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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

No ‘Stability’ in U.S. Presidential Campaign

'Change' — not 'stability' — is the buzzword. I learned this after studying CNN and CBS reports on the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.

No matter how desperately I searched for 'stability,' my search efforts suffered a massive failure. I couldn’t find a single S-word in the campaign rhetoric of either Democrats or Republicans. All they talk about is change.

And change does not merely pervade the campaign rhetoric. It also characterizes the primaries dynamics.

Apparently the bovine stabilnist brand brought by U.S. spin doctors to one of Europe’s poorest countries has too few fetishists at home.

White House hopefuls shun the word ‘stability.’ Maybe it’s because their voters stick to a different diet?

"The numbers tell us this was a debate between change and experience, and change won," said CNN political analyst Bill Schneider.

"You came together as Democrats, Republicans and independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, we are one people and our time for change has come." (Obama)

"For most of this campaign, we were far behind," he said. "We always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out and you spoke up for change." (Obama)

Clinton, speaking with 96 percent of the vote in, portrayed herself as the candidate who could bring about the change the voters want.

Clinton had worked to convince Iowa caucus-goers she has the experience to enact change, while Edwards and Obama preached that she is too much of a Washington insider to bring change to the nation's capital.

Edwards, in a tight race for second, said Iowa's results show that "the status quo lost and change won."

"Now we move on ... to determine who is best suited to bring about the changes this country so desperately needs," he said.
Photo courtesy of AP


Anonymous said...

They are all trying to copy Obama, and Americans have, in political campaigns over the years, have been asked to "move the country forward," and to "change."

Even the British candidates use "change" a lot.

Spare change? (That, of course, refers to the panhandlers on the street requesting money from passersby."

Some quips from the political show so far:

- Who won the Republican party presidential debate? The Democrats.

- Hillary's new slogan: "will cry for votes."

A while back, it became fashionable to run as an "outsider," and to castigate all of those bad Washington insiders, and to portray oneself as good, and untainted with Washington evil, as a result of being an "outsider."

What has become funny is to watch Congressmen running as "outsiders," and promising to "change" things, or portraying themselves, as does Hillary, as "agents of change."

But, you are right - political campaigns of candidates in the US have NOT tended to promise resting on one's laurels (or on one's butt).

And I do not believe that there has ever been any campaign in the US in which a candidate has promised "stabilnist."

Anonymous said...

Somebody proposed this:

as the next format for a debate between Obama and Billary.

(In case you're wondering, it's from a Broadway musical - "Annie Get Your Gun", loosely based on sharpshooter Annie Oakley.)

DLW said...

Change of some sort is almost tautologically true in politics.

I am glad that Mitt's not doing well, as he wd definitely be a BushAdmin 3 sort of candidate.

But, trust me, part of the appeal of the First-Past-the-Post system in the US is that it leads to two parties dominating in what inevitability ensures significant stability for intere$t$ that can then hedge their bets.


Anonymous said...

I still think that Americans favor stability and reject change for the sake of change itself.

Hillary is a familiar face. She
is well connected, rich and powerful. Many Americans believe that a vote for Hillary = a vote for Bill. This is your Stabilnost'.

Other Democrats, especially young people 18-25, believe that she is
out of touch and corrupt so they favor the promise of Obama.

The international media loves Obama. Republicans cannot stand Hillary, and they may Obama the lesser of the two evils. This is ironic because Obama's politics is firmly on the lest while Hillary who is a pragmatist (looking for power through stabilnist').

In Iowa, she suffered a great defeat because it shows that she
is not invincible. But political analysts know this about her anyway. But the Iowa primaries are a largely symbolic test -- days later she takes New Hampshire.

However, because Hillary
is deeply hated by Republicans it is quite possible that she will be
a liability to the Democrats, whereas Obama would be a hero for them.

Hillary will attack Obama very brutally. The question is whether Obama will 'toughen' and launch
attacks on his Democratic rivals.

I'm glad that you are talking US politics considering that I never discuss it on my blog!

Anonymous said...

Two candidates which have been shut out from recent debates (as well as from mainstream media) are Ron Paul on the Republican side and Dennis Kusinich on the Democratic side.

Kusinich probably is the least for stability as he is for impeaching Bush, universal healthcare, re-negotiating NAFTA, pro-Union, anti-corporate, etc.


PS btw it is NOT only US spin doctors that advocate stability for others but also the US State Dept., the Pres., etc.

Michael Smetana said...

Thanks for that interesting point, I have been watching the CNN debates to get to know more about the candidates as Voting is really a serious issue.

It turns out, Barrack doesn't sulute the american flag, Hillary is just piggy backing her husbands leasure nature, Romney stapped dogs to the roof of his car to hose them down, and Mccain is too old to even attept to commit for more then 4 years (ALL There Own actions or Words)

If you asked me, maybe we should all look into other options, not just voting for the diaper of the depends. (figure of speech)

Painter Lyn

Taras said...

