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P. Chen: A Cheat Sheet to the Presidential Elections 2012 of the United States

Globe & Mail, Canada

Poniżej publikujemy artykuł Paula Chena, od wielu lat zamieszkałego w Polsce i związanego z CSPA Amerykanina tajwańskiego pochodzenia.

Artykuł nie porusza tematyki azjatyckiej, odnosi się raczej do amerykańskiej polityki wewnętrznej i wyborów (autor opowiada się w nim po stronie jednego z kandydatów). Pomimo tego, uznaliśmy, że w dniu wyborów amerykańskich, których wynik z pewnością może mieć duże znaczenie dla regionu Azji i Pacyfiku, artykuł ten może być dla Was interesujący. Serdecznie zapraszamy:

Depending on the publication date of this article the US elections will take place or has taken place.  Either way, every year on the first Tuesday of November the United States has an election day.  And every four years it is highly publicized because we, Americans, elect our Presidents.  Then the whole world gets involved in the soap opera that is the US Presidential Elections.  These days it has become like a reality show.  Even though the status of the US has been on the decline, it is still the number one global super power.  Therefore, an American Presidential Election still matters.    It is a major accomplishment by a young nation because it is a peaceful transfer of power.  However, these days it seems that things have become quite messy and possibility of violence is on the horizons.  Think about it, back in the late 18th century, transfers of power either involved a war, the death of a monarch or an assassination.  So when the Founding Fathers devised a method of transferring power by peaceful means, it was indeed something revolutionary.  On top of that, the transfer of power was determined by an election in which the decisions were made by the citizens of the country.  This type of governance didn’t exist, on a major scale, since the Roman Republic.   Sure, Poland might try to say that it is the first nation in Europe to have a constitution.  It is technically true; however the power to elect leaders still resided in the aristocracy.  The US Constitution stated that the power to elect leaders resided in the hands of ordinary citizens, not the social elite, either directly or indirectly.  What do I mean by this, I will explain later.   Here in Poland, unless you are above a B2 English learner, you still get your news from the major newspapers, internet portals or television stations.  They often present a patchy picture of the American political process.  I will attempt to give you a more complete picture along with some personal commentary.   It will not be as comprehensive as CNN but you will definitely be wiser after reading this. So let’s go!

What is this 270 number anyway?

Remember when I said that the US Constitution gave either direct or indirect power of election to the citizens?  The power to elect the President is one of the indirect ones.  How are Presidents elected? Here in Poland, you elect your presidents directly.  However, in the US we elect Presidents by the way of an electoral college.  No, it’s not a secondary educational institution.  It is a group of chosen people that has the responsibility to cast votes based on the balloting of their assigned locations.  The citizens of a state cast votes for candidates.  The winning candidate for that State is worth certain amount of votes based on the State’s population.  So a state like New York will be worth more votes than a State like Wyoming.  However, it isn’t that simple.  Each state has its own rules for giving their electoral votes.  Some states have a winner takes all, while other states have the winner takes a majority of the votes and the loser gets some votes.  The goal is to get to 270, an absolute majority.  Currently, there are 538 possible votes.   The system originated in the past when information was transmitted either by word of mouth or by horses.  In a country as big as the US, even back then, getting information to the electorate was a slow process.  So the Founding Fathers decided to have a group of officials represent the wishes of their assigned area.  These days, with communications at speed of the internet, there are many discussions on whether this institution is still necessary.  Whatever the result may be, it is sure fun, and at times frustrating, to see the pundits try to predict the results.

Red vs. Blue

In American politics, you are either a red Republican or a blue Democrat.  Okay, there is a small minority of independents.  To make predicting the election easier, there are states who usually vote for one of the parties historically, so it is therefore, „safe” to categorize them.  For example, New York and New Jersey are blue states and Texas and Georgia are red states.  Blue states are typically more liberal and red more conservative.  The problem is the swing states.  These are the states which can lean either way based on the direction of the wind or other factors.  And these are the factors which the journalists try to use to help them predict the results.  The swing states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.  These days, swing state decisions and opinions are highly scrutinized by the press.  How do they get these bits of data?  Polling!  Major media organizations and institutions conduct surveys either by face to face or telephone calls to try to get how the public is feeling almost minute by minute.    Based on the responses, numbers are analyzed, charts are made and statistics are consulted.  At some point in the day, fresh from the factory daily poll results are published.  These poll numbers are the food of the political media.  Each pundit will look at these numbers and try to express his or her own interpretation on it.

How do we know who is winning?

The best way to get polls are to go to poll aggregate sites like Real Politics, Politico, Nate Silver’s 538 or Huffington Post.  They take poll results from the media and institutions and put it through some complicated mathematical formula and come up with a „definitive” number.  Another way is to see what is going on in the US.  The candidates had three debates.  In the first debate, Romney seemed more energetic and Obama seemed more passive so Romney won it.  In the VP debate, Biden showed Ryan how the professionals do it by pointing out the lies that the congressman from Wisconsin has been telling.  In the second debate, Obama woke up and really pointed out the inconsistencies of the Romney argument.  And in the third debate, more of the same, Obama basically said that Romney was a liar.    During the last week, it has been all Obama because of the terrible natural disaster on the east coast of the US.  Obama had a chance to be a President and do his job and it would look cheap to try to gain political points from a natural disaster if you are a challenger.  At the writing of this article, Obama seems to be winning.

