Izzy Westbury – Yes
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of any big election cycle, but the US elections are like no other. Vicious publicity campaigns, widely televised debates, and a commanding presence in world affairs (whether we like it or not) mean that the US elections are the most anticipated the world over. But is there any real substance behind this fanfare? Does it really matter who wins and who loses? The answer is a resounding yes.
First let’s look at the impact within the US. Obama’s universal healthcare system is an obvious place to start. Romney isn’t a fan, as he has made clear from the outset, and he wanted to do his best to reverse some of the key areas of this policy. Had he been President, his success or otherwise would depend on the make-up of the Senate and the House, but with big insurance companies already preparing their lobbies, a lot of time and energy would undoubtedly have been channelled into this particular policy area. A victory for Romney would have most certainly mattered to millions of Americans whose insurance plans would have changed overnight – and healthcare, surely, matters to everyone?
The economy was the other defining feature of the US elections, with taxes, the debt ceiling and bank bailouts grabbing the headlines. The short-term consensus is that it didn’t matter much who wins or loses, but if we look at the long-term differences, then it’s a whole new picture. Obama and Romney had contrasting plans on how to get the US out of recession. One advocated increased spending and high taxes; the other wanted lower taxes and reduced regulations. Whether Obama’s will work is yet to be seen, but either way their plans strike a startling contrast with effects that will resonate among every American and beyond. Remember, the 2008 mortgage crisis started in the US, and you can’t say that that didn’t affect a few more people than Americans themselves.
I’ve barely space to touch on other key issues that would have been dealt with completely differently by Obama and Romney: military spending, civil rights and the environment (one key area often neglected in US politics).
These domestic differences aside, the fact remains that globally, the USA is still the dominant power. For the UK in particular, the US is our most important political and trading partner, and we shouldn’t underestimate the symbolic effect of a strong relationship between the leaders of both countries (Mr Leader anyone?).
Ultimately each candidate had very different paths they wanted to lead America down, and we can’t honestly believe that this didn’t mean anything.
Sarika Sharma – No
The time to be on the edge of our seats for a US election is over, because the time for subscribing to the myth of American exceptionalism is over. Thanks to its poor leadership, the rest of the world can no longer blindly follow the US, the country responsible for the global banking crisis and two major wars that resulted in primarily civilian casualties. The lofty days of the New Deal and Cold War leadership are gone: this is a new epoch.
The US was a superpower that claimed global hegemony on a political, economic and moral basis. But it is now in decline, and time is running out. Though it remains the largest economy in the world, growth is stagnating and unemployment is at a record high. Its grip on global economic power will soon be usurped by the likes of China, India and Brazil. Britain has taken a lead by distancing its self from the US and, already, many nations are seeking to do business with China and invest in the potential of Africa.
The US is held up as the cornerstone of the world’s democratic society, but its moral high ground in global politics is unfounded. Liberty and democracy are not evident in America’s political and election process. It doesn’t matter how the majority of US voters vote: democracy is stunted by the two-party stranglehold. Other candidates who try to participate, like the Greens, are excluded. Then there’s the sheer cost, estimated at $6 billion, which enables corporations to have candidates under their thumbs. Finally, consider the fact that no matter how slim the majority, all electoral votes in a state are given to the winning candidate. How far can an election result matter under those circumstances?
‘Obama is not the saintly polar opposite of Romney’ Many believe that victory for Obama will mean more of the same, while Romney would mean that the US veers down a more conservative road. Actually the candidates differ very little in their policies. When you take a closer look, Obama is not the saintly polar opposite of Romney. He is also strongly allied with big business and against trade unionist and labour agendas. And on international issues that really matter, Obama’s record on civil liberties and environmental policies are disappointing to say the least, lagging far behind European nations. Is he as far removed from Romney in these areas as he claims? That is not to say there is anything wrong with taking an interest in the US elections. Obama’s victory speech alone was worth watching for his blockbuster oratory. But let’s not over-inflate the importance of this event: these elections don’t matter as much as everyone would like them to.