Thank you so much for your comments!:)

I never doubted that the two-party system has a certain degree of stability built into it. So, far from idealizing it, I merely wanted to note that the U.S. social contract, as distilled from the rhetoric of the two parties and from their voters’ expectations, differs substantially from ours.

Our tricky concept of stability/stabilnist, which substitutes servility for social mobility, cannot be observed on any U.S. political platform as an overt value proposition. Stability doesn’t sell in the U.S. Change does. That’s the reality of the marketplace. Of course, that demanding reality prompts some hopefuls to put as much change makeup as possible.

Anyway, whether it’s Democrats or Republicans who win, elections should bring some kind of change, shouldn’t they? The pendulum of public opinion should take its course, right?

In Ukraine, the sole purpose of stabilnist is to hold that pendulum still. Stabilnist serves as a societal sedative to preserve the status quo and to prevent the Ukrainian people from shaking the boat.

Luida, you’re right about the Pres. Unfortunately, his vocabulary has been infected with stabilnist. Maybe he’s been spending too much time with members of the Party of Regions over shyrka.

Michael, you’re awesome, man! You have a whole plantation of blogs:)!

Michelle said...

My American interpretation of what they are talking about when they use the word "change" in political speeches is this: Change the President from a Republican to a democrat. As in changing parties in power, not changing the ideas of what those parties stand for.

It's not a deep symbolic meaning, its just an easy way for a politician to make the point, "Let's change to a different party this time around when you vote for a President." Or in other words, "Vote for me not him/her!"

Anonymous said...

Taras, you are exactly right.

In Ukraine, the concept of stabilnist incorporates an all-powerful, oligarchical government, and servility of the people.

You don't see any people in the US kissing any candidate's hands.

The candidates bend over backwards to appear to the most competent and capable, the smartest, the most likeable, and above all, the most responsive to the wishes of the voters.

And the system in the US is not dependent on the whim of just one person, nor on the goodwill of an all-powerful benign magnate.

In Ukraine, there is still much dependence on personalities (благодарний меценат), because the system is rigged to keep oligarchs in their comfortable nests.

If Ukraine did not have people like Tymoshenko and Lutsenko and even Yushchenko, and the voters who support them, Ukraine would still be a Kuchma-type dictatorship.

Change is happening in Ukraine. I thought it would and should happen faster, but it is happening.

In New Hampshire, I still can't see how the vote can be characterized as a Hitlery win, or how it constitutes a "comeback."

The percentages of the vote were 39 to 37. They each got the same number of delegates to the nominating convention.

And the pollsters were wrong, just as they were wrong in Iowa (except for the newspaper poll in Des Moines.)

The pollsters were wrong, so Hitlery makes a "comeback"????? That makes no logical sense whatsoever, except to get the media pundits off the hook, since they swallowed those polls hook, line and sinker.

However, I am still having a tough time deciding who has a better time quipping about the candidates - people in the US or people in Ukraine.

DLW said...

Some intellectual history on political secularism in the US.

Here's a writing of mine about my idea for Project Democratic Renewal for the US.

I am a professor of Economics, with a strong interest in Christian Political Economy. I spent the past three years as a seminarian, during which I read and wrote extensively on matters of Faith and Politics. As a result of my studies, I have come to a commitment to a Baptist model for political renewal in the US. This is a Baptist model because it seeks to unite many people who disagree on many issues around one idea of great significance: that we need to give third parties in the US footholds on power so they can hold the main parties accountable and make them more dynamic.

This idea matters a great deal to me. Most of my peers are disillusioned with politics and I can understand why. I also don't want to put my trust, politically-speaking, in any particular party or candidate, regardless of their platforms/positions. I believe that instead we need to change the dynamics of the political system. I still want there to be two dominant parties centered around the "center", but I want this duopoly of political power to be contested by third parties. The goal would be to give influence, rather than power, to third parties that speak to the "center". (I use quotes here because I believe the center is an inherently dynamic category.) As a Christian, I believe that influence is more important than power. I also think we must remember that the early Christians were all political outsiders, so we should prefer modern-day political outsiders, or third parties, for our political activism.

But how can this be politically-feasible? Don't third parties simply spoil elections? Whether third parties are viable depends critically on the rules of the game of politics and the rules can be changed. Specifically, our state governments are where the rules of the game are easiest to change. My idea is to form pragmatic state-level coalitions of third parties and people generally unhappy with both main parties to change the rules of the game at the state level. The proposed rule change is to make state legislatures unicameral and with an election system closer to Proportional Representation. The change in the election system would be done in continuity with the current US system. We would divide up a state into 3-8 regions, depending on the geographic size of the state, and have proportional representation elections within each region. This would make it so that the number of legislators a party would get would be close to the percentage of the vote they received. This rule change would make it so that elections would not be "winner-takes-all" games and third parties would be able to get foot-holds on power. It would reduce the level of negative campaigning. However, the most important effect is that it would make both of the main parties more likely to take on the key issues of third parties who advocate for policy changes that have a wide appeal and limited opposition.

