21 November 2004

Nigeria: THE SUNDAY PERSPECTIVES: On the Last Presidential Elections in the US


THE last presidential election in the United States is as American as apple pie. Even till the last second before the event started, nobody in the US or elsewhere knew for sure whether George Bush would retain his job or whether he would be defeated by John Kerry. Characteristic of American presidential elections in recent history, the last one was tough, rough and sometimes acrimonious, although some degree of razzmatazz was also noticeable.

Key issues in the run-up to the election were security, the war against terror, the American misadventure in Iraq and the worrisome state of US economy. Generally speaking, although the Democratic presidential candidate, Kerry had an edge over Bush, polls conducted by various groups as the election drew near showed that in majority of cases the Republican incumbent president was leading slightly. Thus, the atmosphere surrounding the election was quite stochastic. A halo of uncertainty hung in the air as the world, or more precisely, those interested in American politics and its implications for the international community, waited with trepidation.

Eventually Bush won the elections by getting 58,787,327 votes representing roughly 51 percent of total votes counted whilst Kerry polled 55,225,764 votes or about 48 percent of counted votes. This result implies that Bush had 3,561,563 votes more than his Democratic challenger. In terms of electoral college votes Bush had 274 compared to Kerry's 252, as Ohio's 20 electoral votes gave the incumbent president an unassailable lead.

I must at this point state clearly that I was disappointed with the outcome of the election on November 2 because I did not want Bush to win for several reasons. To start with, the reelected American president is arrogant and somewhat racist. As far as Bush was concerned, issues concerning Black Africans and Arabs are secondary. He prefers his White race to the Black race, the Jews to the Arabs. His double standards in dealing with the Middle East problem, the North Korea and Iran nuclear question vis-à-vis America's acceptance of Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity are well known.

Again, irrespective of America's official disavowals, Bush believes strongly that might is right and that the best way to secure America is through the barrel of the gun aimed at America's enemies. I am appalled by the neo-Nazist doctrine of preemptive strike which is the slogan of President Bush in his obsessive war on terrorism.

Since America intervened in Iraq more than a year and half ago, more lives and property have been lost there than in all the years Saddam Hussein ruled that country. Also, since Bush became president four years ago, he has doubled the mistakes of his father both at the international and domestic levels. I ignore the latter because that is the problem of Americans themselves. However, with Bush's stone age mentality regarding the war on terror, it is clear to honest observers of the international scene that the world as at now is much more insecure, much more mutilated and chaotic than when Bush assumed office late 2000.

Bush is so paranoid about America's superiority to other countries that he shields erring American soldiers from war crimes tribunal; the agreement on safeguarding the biosphere signed in Kyoto is unacceptable to Bush because it will affect America's economic interests. President Bush is a dogmatic Christian and that is why Christian hard-liners in America voted massively for him. I am always afraid of religious fundamentalists whether Christian or Muslim, because for such people the world is either black or white, the possibility of nuanced colouration of reality is utterly ruled out.

Bush uncritically believes that his vision for the world is the best and that God is on his side.

He thinks that the best way to handle human affairs in this era of technologized society is to adopt obsolete tactics based on the false premise that "everything about me and my allies is good and noble, everything about my enemies is wicked and ignoble". Of course, as a philosopher I know that no human being or nation is perfectly good or noble and none will ever be, as far as life on earth is concerned. I also know that no individual or social group, since the evolution of man is absolutely evil or absolutely wicked. Belief in a historical mission, the type which Bush has, is one of the many forms of certainties that have afflicted the human race.

The American President believes strongly that it is America's historic mission to spread "democracy and freedom" to countries that do not have it. For that, he is prepared to take inhuman measures against Cuba and Iraq because, in his own estimation, Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein are irredeemably wicked. Bush and his UK ally, Tony Blair, forget one of the most reasonable piece of advise ever given when Cromwell said to the Scots before the battle of Dunbar: "I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken". Those who support America's policy in Iraq in the belief that certain evil in the present is worth inflicting for the sake of some doubtful future benefit for Iraqis must think again for as William Shakespeare asserts: "What's to come is still unsure".

Bush's war against terrorism is basically the substitution of one form of terrorism with a more devastating kind of the same phenomenon: state terrorism. Since the United States is presently the world's greatest military power, its own terrorism must equally be the greatest terrorism to date. There are other reasons why I had wished that Americans should reject President Bush who lied to them about Iraq, lied to them about terrorism, and then lied to them about the future of America. At any rate, Americans, terrified by the sad event of September 11, 2001 and the increasing dislike of their country's strong-arm double-standard foreign policy strategies, reacted in a fairly predictable manner just as Germans reacted when Adolf Hitler rose to power in the 1930s.

At times of uncertainties and insecurity, people tend to look for a messiah or saviour to protect them. I suspect that majority of Americans that voted for Bush did so not because they felt that all round he was better than Kerry. They did so because Bush and his key Republican campaign managers successfully sold the myth to them that the greatest challenge facing America at the moment is total destruction of terrorism by military means, and that Bush rather than the vacillating Kerry is the man with the heart of steel that can do the job. That myth, precisely, was the major leitmotif of Republican campaign against Kerry, including President Bush himself.

Because of the huge mistakes of George Bush, many keen observers of events in America and the world generally desired a change in the White House. But Americans whose business it was to effect that change did not see Kerry as the man who will bring it about. Therefore, many of them took refuge in the trite saying that "the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know", and voted for the person they felt can out-match terrorists gun for gun, bullet for bullet, bomb for bomb.

There are some essential qualities of the major dramatic personae in America's presidential elections which deserve some comment not because Kerry and Bush were perfect gentlemen or that the America's electoral system is flawless. Both Kerry and Bush, being human (and politicians, for that matter) are far from perfect. Again America's electoral system is flawed in some respects and requires urgent reforms. Yet, inspite of the bitterness of the campaign and the problems in the system, John Kerry conceded victory to Bush who, in turn, despite castigating his opponent thoroughly during the campaigns, described Kerry as "an admirable honourable opponent". When Kerry saw that things were not going his way as the votes in Ohio were counted, he said matter-of-factly: "We cannot win this election."

Contrast this with his counterpart in Nigeria and you will notice at once why America is making progress little by little politically whereas Nigeria is still "in the learning process" since 1960. Granted that our own electoral system is more rudimentary than the American system, and that that makes it more prone to manipulation, Nigerian politicians generally are bad losers. Even before the votes are counted, allegations and counter-allegations about thuggery, rigging, etc will be heard everywhere. If the presidential candidate of Party A is winning, his opponent will not accept that he has lost.


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