that democracy is alive and well in the U.S.
Millions of Americans are disappointed with the results. That’s further evidence that the results were not pre-ordained, that it was voters who decided who they wanted for president.
When it was over, the man who won the most votes came out to extend a hand to those who did not vote for him, reiterating that he governs for all. The losing candidate accepted the voters’ verdict, and everyone got back to work. Despite the frustration on one side and the satisfaction on the other, nobody ever expected an outbreak of revenge, or that the results would be rejected. Americans believe, with good reason, that the election was fair and the outcome generally reflects the people’s wishes.
Sure, money plays an excessive role in American politics. But those who say it’s all about money should note that the wealthier candidate did not win. There were countless factors at work. The Citizens United decision, allowing corporations to spend freely to sway elections, is a travesty, but it did not derail the election. And Romney, the candidate who enjoyed support from the richest, most powerful people in the United States, failed to get a majority of the vote.
In the end, it’s about convincing the people that you would make a better president. Sometimes the candidate with more money does that. Sometimes he doesn’t.
And, by the way, the people who thought they could set the outcome of the election by writing a check with a lot of zeroes saw their cash evaporate with no tangible effect.
I’m not naïve. I know America is no Capra-esque movie set. I know everyone is not equal when it comes to influencing who or how the country is governed. But I’ve heard too many people dismissing the system as a charade.
In this election, voters brought defeat to proponents of countless conspiracy theories. Wall Street did not pull all the strings, and neither did the oh-so-nefarious “Israel lobby,” catnip for those who see shadows lurking everywhere. And, by the way, did you notice America is no longer ruled at all levels by white men? Yes, most people have stopped noticing that. That in itself is an impressive achievement of this democracy.
Voters heard the case from two candidates with different political philosophies. Let us recognize that they were both competent, intelligent, qualified candidates. Neither was an extremist demagogue. Republican primary voters, by the way, deserve credit for unmasking and rejecting some of the most radical primary contenders.
Americans seem to have taken a measure of the country’s problems and found that the country faces stark choices. Voters, too, behaved like intelligent, competent participants of a democracy, not easily bribed by empty promises. No candidate could have won this time by offering to slash taxes across the board.
Voters quickly disposed of candidates that had no business in government, such as the ones (plural!) who made idiotic comments about rape.
Now, the aftermath of the election brings soul-searching, as it should. Republicans, in particular, are pondering the source of their defeat. It is for them to decide which way to steer. But I would suggest considering the possibility that their flirtation with the extreme right cost them this election, because despite the loud noises made by a few, American voters prefer reasonable, centrist positions.
For the country as a whole, I suggest a collective recognition that America is a strong, mature, functioning democracy. But one with problems that need to be corrected. Let’s hope the country’s leaders acknowledge the seriousness of the electorate, and respond with serious and constructive work of their own on the country’s many pressing problems.
And as they set to solve America’s problems, they should strive to correct the flaws in the country’s electoral system and try to build a more perfect democracy.