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Can someone explain to me in simple terms. USA elections

415 replies

ihatethecold · 31/08/2012 07:44

What are the main differences between Obama and romney?
Is Obama like labour and Romney like very right conservative?

Why does Romney say he will get rid of the healthcare bill that Obama brought in.

Did it not work?
why wouldn't you want people without insurance to access healthcare ?

OP posts:
nooka · 31/08/2012 08:07

First you need to now that politics in the US is generally much further to the right than the UK. But yes Romney is a Republican and so on the right hand side, and Obama is a Democrat and therefore to the left. Essentially Republicans believe that the government should be smaller and stay out of people's lives. Ethically they often appear to believe that not being able to look after yourself is a moral failing. They are also very heavily influenced by conservative Christians (religion has a very strong presence in American politics) so their policies tend to be anti gay and not very women friendly (to say the least).

Romney is interesting because he is a Morman (not felt to be true Christians by many Americans) and in government was actually fairly moderate - the healthcare plan that Obama introduced was actually based on one developed in Massachusetts whilst Romney was a governor there.

The dislike for the healthcare bill is ideological, it's felt to be the state being intrusive plus I think there is a strong feeling that providing a safety net means that people will opt out of taking responsibility for themselves. Plus a general feeling that the poor deserve everything they get fr not working hard enough.

dreamingbohemian · 31/08/2012 08:18

There's a great line in the West Wing where someone says that if the Republican Party were in Europe, it would actually be three different parties. It's made up of wealthy people who want low taxes and not too much social welfare; conservative Christians who are anti-abortion, anti gay rights, anti-evolution, often anti-women generally; and now more and more libertarian types who want as small a government as possible. The problem for Romney is he has to try to appeal to all these people at the same time, which is why sometimes he ends up disowning things that he used to promote, like his healthcare programme.

It's really hard to explain American opposition to the healthcare programme. Part of it, which gets overlooked, is that people generally don't like big changes. Imagine if they came in and radically overhauled the NHS, some people would oppose it even if theoretically it would be better for them.

The healthcare programme does not give everyone free universal healthcare or anything like that, it merely requires everyone to buy insurance (with some help available) which should theoretically improve things eventually. But until that happens all people see is that they have to start spending more money, that the government is forcing them to do something.

American politics doesn't really make a lot of sense to other countries, but at the same time all the worst parts get played up and hide the fact that it's not that different also.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 31/08/2012 09:28

In UK political terms, Obama is more like the Coalition and Romney is somewhere right of the BNP. The Democrats are often tagged as 'socialist' but they make even New Labour look like a bunch of hard left radicals.

I remember seeing a CBS round-table discussion when Clinton was in office and Hilary was trying to push through measures to improve access to healthcare. Public healthcare systems such as the NHS were mentioned and one Republican contributor was having serious trouble grasping the concept. "You mean?... if everyone got sick all at once?.... the state pays for them all to be treated?... no matter what?" Even the Democrats round the table thought it was a little far-fetched.

MrJudgeyPants · 31/08/2012 10:45

As things stand, in America, a healthcare package is often given as a perk of being in work. Therefore, for the majority of people who are in work, healthcare isn't much of an issue - it should be recognised that, for those that do have access to healthcare, American hospitals are amongst the best in the world.

What many Americans do object to, and this alludes to what nooka said about the political landscape being much further to the right than in the UK, is the idea that those in work are taxed to pay for the healthcare needs of those that don't work. For the vast majority, the status quo is more than good enough - Anything that risks lowering the standards of healthcare across the board will be resisted.

niceguy2 · 31/08/2012 11:26

I agree with everything said so far.

American's believe passionately it's not the government's job to look after you and you are responsible for yourself (and your family).

In Europe we generally are more left leaning and believe the government should provide a safety net.

dreamingbohemian · 31/08/2012 11:37

To be fair, a lot of the anti-government sentiment in the US stems from our founding mythology and recent history -- not just a lack of caring for the less fortunate.

The US only exists because there was a rebellion against British tyranny (sorry Smile) and it's left a strong streak of 'you can't tell me what to do' in American culture. Then we spent much of the 20th century in a cold war with the Soviets, which was largely justified to the American people on the basis that they were Orwellian tyrants and (closely linked) mass murderers.

I don't agree with the anti-government thing but it's not as simple as Americans not wanting to take care of each other -- Americans do far more charitable work than Europeans, for example. I think mostly it's just an almost Pavlovian response for a lot of Americans, government = unwanted and unnecessary authority.

ihatethecold · 31/08/2012 12:02

Thanks guys. Can I ask another question?
What are each sides main policies?
Will voters really still vote for someone who sounds so backwards in his thinking on women, gays, abortion etc?

OP posts:
TheCunningStunt · 31/08/2012 12:11

I really hope they won't vote the republicans. They are so backwards it's really scary

dreamingbohemian · 31/08/2012 12:11

Some people will vote for him because of his backwards thinking. That's why he says such things, to get votes. He used to be the governor of a really liberal state so either he was lying then to appear normal or he's lying now to appeal to his base.