But how can this be politically feasible? We need to play political jujitsu , we need to use the power of the main parties against them to press for a change that will siphon off only a small fraction of their power. We need to focus on local grass-roots activism to get 8-10% of voters throughout a state, or whatever percentage is needed to decide state-elections, committed to voting in state-elections on this issue alone. To do this, we need to follow the model of the Baptist Movement in the 17th-19th centuries. We need to keep the idea simple so that it can spread with the help of the internet and existing third party grass-roots networks.

A first step might be to get a (state-level) third party to commit itself to the idea and then call on other third parties to join them. For though most third party supporters do not agree much with each other, they do agree that the system is currently set up to deny them a voice. The only way this situation will change is for there to be a change in the rules. However, in this time of general dismay with both main parties, it should be easier to get more people to get behind the idea of providing third parties more voice and voters more options. And, then once a critical mass, like 8-10%, is built up in a district, all of the supporters need to commit to voting for whichever of the main party candidates first publicly commits to the reform. They will then have the ability to determine the election outcome. If this is done successfully in a majority of the districts, it should be feasible to change the state constitution so the next election will be significantly different.

And, once this has been done in a couple of states, it will tend to catch on in more states and, at some point, states should be able to lobby successfully for the right to determine their congress-persons for the House of Representatives by the proportional representation method. This will reduce gerry-mandering and continue to increase the ability of third parties to hold the main party candidates accountable and make them more dynamic.

But will this induce political instability? Probably not. The goal here is not to make our elections free-for-alls. There are good reasons to have two dominant parties centered on the political "center" to ensure greater stability, so long as the center and political platforms of both main parties are more dynamic. For this reason, it will not be necessary to change the Senate's First-Past-The-Post voting systems. The existence of this rule in the Senate and Presidential elections and Duverger's law are what will guarantee that there will always be two dominant parties. However, third parties will still be able to wield more influence in first-past-the-post elections so long as they vote quasi-strategically.

To vote quasi-strategically is a strategy for a candidate/party who realizes at the end of an election that they are highly unlikely to get elected. Since they knew this might happen, they informed their supporters in advance that the day before the election that they may endorse one of the main party candidates 100%, 75%, 50%, 25% or 0%. The candidate sets out his or her critical issues and calls on their supporters to abide by whatever decision is made at the end of the election. The decision would be framed as follows: We want you to vote for us, but when you are in the voting booth, because we are endorsing candidate X by 75%, please flip a coin twice and vote for X if it comes up heads either time and only vote for me, otherwise.

The goal here, like with the above prescribed rule change, is to give marginal candidates more influence and to reduce the spoiler effect, for if Nader had endorsed Gore by 25% in 2000(even if Pat Buchanan had endorsed Bush by 25%) then Gore would have been elected instead of Bush and our president would have better reflected the will of the voters. This would make it so that third parties can play a significant role in elections, even when the rules of the game are stacked against their ability to get their candidates elected.

For if we are to be Christ-like, we must not focus on building up a political solidarity around "God's Politics" or trying to get "our people" into power. This reflects how Jesus Christ rejected the way of the Zealot or the capture of the state by "the righteous", as critical for the advancement of the kingship of God. Instead, we must focus on loving our neighbors and overcoming evil with love. However, a critical part of how we overcome evil with love is in how we participate in the ongoing remaking of the rules that govern us. We need to, in the context of our local communities, prayerfully form or join local and national movements, including third parties and/or factions working from within or with main parties, that will help to move the "center" so as to balance the promotion of sustainable wealth creation and its fair redistribution, especially with the eradication of extreme poverty in our world.

I welcome feedback to this letter and hope that people would share it with others. I personally believe that this is the way forward and, as stated above, am willing to put more faith in it than in any particular political party/candidate, regardless of their official positions on the issues. We need first and foremost to change the system so that the influence of $peech will be reduced effectively and significantly. If the rest of the world sees signs of democratic renewal in the US, it would also help us to distance ourselves from some of the very serious mistakes that we have made in our international manipulations (relations) in the past fifty-some years.

Taras said...

Wow!!! Here comes another DDoS comment attack!:) Thank you so much for your feedback!

Michelle, that's the pendulum of public opinion at work. But the two-party system, of course, makes a lite version of it and hinders core changes.

In Ukraine, they challenge the very idea of change. Instead, they offer stabilnist.

