Every leap year, a contest of intriguing intensity and rivetting rivalry unfolds which the world watches with interest and involvement. It’s a quadrennial quest for prestige and power.
I know what many of you are already thinking: ‘But dude, the Olympics ended last month itself. Why are you flogging it now?’
And to you thinking in this vein, my response is: “But dude, who is talking about the Olympics here?”
The thing I am on to is a bigger entertainment package: The American Presidential election.
When you sit down to analyse as to why America’s elections hold bigger attraction and get reported all over the world than, say, Burkina Faso’s, you can see two important factors emerging: 1) America is a great country. 2) Burkina Faso has a difficult spelling.
Haha. The real point is America is powerful as it is, and it also bestowed with the strategic geo-political advantage in the form of — I will use the technical word that foreign policy experts generally employ — Hollywood.
The impact of Hollywood is all-pervasive. I mean who can forget, to take a random example, the Marilyn Monroe skirt billowing scene in Seven Year Itch. It is such a powerful scene that you will vividly remember it even if you happen to have not seen the film. Because it happens to be one scene that every film world has copied in some form or the other at some point or the other.
It is not just others. Every one who runs for the American President post, I suspect, harbours the highest dream of serving the wonderful nation by, well, looking smart and stylish like Harrison Ford did in Air Force One
Aside from the Hollywood factor, one of the reasons why many of us are able to remember the American presidential election is that they have managed to establish, and follow, a concrete poll schedule there:
November of every Leap Year: Actual Presidential election.
The next three years and 11 months: Talking about the next election.
I mean, three years back around this time, American media was full of who will emerge to challenge Barrack Obama reports. The year after that it was whether Obama would be around to challenge any one. Last year, around this time, it was like if the challenge of Romney or anyone else be good enough for Obama or anyone else. This year, the reports are about whether Romney and Obama are up to the challenge.
(In India, we have newspaper headlines like: “Mulayam expects 2014 elections to be held in 2013”. Forget the poll calendar, such headlines make us wonder whether we have an actual calendar here or not).
The American Presidential poll is also easy to follow in the sense the battle is primarily between the Democrats and the Republicans, both of whom have managed to stick to their — quite unlike the opportunistic politicians elsewhere — basic ideology over the years. We sum up here, for your easy consumption, the core principles that the two parties very dearly hold on to:
Democrats: Oppose Republicans.
Republican: Oppose Democrats.
In that sense, the Democrats and the Republicans are more or less like our own Congress and BJP, but the main difference being that they manage to oppose each other in a civilised way, by which I mean, both wear nice blue suits.
The thing that sets apart the American Presidential campaign from poll exercises elsewhere is the famous televised debate, in which the contestants powerfully and patiently put forth their views on various subjects confronting the nation, thereby helping the public to find the answer to the most important question that is at the core of the entire exercise: ‘How good the (future) President looks on television?’
Another thing that the American public look for in their President is he/she should come from a close-knit happy family, which in normal language is: Must possess a cat or dog that should lend itself to warm stories when the President’s PR rating gets low.
Administratively speaking, in the American system, each party’s presidential candidate also chooses a vice presidential nominee to run with him on the same ticket. While the President focuses on the larger issues of the state, the job of the Vice President is, as historically summed up by the ever popular Dan Quayle: “One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is: ‘to be prepared.'”
While we are on Dan Quayle, it is only fair that we point out that he not only bravely soldiered the responsibility of the Vice President, but also carried on the onerous task of being the country’s first legally elected stand-up comedian.
As America sets out in search of a fresh start, it is apt that we end with Quayle’s words summing up the quintessential belief of ‘Americans all over the world’ today: “The future will be better tomorrow.”