Other people will vote for him even if they don't agree with that stuff, because he still seems like a better option than Obama.

In some ways their policy differences are standard left/right split, for example the Republicans would give bigger tax cuts to the wealthy, the Democrats would try to get more benefits for the worse-off.

But there are added American aspects, for example I think Romney is at least pretending to be more skeptical about climate change, many Republicans want to outlaw abortion in all cases, etc.

monsterchild · 31/08/2012 12:19

people will vote for the person they most identifywith. Just as you may not agree with everything your candidatestands for but you think they are better thanthe others.
Critiquing Winona rights trump the rights of a zygote, or if you think health care isn't as important as lower taxes you might choose Romney even if you don't like his plan for corporations

monsterchild · 31/08/2012 12:21

I personally think that there's a lot of racial undertones in the election too. Some of the vitriol just seems over the top!

niceguy2 · 31/08/2012 12:53

What are each sides main policies?

Erm as far as I am aware the main policy from Romney is:

"Obama's rubbish, vote for me and I'll be better."

And Obama's main policy is:

"Romney's rubbish, vote for me. I'm better"

There is very little actual real substance that I've read. The usual stuff about who can create the most jobs, general waffle on deficit reduction without any detail on how.

The problem is that neither side are brave enough to make the changes over there which are sorely needed to tame their deficit. Their day of reckoning will come but since they are still the biggest economy in the world and the world's reserve currency, they are in a better position than Europe.

This election will be fought over personality, not policies.

monsterchild · 31/08/2012 13:09

Do you mean main eco nomic policies? Most of what gets reported are social policies because they are more Devisive.
I'm not surethey knowthey can give firm answers because it will turn on how senate and house elections go as well.for the last for years there's been a a stalemate and little can get passed
Sorry for poor spacing phone is being stupid

CogitoErgoSometimes · 31/08/2012 13:09

They only sound backward thinking to us anything-goes, tightly-packed Europeans but you have to remember that America is a great big place full of wide open spaces dotted with isolated communities that regard anything beyond their own county/state line as 'foreign' and therefore deeply suspicious. Lob in a big dollop of religious intolerance and a passionate attachment to firearms and a visiting Taliban wouldn't feel entirely out of place. Confused

violathing · 31/08/2012 13:20

Vote for the Preston who you identify with so how did George w bush get elected. He was dreadful don't been know whether he is R or D

monsterchild · 31/08/2012 13:30

Violating, trusts a whole different thread! But people liked him more than Kerry is the short answer. I'm not touching the whole voter fraud madness

violathing · 31/08/2012 13:43

George bush was a total idiot how on earth he got to be president I will never know!

niceguy2 · 31/08/2012 14:16

so how did George w bush get elected

Because in the US there are only really two parties. And the split is pretty even. Most elections are decided on a swing of a few percent.

Most of the electorate (like ours) will vote for their party regardless of whom is in charge. Chuck in hundreds of millions of dollars of PR, spin etc and even Forrest Gump could look a good presidential candidate.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 31/08/2012 15:23

There is probably a survey showing that a sizeable percentage of US citizens think Gump actually was president but that the information has been suppressed along with the truth about the moon landings and the aliens in Area 51....

HmmThinkingAboutIt · 31/08/2012 15:34

First bit to understand; the US is split between the coasts and the bit in the middle. The bit in the middle is massive generalisation coming up religious and unexposed to the rest of the world and the coasts are a lot more used to immigration and diversity. Its a huge divide. The coasts are traditionally vote Democrat, the centre votes Republican.

Second bit; every election generally is either characterised by a focus on foreign or domestic policy. Foreign policy focus generally comes at times of prosperity and war. Domestic policy generally comes in times of economic hardship. At the moment the issue is the economy so America is very inward looking. The rest of the world tends to become a lot less important. It might not be something they can afford to do in 2012 though as technology and world economics mean its more difficult for the US to be isolationist - not that it stops some politicians trying.

The Democrats are nothing like Labour. Labour and socialism is looked upon suspiciously by Americans as being authoritative and controlling. Unions are regarded as communist. Its worth pointing out that during the height of the Cold War, talk about unions could have got you arrested in the US as they had a witch hunt against anyone expressing views to give workers rights due to their paranoia about the Soviet Union. I wouldn't say that the Democrats were like the Coalition - the Coalition is still too liberal leaning - it is still a big deal for Obama to make pro-gay comments, whereas even though some MPs can be backward on that issue, they would be expected to be more PC. The Democrats probably sit slight to the right of the Tories on their own.

As for the Republicans; well they are suffering from something of a crises of identity at the moment and are being pulled by one half of the party who were generally more interested in economics and one half of the party being crazy lunacy religious fundamentalists who want to blow the rest of the world up for not obeying them (And frankly I'm not exaggerating when I say that).

