Wednesday, April 30, 2008

9:30 PM

US ambassador talk

The NY debaters were suddenly dragged out of class at 12pm to attend this talk at Temasek Junior College. This talk-conducted by US Ambassador to Singapore Patricia L. Herbold, was about the November 4 US presidential election this year.

Heard that the US embassy here has been very generous in donating books and videos to the TJC library. TJC even hosted several talks by speakers from the US embassy too. Yet I doubt NYJC has such a high-class privilege. At most some minster will come down to answer some questions of Singapore politics.

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So lets go into some of the stuff she talked about.

Look at the presidential seal man...

The first was a brief introduction of how the US presidential elections works. Usually, at the start of the elections year, several states would hold their primaries to gauge the extent of the support to a particular candidate. These primaries help to test candidates, flush out their opinions and encourages debates between them.

The media also goes into overdrive reporting on the debates. Some political pundits also jump into the fray commenting on the political scene and their take on who is most likely to get the presidency.

Some candidates also engages in negative campaigning. That is, they harp on the negative aspects of their opponents. Clinton initially did that but has largely scaled down because it threatened to backfire on her. Voters dun always like such stuff, after all, they want to know what will be done for their country, not what another candidate is poor in. Strangely, Obama is now adopting this tactic in frustration of those who were not swayed by his supposed "charm".

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Coming back to the electoral system, these primaries are a formal indicator of the extent of the support for a particular candidate.

The pictures of potential candidates at first. All knocked out, left 3 only.

Each state has a fixed number of electoral delegate votes that is allocated based on their population. So the idea is, win more votes, the higher chance of one being in the eventual front-runner for one's party. Once one candidate attains the milestone of 2025 votes, the race is over! As to the calculation of these votes, the Republican and Democratic Party differs greatly.

Republicans follow a winner-take-all approach. Where a candidate who has garnered the most votes in a particular state will win all the electoral delegates of that state. For eg, John McCain got the majority vote in Missouri so he got all of that state's votes. John McCain who has won the most votes is now the front-runner.

Democrats apportion their delegate votes by a proportionality-based system. So despite Clinton winning the popular vote in California with 52%, she will only get 52% of the state's votes and Obama got 43%. This is probably the reason why the Democratic race between Hilliary Clinton and Barack Obama is still a stalemate.

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In the past, the states of Iowa and New Hampshire are usually the first to hold their primaries. As their early results usually have a huge impact on later parts of the race, candidates focus most of their attention and funds to gain the best possible lead. This resulted in other states being neglected as the candidates having gained enough votes, could have viewed them as an acceptable loss or confirmed win.

States that are more kiasu, decided to hold their primaries ahead of the normal schedule.

This 2008 presidential race sees states wanting to attract more attention. Thus, they push forward their voting dates. This phenomenon resulted in a Super Tuesday on February 5 where the votes of 24 states are up for grabs in this one day. 2008 saw 32 states on or before holding their voting dates on or before Feb 5. In 2004, there were only 9 states. Really kiasu...

Then there is the issue of Super Delegates for the Democratic Party. They comprise of current and former party office holders. Since the race is still a stalemate, there is a high possibility that these 794 (current) super delegates on top of the 3254 electoral delegates will be the ones deciding the outcome. Is 794 people deciding the front-runner over millions of ordinary citizens fair? This is the debate that has to be addressed soon if a front-runner is still not established by the 2008 Denver Democratic National Convention.

After down to the final two from both parties, there will be a a series of debates between both potential presidents and vice-presidents. Then the American people will make their choice come voting day on November 4. The new US president will officially be sworn in on January 20 2009.

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This presidential election also ushers in the importance of technology in this new era. With tools such as the Internet being more easily accessible to the masses, its is very likely that voters will increasingly turn to this new tool to gain information over traditional sources like TV or radio.

No longer will candidates' ideas be constrained to those who attend their speeches. Live speeches and debates (which the media cannot always cover in full) can now be recorded in verbatim and posted on video-sharing sites like Youtube. The breaking down of geographical barriers further allows candidates to reach out to voters, the younger ones in particular.

This digital revolution of elections started in the mid-term 2006 House of Representatives elections and is set to be the mainstay for future elections to come. Websites set up in support for candidates now offer an alternative medium for them to raise funds and respond to attacks swifter and more effectively.

She said and I quote "The candidate that eventually wins the 2008 US presidential elections is likely to be the one that can combine technology with old methods of campaigning." This statement is likely to resonate in subsequent elections all around the world.

To end of, I am embedding the 1 of the 3 Youtube videos here which she showed us during the talk. I could not find the one mocking Barack Obama's policies with a Star Wars music background. I also could not locate the music video mocking Hillary Clinton on her Bosnia sniper fire recount, so the one below is a closest replacement I can find.

Please view these videos with discretion.



John McCain sings! Bomb Iran. (1:26)



Hillary Clinton exposed! (1:55)

That ends this post. Hope you have learned something meaningful about the "crazy" and complicated nature of the US presidential elections.

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