No matter how well any outgoing US administration has run the country, the American people will still want change. Elected representatives in the US are like fads that wear off after a while – they remind me of frisbies, hoola hoops, bell bottoms and platform shoes. Americans have tiny attention spans and would be lost without something new to catch their fancy every now and then. The craving to have the latest of anything (including politicians) is manic.
I remember it being quite different in my country of birth, India. Not better, but different. Indians live by the proverb, ‘the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t’. Having long given up on truth, honesty and justice, members of the Indian electorate are a resigned and jaded lot, listlessly whiling away their days in a universe that runs parallel to the one in which their politicians and billionaires live. And just as Euclid had promised us that parallel lines can never meet, so is it with the Indian hoi polloi.
But in the US, clever marketing has saved the election process from the electorate’s apathy. American TV networks get off on scandals, leaks and opinion polls that help to keep ordinary Americans glued to their TV sets. Elections are too frequent – members of the House of Representatives (‘congressmen’) serve two-year terms and members of the US Senate (‘Senators’) serve six-year terms.
Elections to both houses are held every even year, thus ensuring an almost non-stop election campaign cycle. At any given point in time, an American somewhere in America is running for an election, promising to change the status quo, whether it needs changing or it doesn’t.
When he was moving into the Raj Bhavan after being sworn in as President, the late Prof Abdul Kalam, was asked whether he would like the drapes and furnishings replaced, since it was one of his lawful entitlements as President and had been the norm with his predecessors. Surprised, Kalam gracefully declined. He couldn’t understand why anybody would want to refurnish what was already a magnificent home, simply because he had the right to.
Citizen Barack Obama puts it succinctly…”Sometimes it is easy to forget that going from bad to worse is also change.”
(God, I’m missing the guy painfully).