Choice – American Style

Some commentators, observing the recent American election, have wistfully wished that Britain was given a similar choice when it comes to elections, Apparently, these people are very out of touch with reality. Yes, the Democrats and Republicans might paint themselves as further apart on issues than the Conservatives and Labour in the UK, who prefer the mediocrity of the supposed middle ground to real issues, but, in reality, the choice confronting the American people was much the same as that confronting the British at election time – idiot A or idiot B, neither of whom will achieve anything positive, regardless of what their manifesto claims. Indeed, given that in Britain it is not utterly impossible, if highly unlikely, for a third party to take power, one might say that we actually have 50% more choice than in the USA, as we actually have a third incompetent idiot to choose from, rather than just the two.

But, what those observers seem to forget is that Americans actually have even less choice than that. For all that it likes to waffle about democracy and loves nothing better than interfering in other countries in its name, the USA is not a very democratic country. Its peculiar and archaic system for electing the president might, just, have made sense at some point early in its history when travel and communications within the rebel colonies were difficult, but, in the modern world, smacks more of a dictatorship than a democracy when the President can be elected with a landslide in the electoral college yet only achieve around a fifty-fifty share of the votes. I look at the British system and think it is terribly flawed and biased against the will of the people, but, however depressed that might make me feel, I can always step back and thank God that I don’t live in America. Our system may be broken and abused, but that pales in comparison beside the bad joke that is the American political system.

With changing demographics and an ever-deepening split between the viewpoints represented by the Republicans and Democrats, especially in view of the way in which Presidents with barely half the popular vote attempt to claim a mandate for radical change without regard for what the other half want, there is only one real choice for the USA if it is to avoid decades of pain. Unfortunately, ever since the South attempted to secede, the driving aim of the US government has been one of expanding the USA, both territorially and in terms of the power of the central government, which does not bode well for a peaceful break-up or a rethinking of how the nation works. Sadly, that means, at best, a nation that will be paralysed with infighting at just the time the world is entering a new era of international tension, just when a strong and morally certain USA is required, or, at worst, the collapse of the country into violence and conflict, further stoking the flames of war that seem certain to lie ahead.

Rather than looking to the USA as an example of choice, Britain should look to the USA, just as it should to the EU, as an object lesson in how not to handle politics and democracy. Rather than blundering down the same path of increasing oppression by an increasingly unaccountable and unmandated government, the UK needs to work to safeguard and strengthen democracy and freedom so that we are not overwhelmed in the difficult times that are coming…


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