US elections expose deep woes of democracy

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/4 22:43:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

The recent e-mails released by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton under the Freedom of Information Act and others stolen from the Democratic National Committee, posted on WikiLeaks in two successive batches, have left some questioning the values of American democracy. The Global Times selected three experts' view on this phenomenon.

Electoral farce invokes Twain satires

By Teng Jianqun

Presidential elections are undoubtedly a major event in US political life. For a long time, it has been considered as a "role model" of global democratic politics and serves as the building blocks of US-style election cultures.

But in US history, no presidential campaign was as mysterious and vociferous as the one this year. The breakout of the "e-mailgate" enables people to realize the woes of US democracy. To meet their purposes, candidates would resort to every despicable means, including hiring hackers to steal confidential documents, so as to knock down their rivals.

The e-mail scandal revealed that the Democratic National Committee favored Hillary Clinton, disparaged Clinton's rival Bernie Sanders and discredited Republican candidate Donald Trump

Trump called his rival Clinton a crook. Nevertheless, he is no better.

Trump knows well the "art" of election and how to maneuver to beat his rivals. When competing with Senator Ted Cruz, he fanned the flames of doubt over Cruz's citizenship. Then he claimed that Cruz had five secret mistresses. He even shared a photo featuring both his wife and Cruz's wife on his Twitter account to insult the appearance of Cruz's wife.

More than 100 years ago, US novelist Mark Twain slashed the nasty US democratic politics. But today, the farce is still going on.

The only difference is that there was only newspaper during campaigns at that time, while nowadays candidates can employ hackers to attack the e-mail accounts of their rivals or spread rumors via social networks. Morality has become the last thing they will stick to in election politics.

Fake competition and absurd elections are only the epitome of the incurable US politics. Even if a candidate beats the others and becomes the president, he or she will not be the one that leads the country forward. He or she can be no more than a leader who tries to balance the interests of all sides and who serves to maximize his own interests.

As such, it is no surprise that when Trump appeals to poor white voters' sense that they've been cheated, the Wall Street panics. Similarly, the occurrence of "e-mailgate" can be of no surprise.

The author is director of the Department for American Studies, China Institute of International Studies.

Candidates shackled by populist demands

By Wang Xuedong

The presidential election system was set up by the US founding fathers that mostly advocated political elitism, which can be found in The Federalist. Even the third president Thomas Jefferson, who stressed the power of state, believed in elitism. They believed that the direction of politics should be designed by those with prominent capability, a sense of responsibility for the public and noble morality. The whole set of US-style democratic process, including presidential elections, was an epoch-making landmark at that time.

To prevent future elections from deteriorating into a political farce, these founding fathers laid down representative democracy - the electorate vote to avoid political performers taking power. However, they would not have imagined that the fast development of the world and the transformation of technologies brought many problems.

Today, the US elections have become a political show where the US political elites relentlessly perform to attract the public attention. The public, while indulging in politicians' squabbling and empty promises, has ignored the essence of democratic politics.

Those who can become presidential candidates are extraordinary figures. But in this contemporary era, these figures are more like eagles with their feet locked in leg-cuffs and feather being plucked. The electorate only focuses on whether their muscle is firm and feathers pure instead of how high they can fly. Unfortunately, eagles without feathers are no different from fat chicken.

Actually, the US elections are a war of words. The Western-style elections have upgraded, or degraded, to denouncing and criticizing between candidates. Whoever wins will take power in a disgraceful manner, be it Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

All in all, the US-style democratic system cannot fit the times or lead the international trend. Rather, with political elitism at its core, the system has catered to populism. The eruption of the "e-mailgate" is inevitably under this political logic. While democracy stresses fairness, how can US democracy represent fairness when the elections are manipulated?

Everything evolves by bringing forth the new through the old. If the US-style democracy stands still, its prospects will be worrying.

The author is deputy dean of Institute of Advanced International Studies at the Sun Yat-sen University.

Cash plays corruptive role in Washington

By Ding Yifan

A bestseller in the US in 2015 pointed its finger at the Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton, the former US president was found to have little money when he left office due to various scandals.

Peter Schweizer, an investigative journalist and author of the book, claimed that Bill Clinton's fortune rose to $136.5 million from 2001 to 2012, which he commanded from his speeches and which Schewiezer says was donated to his foundation by foreign entities.

It is not rare that US politicians leverage their power to make money out of it. But it is still astonishing that the Clinton Foundation could accumulate wealth so quickly.

It is not exclusive to Democrats. Schweizer claimed that senators in both the Republican and Democratic parties would extract money from businessmen and enterprises.

The money may also be used to buy some political positions.

For instance, if a senator wants to get the position in a particular committee of the Congress, he must raise money for his party.

Politicians view such deals as investment, because the position in some committees is important and people in charge can receive more campaign funding from companies or merchants when reviewing their projects; therefore, the funds raise for the party is deemed reasonable.

US electoral politics is a kind of systematic corruption and under-the-table dealings. US political scientists have been advocating that only multi-party systems can prevent corruption because the opposition can supervise the ruling one.

However, such views cannot withstand the test of history. In recent years, although the Republican Party and the Democratic Party keep checking and balancing each other and the government and the Congress are dominated by different parties, corruption has been constant.

This shows that multi-party systems cannot curb corruption. Western democratic politics and electoral politics are synonymous with corruption.

The author is a Yiyang chair professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Posted in: Columnists

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