Romney is also a bit of an outsider due to his religion. He's a mormon. Ignorance does make some voters suspicious of him. But he probably sits in the more to the middle of the Republican Godsquad compared to a lot of other party members and voters. He was Governor of Massachusetts so he is a Republican with appeal to the more liberal elements of US society. Republicans generally want less government involvement in every day affairs than the Democrats - which is why they are often supported by big business. This is where Romney really fits in. His father was a business man and politician and he followed this.

As a whole its definitely correct to say the Republicans are to the right of the BNP; how far to the right generally is proportionate to how much you believe in creationism - some members of the party would have a lot to talk about with a member of the Taliban at a dinner party.

But this split in the party is also their big weakness. There are some traditional Republicans who are alarmed by the extreme right of the party. Romney's comments about the Olympics were telling and have troubled Americans about his lack of diplomacy and inability to deal abroad - something thats really important especially at the moment when the economy is the big issue. His appeal to the more liberal areas of America will be down to how he is trusted with business and how scared they are of the Looney Tunes; if they think he's too much of a diplomatic liability or they think the Looney Tunes have too much power/influence it could be Romney's downfall.

With regard to economics, amount of government intervention is the key point. The idea of the American Dream that is reward through hard work is the underlying principle. Therefore if you don't deserve reward if you don't put in the effort. Having benefits undermines this work ethic according to Americans and it makes you dependant on the state rather than self sufficient. Its a fine mentality to have if you have status and money, not so much if you don't. The hard work ethic is reflected in attitudes to employment law and legislation - workers have far fewer rights than in the EU. The US argue that this makes their labour market more flexible as they can hire and fire at will and not have to go through due process like here. Its actually proved to be fairly true; although the US suffered a lot more unemployment, they've been able to recover from that a lot more as its not so much of a commitment for an employer to recruit someone new. This is an issue that has been high on the agenda; a couple of the Republican candidates for the presidency took a very strong line on this and have track records of eroding the already poor rights of workers even more in the States they represent. Its popular with employers and business.

Those at the bottom of the pile, don't have much say in politics though. Historically blacks and the working class were far less likely to vote at all than the middle classes; in part because the candidates don't even campaign on issues that benefit them and instead pander to the middle classes. Its a little bit different with Obama; his colour was a big issue as it represented a break from this - he'll be judged this time on whether he has actually delivered. Obama's problem is more likely to be getting black voters to just turn out to vote this time especially in the swing states of the South like Florida if there has been some disillusionment over this term - particularly since it has been a period of weakness economically.

So Obamacare is a HUGE issue.

Then the parties have a few issues which are particularly important and we don't understand at all here; gun law and abortion being the two that spring most to mind. Here, all reason is very often lost in a sea of bollocks and hysteria. damn straight I don't get these issues!

And finally, in this rather crap summary of US politics there is presentation over substance. The slick media campaign over anything actually vaguely political. Romney is 65. Obama is 51. Since JFK, the candidate who was younger and looked better on TV has won.

Romney needs to invest in some JustForMen.

GetOrfAKAMrsUsainBolt · 31/08/2012 15:54

This is really interesting reading, thanks everyone.

AlderTree · 31/08/2012 16:25

Thanks, I like this. Nonsense explanations. However do you not think it strange that a good proportion of a country that does not like its government to interfere with its daily life on healthcare etc is quite happy to do whatever, god or should I say, whatever the church interprets that god wants them to do. A bit worrying really.

AlderTree · 31/08/2012 16:29

That should say no no nonsense explanations. Sorry.

HmmThinkingAboutIt · 31/08/2012 16:53

I think its REALLY important to note there are TWO Americas.
Obamacare is perhaps the issue that shows this divide the most and that provokes a very emotional debate from both sides of the coin. They are so different its hard to really understand how they can possibly work together and compromise.

And its been proven in this term that this is an issue and they are becoming even more different and there is a greater and greater unwilling to compromise. When they had to get agreement to extend national debt or they wouldn't have been able to pay the bills, the Crazy Right really did hold a gun to the heads of the Democrats and Obama AND their own party.

It alarmed people that the nutters are getting too much power; even those in the Republican party as they weren't willing to budge an inch with their own party's position for the benefit of the nation. A lot of people regard it as brinkmanship too far.

Some people suggested at the time this was the height of the Tea Party's power and they wouldn't be able to do it again as a result; but that does remain to be seen. If Romney does get into power could he keep them in line and not be dictated to?

Its a question that is liable to come up a few times in the course of the Election I feel.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 31/08/2012 17:20

@Aldertree... isn't 'In God We Trust' the official motto? :) Unlike a government who might force you to pay tax towards schools or welfare cheques (bad), dear old god will only ever gently encourage you to give your money, on an entirely voluntary basis, as an insurance policy against hell-fire & damnation, to a shiny-suited homophobic, evolution-denying evangelist. No contest

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