Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How does the World View the US Presidential Elections?

Trust me, that title is totally misleading if you think that you are going to read the last word on that question here. But that is this week's topic for the Blogpower roundup, as posed by the American host of the same, BP member, the Fake Consultant. Being the only Canadian, well CanAussie, in the group, I feel obliged to post something but writing about politics is way out of my bailiwick and I have been mulling over the whole thing and naturally have left it to the last minute.

First of all, let me say that I live on the west coast of Canada, not thirty miles from the US border and we west coast Canadians probably have much more in common with our southern west coast neighbours than we do with our eastern Canadian brethren. The USA is a very big presence in our lives, not the least of which is that we watch so many of their TV channels via cable or satellite. We know what is happening there just as well as we know what is happening in Canada and often are better informed about the USA.

Despite the fact that Canada is a physically larger country than the USA we have only one tenth of the population, yes, one tenth. So it is no wonder many people think of us as being the same which of course we Canadians fiercely deny. On so many fronts we are so different, with one of our major differences being our more liberal ideas, especially on social programs. For example, despite lots of grumbling when our universal healthcare shows some cracks we fiercely defend it and have higher tax rates than the Americans do in order to fund it.

Again, not the least of our differences are our governing systems and we look on in amazement as every four years the circus of electing the President of the United States of America, the leader of the free world, as the holder of that office was once called, takes place. It goes on for literally years before the actual election, as one after another candidate rises and falls back into the pack, the whole process funded by the most incredible amounts of money and effort by so many people. It literally is a whole industry in itself, employing thousands and thousands, maybe even millions, although temporarily to be sure.

I've watched these hooplas take place since 1964 with great interest as do all Canadians. This one was going to be the most interesting to my mind because of a serious female candidate and one from an ethnic minority, in the race to be the same party's candidate no less, so one barrier or the other was likely to be broken. At least one of those on the ballot in November would be an astounding first to represent one of the two major parties. I wanted so much that a woman would finally be President, but I had so many doubts about Hillary being the right one, as it turned out others did too. But Obama? Just because he has the gift for the gab, well they like to make it sound more high fallutin' than that, does not mean that he will make a good president. It would be nice to see more experience under his belt, as well as some good ideas and innovative policies. And what the heck was all that travelling abroad about, as if he were already president? But will he be any worse than some others have been if he is elected President? A lot will depend so much on who his advisors might be and his cabinet. Arnold Schwarzenneger? she asks shaking her head. Schwarzenegger, a Republican who has endorsed McCain and is also a bit thin on experience himself, might serve as an energy and environmental adviser to Obama, according to this report. Well only time will tell and besides McCain is gaining on him lately so it is not the sure thing that many thought earlier. But then besides being a Republican, and if I were an American I would certainly be a Democrat, he is definitely past his "best by" date for that job in my opinion.

But what do other Canadians think? Earlier this year in a poll of Canadians:

Forty-six per cent of those surveyed in January by telephone said it matters a great deal to Canada who wins the November 2008 U.S. presidential election. Another 35 per cent said it mattered somewhat, while only eight per cent said it doesn't matter at all.


While 34 per cent of those surveyed said they would like to see a Democrat win the next election and five per cent said a Republican, a whopping 56 per cent surveyed said it makes no difference to them whether the next president is a Republican or a Democrat.

While this is a bit of a shocker in the same poll:

While Canadians see the United States as important, when asked what countries stand out as being a negative force in the world, 52 per cent of respondents named the U.S.

Neuman (from the polling company) said other studies have shown that people's opinions of the U.S. are negative because they are uncomfortable with the country's foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq. They also cite discomfort with U.S. President George W. Bush, who took office in January 2001.

Also interesting is this conclusion which is a bit strangely worded to my mind.

"I think the fact that Canadians pay so much attention to the U.S. election is a sign that they really care about the United States, a sign that they want it to get back to where it was before," Neuman said.

Of course we Canadians care about the US election. How could we not? We are so intertwined economically. But what do we want the US to get back to I wonder. Peace and prosperity, yes, but how about they get down to solving some of their other long standing issues: for example, the crisis in their healthcare system, which I see daily on the medblogs I read. Yes it's time for universal health care in that country. In 2006 47 million Americans were without health insurance while 25 million were underinsured, and even those who have it, and the medical personnel who treat them, are at the mercy of the private insurance companies who decide who or what is covered. Then there's George W with his cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Is this an overall Republican policy or a George W. initiative? Will McCain continue along those lines if he is the next president? Sorry a personal beef of mine and a worry as I have a daughter who lives with her family in the USA.

Well, FC, I am sure you had something else in mind other than this rambling post when you posed your question. I do hope that others will give you a different and more erudite, educated, knowledgeable, wise, sapient point of view.


Carver said...

I didn't think this was a rambling post. I found it interesting. It boggles my mind that we don't have universal healthcare in the U.S. I find so many things about my country embarrassing and that's not to say I don't love my country as much as the next guy. If I get going I'll really ramble. I wish I could be more optimistic about the next president. I'm almost scared to say it could hardly get any worse than it is now as that would seem to be tempting fate.

Janice Thomson said...

I think you brought out some very valid points JMB as for instance their health care system. It's pretty hard to keep a nation's people interested in politics when so many suffer because of a poor health system including those returning from war. In defense of their Presidential candidates I must admit our own nation doesn't have a lot offer either at election times.

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

A more than interesting read from an interesting angle. Thanks, JMB.

CherryPie said...

Yes I agree with the previous commenters. A very interesting post!

Crushed said...

One argument often trotted out in favour of the monarchy, is the cost of US elections.

In other words, the theory is, having the Queen is good, because it's cheaper than having US style presidential elections.

Not quite sure what that proves, but still...

The thing to remember about any election, is what the middle ground is.

In the UK, you just look at a leader and think 'Yes, but will he win in Basildon and Harlow?'

In the US, you need to be thinking 'Can they win in Ohio'?

Because that's the ground thats being fought.

And this is why I worry that Obama might not make it.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

A finepost, jmb and interesting to have your take on it. Brits, too, are amazed at how long the US campaigns go on!

leslie said...

I agree with the others that this is a very interesting post. I've been watching with keen interest the goings-on less than 10 miles from where I live and must admit that I was/am an ardent Hillary fan. I really thought she'd make it and if she had, felt she could have beaten McCain. I've always had my reservations about Obama because of his inexperience along with a gut feeling that he is arrogant and truly not in touch with the people. (even though he's made it look like he has been) I think he has manipulated everything and everyone around him to get the "top job" well before he is ready to do it well. He has said he's happy that Hillary's name will be put forth at the convention - for the sake of history - but as I said in a recent post of my own, he better watch out because he might be wiping egg off his face if there's a turnaround FOR Hillary at the convention. Okay, I've vented my 2 cents Cdn. lol

Life Insurance Canada said...

Good post! I believe US presidential elections are very important for us (actually I believe they are important for the entire world...)! And it's not only about economy - for example, as a Toronto life insurance broker dealing health insurance too I feel there is significant discussion about our health care system after new president of CMA was elected. And health care reform in the USA (after elections) may influence opinion of some people here...