Archive for the ‘ Election 2012 ’ Category

Comparing elections: U.S. and Venezuela

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors voting internationally and advocates for honest and transparent elections. The United States has encouraged the OSCE in its missions, provides American monitors for elections in other countries and, in fact, has invited the OSCE to monitor our elections since 2002.

In 2012 presidential elections were held in both the U.S. and Venezuela. According to the Bipartisan Research Center the 2012 turnout was 57.5% of the eligible voters. The 2012 election was similar to that of previous elections, as reported in According to the New York Times the 2012 turnout in Venezuela was 80.5%.

The OSCE summary of the American election was generally favorable but did single out some areas for improvement, including voting rights, voter list accuracy, voter suppression by Republicans, campaign finance transparency, and recount procedures. The OSCE also noted what many other observers had commented on, that financing U.S. campaigns with huge amounts of private funds is a cause for concern for democracy.

The OSCE did not observe the 2012 election in Venezuela, but the Carter Center, also an expert organization in election evaluation, was there. The Carter Center has monitored 92 elections. Jimmy Carter, former American president, announced that Venezuela’s election was the cleanest of those the Center has observed. The Carter Center particularly praised Venezuela’s simple yet secure and transparent voting procedures.

American mainstream media claimed that the Venezuelan election was tainted by fraud and intimidation, but had little to say about defects in the American election.

Reports by objective election observers indicate that the Venezuelan election was better run and had more participation than that of the United States. Multilateral, independent observers are needed to counter the power and propensity of the mainstream media to mislead and provide a sound basis for improving elections in the United States as well as abroad.

What the last 3 presidential elections say about voter turnout

“Four more years!” reverberated intermittently throughout President Obama’s reelection speech. Let’s hope for four better years. That said, let’s also compare US voter turnout in an international comparison perspective.

Voter turnout, although having shown some increase in recent presidential elections, continues to pale in comparison to other advanced democracies–and also in humiliating comparison to countries like Iran. The total of American voters has increased every presidential election since 1996 carrying with it a consistent increase in those registered to vote. Voter registration dramatically increased by 25% between 2004 and the first time President Obama was elected in 2008. Still, as a percentage of those registered, only 70.33% turned out to vote compared to 86.08% (the highest since 1988) in 2004. By these figures we conclude that in spite of a 25% increase in voter registration, there was only a 9% increase in total votes.

Fast-forward to 2012. Hope for progress in voter turnout is projected to leave us disappointed. Voting expert Charles Gans projects that a decline in voter turnout in each of the 50 states. The results indicate that the US has little chance of improving its rank at 59th in voter turnout as a percentage of total voting population. The Obama campaign has survived what it considered a mandatory requisite for claiming the 2nd term. Preliminary figures suggest 3 million fewer voters. Arguments for compulsory voting and elections on non-work days seem to be the most suggested remedies.

For more statistics from the US set against comparable advanced democracies, including voter turnout as a percentage of those registered and women elected officials, visit’s Voting page.

The price of income distribution

We have all had our blinders on and carried our focus for Tuesday’s election (with tragic exception to Sandy and, hopefully, its indications concerning climate change). But before we resume full throttle in election reports with an international perspective next week, we offer a quick break from your Obamney monopolized newsfeed and towards the issue of income distribution.

In his review of Joseph E. Stiglitz’s book The Price of Inequality, Thomas B. Edsall cites culpability with both neoliberal and free market strategies, both democratic and republican parties. According to Edsall, the fundamental issue is

not only that inequality violates moral issues, but it also interacts with a money-driven political system to grant excessive power to the most affluent.

With the all-too-fine line between financial power and its influence on policy and elected officials, the affluent aim to perpetuate their position and status at the top with political demands to protect their ability to generate their money (by successfully fighting off tax hikes). Stiglitz and Edsall reveal the result: a far less efficient economic system that has discounted the contributions of (and even the opportunities to contribute by) those at the bottom of the system. As our income distribution page implies, there is a relation to the US’ position in income distribution (the GINI index) and our positions in child income poverty, Index of Health and Social Problems, and the Human Poverty Index, all in which we rank at the bottom among the 12 advanced democracies studied.

Dispelling the Obamney-China relationship

In previous debates, either candidate touted promises of his ability to to be “tough on China.” The tough rhetoric slowed to a minimum on Monday night, October 23rd, at the third presidential debate. Feedback from China of discontent may have been the catalyst, yet during the debate neither candidate could afford to be so forthcoming as to acknowledge that it’s not only in the best interest of the US from an international relations perspective to cool the rhetoric, but also that the US is unable to assume a superior position over China or to bully it. This is not to say the US are subordinate to China; rather, it’s a relation of codependence as articulated by Thomas P.M. Barnett in his article “The New Rules: Hubris Drives Mistrust in U.S.-China Relations.” To simplify it as an economic codependence (our trade for their labor) would be a gross misconception. Barnett investigates the relationship in terms of military and security, the meaning of the democratization of China and its effects on the US, as well as the US’ waning global prominence in politics or economic consumption. Barnett opines that the nature of the US-China codependence escalates both cautiously (albeit relatively quickly) and defensively as neither country can afford to give the other an upper hand in a seemingly paradoxical struggle that is delicate yet bearable. One thing’s for certain: although neither candidate can admit otherwise for the sake of his candidacy, “tough on China” rhetoric is a romantic glorification of our position in relation to our cross Pacific neighbors. Cooperation, codependence, and co-struggling is a more realistic appraisal of the situation for both today and the near future.

A look at Prop 37: California and the EU

Even though genetically modified (GM) food hasn’t yet been proven as hazardous, there’s plenty of reason to error on the side of caution and alert consumers with a label. California’s Proposition 37 would be one step closer to applying the logic of the precautionary principle–that a chemical is assumed hazardous until proven otherwise–, an application the US and the well outdated TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) has failed to execute, falling far behind other countries (95% of over 65,000 chemicals have yet to be tested at all here in the US as reported in the “Notes” section on our Environment page). Before entertaining the question whether the precautionary principle demands too much regulation, one should note that new chemicals are being synthesized at incredible rates and there’s little to nothing being done to inhibit them from entering into our every day lives (via our water at home, or even our bottled water, just as an example). Not only has the EU mandated GM labels for over 15 years (as well as Australia since 2000), but they have also banned thousands of hazardous chemicals with help from the application of the precautionary principle (compared to a mere five chemicals banned by TSCA since its induction in 1976). It’s about time that we not only depend on deeper enrichment of consumer knowledge and the power of the consumer’s dollar, but also introduce and implement a wider, further reaching application of the precautionary principle. Hopefully Prop 37 not only passes, but proves the first step of urgent progression in US chemical and food policy.

Awareness precedes change…

And we’re not the only ones talking about it. The US continues its fall from its potential and precedent as noted keenly by Arthur Goldwag in his article, seemingly regardless of who’s running for the White House. If we’re striving for true change, where should we turn? Goldwag’s insightful review of Howard Steven Friedman’s latest book, The Measure of a Nation, offers a blunt and empirical wake up call for the awareness that is needed if significant change is going to take place in order to turn America back from just a great idea and into execution. Noting from Friedman, Goldwag focuses on the lack of attention given to the poor, minority communities citing our negligence towards them as the reason why we’re so far behind in quality of life indicators such as education, voter participation, life expectancy, incarcerating, amenable deaths, health care, and other areas. To paraphrase Goldwag, incarcerating the minority is ignoring the problem when we should be more attentive to the community if we are to make a priority of making the US the best country it once was.