Elmer, I don’t have as strong a grasp of the U.S. primaries as you do. All I know is that you don't have as much stabilnist as we do here in Ukraine, and it's good for you:)

David, I'm still reading it:) The word "$peech" sounds apt to me.

Anonymous said...

ah ... the stabilnist' factor is a result of Ukraine's economic change.

In recent memory, the US experienced economic catastrophe only during the Great Depression -- the only time that compares to Ukraine and Central Eastern Europe in the 1990s.

Inflation of 1,400% occurred in Ukraine in the past generation. Stabilnist' is a political appeal to return to an non-catasprophic economic situation.

Interestingly -- to combat the Great Depression, the US launched its most liberal socio-economic program The New Deal. So you're right -- radical change over stabilnist'.

Still, I think a vote for a Republican or for Hillary is a vote for stability.

Taras said...

You mean 1,400 % per month? Here's a Wiki quote:

>>A 100,000 Ukrainian karbovanets (used between 1992 and 1996). In 1996, it was taken out of circulation, and was replaced by the Hryvnya at an exchange rate of 100,000 karbovanzi = 1 Hryvnya (approx. USD 0.50 at that time, about USD 0.20 as of 2007). This translates to an average inflation rate of approximately 1400% per month during between 1992 and 1996.

Pretty stable, isn't it? Here's the gallery.

I'm not an American, and I'm not willing to wish Americans what I'm not willing to subject myself to. So let me wish America what I wish Ukraine: change for the better.

DLW said...

Well, we got ourselves some competitive primaries and may have a pretty competitive gen. election, particularly if McCain Huckabee goes against Obama Edwards.

I don't think Romney's going to turn Mich and so he'll be effectively down for the count, though he might still keep spending some of his own money to stay in it. Giuliani has also been tanking and the Pub establishment is very afraid of a nasty campaign war between Giuliani and Huckabee. This cd render the party asunder and so I expect that Giuliani will be persuaded to quit sooner than later.

So unless a miracle happens that leaves McCain and Huck with McCain having broader appeal as a moderate and someone with much more foreign policy expertise.

I try not to get too caught up in the presidential politics, as I have a slight tendency to go a little overboard with such. I also want to put my faith in sustainable changes in my country moreso via ground-up changes than in top-down leadership.


Taras said...

I like the idea of sustainable changes. Sustainable changes, yes. Stabilnist, no.

Taras said...

>>Worries about the economy now dominate the voters' agenda, even more so than the war in Iraq, which framed the early part of this campaign. While change has emerged as an abstract rallying cry in the campaign debate, what the voters mean when they talk about change is clear — new approaches to the economy and the war, according to the poll. Issues that have loomed large in the Republican debate — notably immigration, taxes and moral values — pale by comparison. (Read the full article here.)

Anonymous said...

Technically, America is not a democracy, it is a representative republic. What this means is that the rule of law takes precedence over the rule of the majority. In other words, if a law was passed by a majority that conflicts with the US Constitution, the Constitution controls and the law is thrown out in the courts. Well, that is the way it is supposed to work, it doesn't always turn out that way.

A two party system has one main advantage over a parliamentary type of system, it leaves extremist ideas out in the cold. In a two party system, the candidates will always cater to the moderate center, where the most votes exist. A third party system means that a more extreme ideological candidate could win without a majority of the votes, because the two sane candidates canceled themselves out fighting for the same votes.

Obama has a real chance at winning it all, mainly because he is a relative unknown. He hasn't been in politics long enough to have any sort of detailed voting record. As a result, there is a lot of people who would be willing to take a gamble on him, when in fact they may have nothing in common with him as far as political views.

Hillary would have a tough go of it no matter who she is running against because there is so much anti-Hillary sentiment. There is a lot of people would would vote for anybody to keep her out of the White House.

Huckabee doesn't have a chance at getting the Republican nomination. His popularity is based solely on identity politics. Conservatives who vote based on conservative principals hate him with a white hot passion, because he has used his religion as a selling point and also supports a number of liberal policies.

McCain has sold out his party too many times for favorable media coverage. Republicans can't depend on him to hold the party line when the chips are down.

Mitt and Thompson are not dead yet. Mitt doesn't turn off anyone to a extreme degree on the Repub side and could in the end, serve as the compromise candidate that everyone could live with. Fred Thompson is the most principled candidate with respect to conservative doctrine and would probably be the most acceptable to all, but he can't seem to get any traction.

Taras said...

Thank you for weighing in, Jason!

From my Ukrainian perspective, the two-party system indeed leaves extremism out in the cold, but it also weeds out change.

In a stagnating duopoly, some hopefuls have to masquerade as agents of change to attract voters. So, if little changes after the masquerade, voter apathy will probably skyrocket. More people will stop voting.

And when people stop voting, you get a vicious circle — a snowball effect that squeezes the democracy out of the system.