The Candidates

Barack Obama is the Democratic candidate who is running for his re-election.  Let’s take a look at his first term.  He is partly responsible for stopping the Great Recession and turning the numbers so they point upwards.  He was instrumental in the killing of Osama Bin Laden.  He proposed and passed a healthcare law that would insure every American.  He was able to stop the proud American auto industry from going bankrupt.  In fact, they are doing really well at the moment.  Recently, his swift response to Sandy prevented a disaster like Katrina.  He has also restored the favorability view of the US on the international stage.  Four more years would allow him to do more than he could have in the first term due to the fact that he will not have a re-election to worry about.  Therefore, allowing him to be more aggressive in pushing certain legislation.  As some conservatives might fear that his master plan in turning America into a socialist Europe will be realized.

Mitt Romney is the Republican candidate.  He is the son of a wealthy auto executive who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  He is known as a person without a moral backbone who will say anything to realize a personal goal and to push himself forward and leaving the rest behind.  He is known for running a firm that makes money by buying up companies and either try to make the companies more efficient or if they can’t, letting the company go bankrupt and selling off the assets for a profit.  He is also known for his lack of social etiquette and grace.  He has on many occasions said things that has gotten himself and his campaign into a lot of trouble.  Four years of Romney will mean that every conservative agenda will be realized and that the rich will get richer and the rest will not.  In the end, the whole social structure could collapse.

The Issues

Obama Romney
Military Believes in a lower and more strategic spending  Believes in spending more money
Taxes Believes in a more equal tax system where the wealthy should contribute more  Believes the wealthy should get a tax cut and the middle class should contribute more
Healthcare Believes that every citizen should have access to healthcare and that the government should provide affordable options  Believes that it should be privatized and that the government should not be as involved as it currently is
Foreign Policy Believes diplomacy is more important than aggressive pre-emptive actions  Believes that the Us should be more aggressive and not apologize for anything
Role of Government Believes that the government should help facilitate the needs of the citizens  Believes that the government should take minimal role in the lives of people
Education Believes that the government should work with the schools to find solutions Believes in a more consumerism where people should be able to choose which school they want their children to attend
Immigration Believes in fair immigration laws and giving immigrants chances to succeed Believes in a stricter immigration policy and more border enforcement

 

China?

Obama has had a good record in dealing with China.  Barack Obama is promoting a more moderate policy when dealing with China.  He would like to promote a closer cooperation between the current superpower and the up-coming superpower.  He would like to hold China accountable for their bad conducts such as unfair trade practices and human rights.  He will increase American naval presence in the South East Pacific to keep China from becoming a bully in the region.  He would like to increase cooperation and trade by exporting more US goods and increase domestic American scientific research to keep America competitive with China.  He would, however, create an environment that would allow America to keep more jobs in America.

Romney would like to promote a more aggressive policy towards China.  He will accuse China as a currency manipulator from day one.  He will try to counter unfair trade practices of China such as theft of intellectual property, subsidizing domestic industry and human rights.  He also would like to see a strong American military presence in the South East Pacific.  The irony is that when Romney was the head of his capitalist firm, he was outsourcing labor to China and was personally benefitting tremendously from investments in Chinese firms.

How about Poland?

Poland has always been an important strategic ally to the US.  It acts the last stop or buffer before you enter communist territory.  Poland can be seen as an Israel-like country.  Polish people might be disappointed with Obama because he decided to pull out of the missiles program, he didn’t come to Lech Kaczinski’s funeral, he said Polish death camp and the visa requirement is still in place.  However he has made Poland a safer nation through his “reset” with Russia.  He also signed the Nuclear proliferation treaty with President Medvidev in Prague.  By keeping the Russians from becoming more agitated, Poland benefits from it.  There might be some missiles in Poland after all.  Don’t let Romney’s visit this past summer make you think Poland will somehow come into the American political favor after he is elected.  He is taking advantage of some circumstances; Poland’s disappointment with Obama, Poland’s desire to get any attention from an American Presidential candidate thus becoming one of the very few major European countries which will give him a positive welcome.  He also named Russia “America’s number one geo-political foe.”  This cold-war mentality does Poland no favors.  Being aggressive towards Russia puts Poland in harm’s way.

My personal conclusion:

Personally, I am voting for Obama.  He stands for women’s rights.  He promotes the necessity to address climate change.  He stands for lower military spending as part of his strategy for lowering the deficit.  He wants the wealthy to start contributing more therefor lessening the burden on the middle class.  We know what he stands for, and he has been more or less steadfast on his beliefs.  You can trust him.  Sure he will make some unpopular decisions, but we will be better for it.  A vote for Romney will mean a vote for a situation where the rich and powerful will have more advantages, social mobility will be non-existent.  America will revert to a policy like those of George W. Bush but in a more radically conservative way.  You can forget about getting visa-free travel to the US.  America will be more aggressive in their policies.  Are you scared yet?

Paul Chen – Graduated with a Masters of Science from St. Johns University in the United States. Taught science in New York City and the Czech Republic. Born in Taiwan and grew up in the United States. Has been living in the CEE region for the last six and a half years. Has an interest in the politics of the United States, Taiwan, and to some extent China and Poland. Can be seen teaching both Chinese and English in Krakow. Languages: English, Mandarin and German. 

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P. Chen: A Cheat Sheet to the Presidential Elections 2012 of the United States Reviewed by on 6 listopada 2012 .

Poniżej publikujemy artykuł Paula Chena, od wielu lat zamieszkałego w Polsce i związanego z CSPA Amerykanina tajwańskiego pochodzenia. Artykuł nie porusza tematyki azjatyckiej, odnosi się raczej do amerykańskiej polityki wewnętrznej i wyborów (autor opowiada się w nim po stronie jednego z kandydatów). Pomimo tego, uznaliśmy, że w dniu wyborów amerykańskich, których wynik z pewnością może mieć

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