Friday, January 4, 2008

Obama, Huckabee off a great start

The excitement is on. The year-long process to elect a successor to George Bush has begun. Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are off to a colourful start. (Read report) The race is a year long. So, there is no guarantee that one of these two will be the next President.

America has one of the most complicated process of electing its President -- arguably the most powerful person on earth. Whether one likes it or not, America, its politicians, policies, and society have a great influence on rest of the world. As the saying goes: If America sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold. It's a different matter if America realises this, and does something about it.

The election process
  • BBC has excellent details elaborating the complicated electoral process. Click here to know everything about it.
Here are some extracts:

Most states hold state-wide votes, called primaries, to determine their preferred candidates from the two main parties. Others use a slightly different procedure involving public meetings, called caucuses.

This is the process by which supporters of the Democratic or Republican parties, in each US state, say which candidate they would like to see representing their party in the November presidential election.

Each state gets to send a certain number of delegates to the parties' national conventions in August or September 2008. Bigger states have more delegates. During these national conventions each party's nominee is formally chosen.

The primaries and caucuses determine which candidate the delegates will vote for. Suppose, Obama has has got more votes than Hillary in Iowa. It means, more delegates, who have pledged support to Obama -- than who have pledged support to Hillary -- will be sent from that state, Iowa, to the Democratic party's national convention.

The candidate with the most delegates wins the nomination. Usually this becomes clear early on in the primary season. This year the winning candidates are expected to be known in February.

The Democrats will hold their convention in Colorado in late August. The Republicans will hold theirs in Minneapolis in early September. The presidential candidates will take part in TV debates on 26 September, and 7 and 15 October.

Voting takes place on November 8. Americans do not, technically, participate in a direct election of the president. It's the delegates / electors who actually select the president.

In almost every state, the winner of the popular vote -- on Nov 8 -- gets all the electoral college votes in that state, even if his or her majority is wafer thin. So it can happen that a candidate ends up with more electoral college votes than the rival candidate, and yet a smaller share, nationally, of the popular vote.


  1. Good Explanation of the process. You must be very familiar with the US and its election process.

  2. I continue to be surprised at the naievity of American electorates whenever a choice of presidential candidates is presented to them - a governor, a senator etc... They forget that as the sole superpower in the world and a leader of the free world, American presidential candidate should have qualifications other than glitzy talk and presentation and ofcourse the funds that take him/her up to the november elections and beocme the leader of the most powerful country. A governor or a senator, I have seen in my years of residence there in 1960s and 70s have singular ignorance of anything beyond American borders. Even Nixon who was said to have an excellent grasp of foreign affairs failed to understand the political interplay between Soviet Union and China in early 1970s,and the extent to which China had influence in Vietnam. When he and Kissinger worked this out mainly at the behest of Kissinger, America had already lost thousands of their young men in Vietnam swamp.
    George Bush Sr was the only president in recent times who understood the international political dynamics, and he knew what would happen if he ordered his army to march into Baghdad after the allies liberated Kuwait.
    He knew that Saddam, however obnoxious he was, held Iraq together. Bush Jnr, the product of Harward and Yale (good universities not always produce good students!), a state governor did not simply have the ability to see what would happen to Iraq when invaded. Blair, a more accomplished politician went with him, ignoring his own caution.

    For a start, Obama and Huckabee simply lack the experience required to be the leader of free world. People always compare any young presidential hopeful without experience to JF Kennedy, forgetting thatg his father was an ambassador and he himself was a decorated soldier in WWII. Even he failed to get the Senate pass the Civil Rights bill, which was left to his successor Johnson to cajole his friends there to do it. Obama is no JF Kennedy. I wonder whether he can carry other leaders of the free world who are very experienced in geopolitics. Similar case with Huckabee. In the next 4 years, the American President is going to face with problems in Pakistan, Nuclear Iran, Afghanistan where Talibans have raised their heads, Iraq fall outs and ofcourse the perennial Israle-Palestine problem. He/she may appoint a secretary of state like the academic Ms Rice, but the president has to take strategic decision along with his NATO allies. He/She will have to convince the likes of Sarkozy, Brown and Merkel who are intellectually superior to Obama or Huckabee and more experienced in geopolitics. the only Democrat who has the qualification is Hillary Rodham Clinton. I am also amazed by Republicans in going for Huckabee who could well have resonances in Baptist Churches in deep South and the Bible Belt but little else outside the border. The best Republican candidate they have John Mccain, a vietnam veteran and a highly respected American Senator in the Western world. Some who known history may give an example of Harry Truman who grew in his job. But they forget that he built his business, literally street-fighting in Missouri and hence had tough street-fighting qualities with stood him in goodstead when had to confront the rebellious General MacArthur or to take decision (with Churchill) to drop the two bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  3. Just to add to my previous comments:
    The founding fathers of America were mostly Englishmen who had enough of the King of England and the ease with which he was crowned and ruled. The system they devised for electing the American President was made intentionally cumbersome and the evolution of states and the country after the civil war did make it much more cumbersomeindeed.

    These days, only someone who can raise tens of millions of dollars can have a go at trying to be presidential hopeful.. There is lot of water that has flow under the bridge from Iowa and these are ealy days.

    Michael Dukakis, the governor of Mass, and the Democratic candidate was winning the arguments and Bush Snr, the Republican opponent was floundering, until some one dug up the long forgotten history of psychiatric advice given to Dukakis. It started the downward slide for Dukakis and he lost the race.

    Obabma has not still answered the questions about his past and in particular his boyhood life with a muslim step father in Indonesia, and whether or not he was raised as a muslim. As he gets more and more delegates, he could expect some serious digging of his past from his opponents. Dukakis thought he was almost there, until the psychiatric advice tumbled out, which makes me wonder why these gentlemen jump into the race without even thinking that some one some day will find out the very thing they have hidden in their cupboard.

  4. Guru, thank you so much for taking time to write those comments. You wrote very extensively in a similar manner in my posting on BBC some days back. I appreciate readers, like you, who comment with such insight. Do you have blog?

  5. I do not have a blog fortunately! Some times I use the name 'ram', if I had to comment on societal problems. I am a mere scribbler who happens to be old, live in the West in tact and making silly comments!guru

  6. Hi,

    I am sorry. that anonymous is me, 'Guru!'. That tells a lot about my age!


  7. Understanding all this is good of course...but well, trying to figure out who will be better - Obama or Hilary is the difficult task. Most of the time what they promise & what they do is totally unrelated, but that is politics. In the US they have a phrase for that tactic - bait & switch..
    I would still have preferred Bill..It will be an interesting period..

  8. Guru - you missed somehow the best of all presidential hopefuls..Ross Perot.The guy who was also the protagonist in Ken Follet's 'On the wings of Eagles'