Putting Democracy to the Test
BERKELEY- A few months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, rumors suggested that Iraqis would soon vote “democratically and freely” for the first time in decades. We were confused. The only experience we had in voting was in two referendums to decide whether Saddam Hussein should stay the “only leader and the hero of the Arab nation” in Iraq. That, of course, was more of a joke – and a day-off – than a true political experiment.
In the months leading up to the January 2005 elections in Iraq, political campaigns flooded our country. Politicians rallied to sell themselves and we, Iraqis, listened carefully, spending hours analyzing their positions. When many risked their lives to vote on Election Day, we were at least informed.
Democracy is exhausting, but twice more, Iraqis have taken it seriously — for the constitutional referendum in October 2005 and the parliamentary elections in mid-December.
And, this is where our two democracies differ sharply. Here, in the full democracy of the United States, where Americans have lost thousands of men and women to violence around the world and the “war on terrorism,” it’s shocking how few citizens make use of freedom of speech and “democracy.”
A few weeks ago, I attended a forum in Tracy, California in which Democrat Jerry McNerney, and the incumbent, Republican Congressman Richard Pombo presented their platforms. During the session, people applauded their candidates, booed each other and showed nothing but stubbornness. No one demonstrated any willingness to listen and to think about the other side. At the end of the session, I failed to understand the point of having the debate-like session.
I understand that the polls suggest the Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives, but I find it hard to believe and don’t.
If the forum in Tracy was any indicator, Democrats will always vote Democrat, and Republicans will remain with their party. The only chance for a change remains with the few who are open to voting for the other party and in my judgment, it’s too few to make a difference.
It is true that Americans enjoy freedom of speech and democracy, but do they have the “people’s power” to affect the decision-making process?
When the talk about a possible attack on Iraq was rumored after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration turned a deaf ear to the opposition. For its part, the media worked to prepare the public and gain support.
Because the administration was insistent that it was going to launch its second major military involvement in the Middle East since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Americans had no choice but to read and listen to how the media reasoned the war on Iraq.
I was in Iraq when the last U.S. presidential elections were held and American friends told me then that it was a chance for Americans to correct the mistake and change governments. Did they? No. Instead, they bought, again, the promises of a more secure United States and “significant” number of U.S. troops coming home from Iraq by the end of 2006.
The political debates and discussions we see now, I believe, will change nothing.
People have already made up their minds. They already know who they will support. No matter what mistakes were made by the Republicans, very few of their supporters, if any, are going to the polls on Nov. 7 to demonstrate their anger and vote for a Democrat.
The nearing midterm election on Nov. 7 is nothing but a “democratic” practice people will enjoy, especially those who just turned 18, because it is their first time to toss the paper into the box or press the screen.
Even if the Democrats won the midterm elections this year, those hoping for a political change in the United States have to wait until the next presidential elections. It is then when the average American will have another chance to make a difference; Another chance to be a decision maker.