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Which Presidential Candidate Should Americans Elect? Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The U.S. Presidential Elections of the upcoming week have once again brought to the public consciousness a host of relevant politics issues, such as American foreign policy and the state of the U.S. domestic economy, as well as highlighting the structure of the American political system itself. When considering the upcoming elections from the perspective of both policy issues and the structure of the American political system itself, in this regard perhaps it is the election of Barrack Obama that may be regarded as the most prudent choice, insofar as Obama’s general political platform is one that speaks more directly to some of the systematic problems that exist in American political life.

The political process may seem like a simple choice between individuals, but it is better understood as a choice between which political ideology should be selected. As Wilson and Dilulio observe, “to the voter it all seems quite simple – he or she votes for the “best person” or maybe “the least bad person.” To scholars it is all a bit mysterious. How do voters decide who the best person is? What does the “best” mean, anyway?” (253) The “mystery” of the decision process, in other words, is that “many people know rather little about the details of political issues.” (Wilson & Dilulio, 254) In the context of a democratic system, in which the citizenry decides on political leadership, such an ignorance of “political issues” threatens to undermine democracy itself: without an understanding of politics, it would seem that the voters, although their decision is legitimate from a legal perspective, has no politically-based rationality to support it. If we consider the general ignorance of the American population as a distinctive feature of the election process, as the academic literature suggests, it appears that in this case the selection of the best candidate has nothing to do with the opinions of the population itself: the popular opinion is completely distinct from the merits of a particular candidate. How can this situation be developed into an argument for a particular candidate, such as Barrack Obama? If some of Obama’s decisions have been deemed unpopular, we can suggest that popularity is not the measure of a policy’s legitimacy: rather, Obama is dealing with very difficult issues of which the general populace has only a minimum of understanding. In other words, Obama should be given the chance to continue to develop his policy, so that it may be seen whether it is eventually to bear fruit.

This is not to suggest that American politics operates in a cloud of ignorance. Polling is deliberately constructed so as to reflect attention to particular political issues, and not merely which candidate is “the best.” For example, the concept of “opinion saliency”, defined as “some people care more about certain issues than other people do” (Wilson & Dillulio, 157), show that there are definitive stands on political issues on the part of the public. But the point is that such definitive stands should not influence the political decision-makers, in the sense that they would switch positions: rather, it is more crucial for the health of democracy to have candidates that clearly hold to their positions on political issues, thus offering the populace a choice in terms of one candidate who represents one side of the issue and another candidate representing the other. This seems to be reflected in the respective political positions of Obama and Romney, who represent lighter and stronger versions of, for example, free market economic policy. This split on issues is further shown in the latest polls, which state that Obama only has a (0.2 percent in the popular vote – 47.4% to 47.2%. That would leave 5.4% undecided.” (Jackson) What is most striking about the current poll situation is the 5.4 undecided – how could there remain such a significant number of undecideds only days before the election? This once again suggests a certain ignorance regarding political issues, as these undecideds do not have a firm political ideology to cling to – they rather are selecting, it can be said, in terms of who they think is the better candidate on perhaps an individual level. How does this issue relate to the best presidential choice? In the case of opinion saliency and undecideds the choice for one candidate or another is simply either the preference for an issue or the preference for a character: these are individual subjective considerations. However, if we take an ideological perspective in which certain issues are salient, such as the opposition to tax cuts to the higher economic bracket, then Obama becomes a sensible choice.

In the American political system, therefore, there is a crucial distinction in the electoral process between the concepts of “prospective voting” and “retrospective voting.” In the case of the latter, one votes for a candidate “because you like his or her past actions in office.” (Wilson & Dilulio, 255) In the case of the former, a candidate is chosen “because you favor his or her ideas for handling issues.” (Wilson & Dilulio, 255) One can look back on the last four years of, for example, Obama’s regime, and then make a decision based on this experience. On the other hand, the two party system of the United States tends to reflect two precise worldviews: “prospective voting” therefore is the expectation that a given political party and the candidate that represents them will continue this same policy in the future. In the case of Obama, his economic plan related increasing social protections to the populace, a traditionally Democrat quality, would be an example of prospective voting: insofar as one supports this position, then Obama clearly becomes the best candidate.

Thus, any given American Presidential Election is not only a battle between two individual candidates, but also is a reflection of different political ideologies, as well as the reflection of our political system itself. Certainly, there does exist a certain ignorance of political issues, as cited above. At the same time, concepts such as certain issues being dear to the voter’s heart may determine choice, as well as affiliation to a particular party or experiences under a given President’s rule. The intelligent voter therefore must take account both their own political worldview and individual experiences, and this will vary from person to person; however, when considering the more socially inclined policy of Obama and the prospective expectation that he will continue with this policy in the future, the decision for the incumbent seems legitimate.

Works Cited

Jackson, David. »Obama-Romney: Too Close to Call.« November, 4, 2012. www.realclearpolitics.

Wilson, James Q. Wilson and Dilulio, John J. Jr., American Government. Bakersfiled, CA: Cengage, 2010.

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