Sometimes I’m not so sure what the point of democratic elections are.
After living in one of the largest democracies in the world all my life, I get more and more disillusioned with each passing year.
Why? Because each year the same pattern repeats itself. Endlessly.
This is especially true every four years when we go to the polls to elect our next President. Presidential candidates regularly make promises and pledges about what they can do to “fix” every problem afflicting us today.
One politician says he can “lower gas prices” and “turn around” the economy. But when asked how exactly the presidency can impact gas prices, you just hear more rhetoric about “turning around the economy.” It’s a circular argument. And a ridiculous one at that, since the President has no more influence on American gas prices in the U.S. as the Queen of England does. That is to say, there’s little a President can do on his or her own to change the price of gas at the pump.1
The same is true of the larger economy. We don’t live in the Soviet Union, where the government oversaw planning and exerted a large amount of control over their economy. We live in a free, capitalist society where the government has only marginal influence on the economy. American federal government isn’t at all like a big business — it’s like a big government, which is a completely different thing altogether.
From a psychological standpoint, I understand our human nature to want to believe these ridiculous things candidates say. We want a “strong leader” who can fix all of our modern problems.
But we don’t live in times where leadership strength is a guarantee for anything. In our system of government, bipartisanship is the only thing that gets actual work done. Without cooperation between our (largely) two party system, nothing gets done. So, somewhat ironically, the perceived strength of a President lies in the willingness of a Congress to cooperate through compromise.
About this point in time every four years, I simply get fed up at the ridiculous things both candidates say — both about what they can do, and what they say about their opponents. I tune out because all reasonable debate has now been thrown out the window in an effort to turn those handful of voters who haven’t yet made up their minds.
And I have to say that, if a week or two before the election, you are still “undecided,” you’ve got me at a complete loss. The two candidates have been talking about their positions for nearly a year now, so there’s no excuse for not having made a decision.
Whichever way it goes, you’ll find a democracy that will remain free, largely unchanged, and largely stuck in the same global economy morass that people around the world are experiencing. No single person can change things in a democracy (at least not any longer). That’s sorta the point of a democracy (versus, you know, a dictatorship).
We live in modern times, and it’s about time our understanding of the impact of one person — even if that person is the President of the United States of America — has on the world. It’s a lot less than some of us would believe.
- In fact, the U.S. is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer! [↩]