The 2006 congressional elections

Both the US 2004 presidential election and the 2006 congressional elections have a varying element of success and failure. Neither were perceived as being meticulously planned as both had flaws. Just before the 2004 election the white house staff grew from a small informal group of advisors into a large management institution backing Bush. Also the establishment of the executive office of the president, and the chief executive himself had come to be perceived by both the public and principal governmental actors as the central figure in the federal government. Alan suggests that the shape and role of the white house staff was a reflection of Bush's personality. Bush was very passive in his approach to the white house staff. He was not passive with regard to his presidency or public policy; Bush's administration was a very active one. Bush would set a direction and his aides would see it happen, he was interested in outcome and did not concern him self with details. Part of his passiveness was due to his uncritical trust in whatever people told him or what he read. (Loven, 2005, pg13) The Bush presidency in many ways was different and in many ways unique to the modern presidencies which he was keen to highlight during the 2004 presidential campaign. The Bush administration provided unique perspective on what in and is not in public policy and also presidential leadership. The administration stood out by virtue of the chief executive’s ideological closure; Bush had a tendency to act on his principles, and his success in doing so and the consequences of his success in transforming ideology into policy. (Crotty, 2005) It has been suggested that no other president has come to office that offers a remotely comparable career of making public an ideologically consistent commitment to a political philosophy. Not only had Bush been more devoted to and more uncompromising in his political agenda than have previous presidents, but he has also departed from conventions in the kinds of stands he took. Bush's abstract positions on many issues were not centrist, even though at strategic times he had taken pains to avoid divisiveness by practising the art of the possible and by dealing with adversaries in a conciliatory manner. Bush became a conservative orator, he honed to perfection a talk couched in the very simple readers digest prose that came to be known as the real deal. Bush gave his speech in the 2004 campaign in Chicago and commentators said that this shifted the balance of power towards him. Bush gained a dominant position among conservatives. Bush was much liked because he offered a broad appeal, he shared the notions of people. (Crotty, 2005) Bush had an attractive personality and also had a good style as a political performer, this made Bush a strong candidate, his notions and his ideology made him a candidate who might be able to represent conservative views, and more importantly be electable. Many candidates with strong political views, sometimes forget their political position once they are elected into office. However Bush made it his goal to be true to his conservative principles, which he had been compiling for many years. (Loven, 2005, pg26) In 2003, Bush put his principles into practice with regard to spending and tax-cutting. These types of action made Bush standout as a unique president; he was always very consistent with his principles in his foreign as well as his domestic policy. Personal qualities have played a large role in determining success in recent presidential elections. In a survey conducted by CBS news voters were asked which characteristics were more important for a president to have, 43 percent said being honest and fair was most important, followed by 42 percent that said leadership was most important, only 7 percent chose policy position. This survey indicates that personality traits play a much larger role than the issues when it comes to choosing a candidate to vote for. The reason why Bush was so popular in the 2000's was because he knew how to balance just the right amount of conservatism with his liberal views, he also appeared to be an average American with faults and all. President Bush in pursuit of success has at times tried to appear to be an average American. He has achieved this by working on some distinct personality traits. In the 2004 election more Americans thought Bush to be more trustworthy than his opponent. But only 48 percent of Americans thought him to be trustworthy (Pomper pg. 84). Bush needed to work on appearing truthful. When voters were asked did Bush share the moral values of most Americans 70 percent said yes (Pomper pg. 84), that is an overwhelming majority of the voter population. Bush did not need to focus on his moral values as much to gain success. Although many voters felt Bush shared the same moral values as they did, only 55 percent of voters surveyed felt Bush cared about people like them. This feeling may be due to the fact that Bush was born in wealth and is framed as the dumb rich president by the media. Based on this information Bush should have focused on appealing to the working class and try to sound more sincere when addressing the American voter. (Pomper, 2005) In order to win the 2004 election Bush did not completely abandon his strategy from the 2000 election, he merely chose to revise it and improve on the areas that he felt short in. It would not have been wise to completely change strategies because Bush did well in a lot of areas and he may be considered double minded by those that supported him in the 2000 election. Bush did a lot better than his opponent (kerry) in 2004 when it came to personal traits the majority of voters thought him to be a strong leader, likeable, and honest. Bush did not do so well when the issues were presented in the 2000 election but he learned from this in the 2004 election. Only 37 percent voted for Bush based on jobs and the economy, and only 33 percent voted for Bush based on health care (Pomper pg. 146), This is a basic trend. President Bush was really strong when it came to world affairs and taxes, but he lacked support in his standings on domestic issues. In order to strengthen his support on domestic issues Bush should have revised his views on things such as healthcare and the economy. Bush could also have been more sensitive to those who took the opposing views by compromising. Bush was better off as the incumbent, because he had had some experience and incumbents were more likely to get elected back into office, but this should not have made him too comfortable because Bush senior was an incumbent but did not receive a second term. The new York times reports that this was a strategic move by the bush campaign to gain as much support as possible in the run up to the elections. The 2006 congressional elections were just as fierce as the 2004 presidential elections as both the leaders of the democratic and republican party sought to manipulate political agenda by constantly handling issues surrounding heresthetics. William Riker coined the term heresthetics which is linked to positive political theory. He devised a theoretical approach to political action which was based on abilities which according to him was called heresthetics i. e. structuring the world accordingly to gain success. Both camps regularly took heresthetics into account by regularly appearing on chat shows (i. e. David Letterman) and heated exchanges resulted because of this but the political meaning of this was to influence voters and gain their trust. Policies are indeed constitutive of political space and thus each party sought to capitalise on certain policies and highlighting them in states where were likely to gain most votes. (Adam, 2007) Many factors such as age, ethnicity, gender, education, religion, and social class, plays a major role in the way Americans vote and a successful strategy takes these issues into account. Based on the results of the 2004 election Bush had clear supporters in some groups, and in others his support is almost non existent. Young people seem to be more liberal that elders. In the 2004 election more 18-29 years old voted for Kerry. Bush should have tried to appeal to the young people by addressing issues that are relevant to them, such as college tuition. Among white men Bush had done well in gaining support. In the 2004 election Bush received 60 percent of the white male vote (Pomper pg. 138). Bush broke almost even with his opponent when it came to the white women's vote in 2004, only beating his opponent by 1 percentage point (Pomper pg. 138). However Bush received little support from the black community indicating that to some extent his planning was a failure. In the 2004 election he received a mere 12 percent of the black male's vote and 6 percent of the black female's vote (Pomper pg. 138). This can be explained by the large gap in opinion between the majority of blacks and the Republican party's platform in general. The majority of blacks favour social programs such as welfare, and universal healthcare. The basic Republican platform opposes these things. It would be extremely difficult for Bush to win over the black community without changing some of his policies. So, in order to gain black votes Bush would have to accept some social programs provided by the government, without compromising his support from those who oppose these programs. The higher the education the more liberal the views. Bush should have tried to appeal to those that are highly educated by trying to understand why they view things the way they do. Bush did well among white protestants receiving 63 percent of their vote (Pomper pg. 138). He gained about the same amount of support from Catholics as his opponent. But he fell short in gaining support from those that practice Judaism only receiving 19 percent of their vote (Pomper pg. 138). In order to gain more support from Jewish people he should have been more sensitive to their religion, saying he shouldn't wear his religion on his sleeve all the time he should have been humble about it, and respected the fact that not everyone practices his religion. Depending upon the amount of money one makes their political views are swayed. Bush received the majority of the vote of families with household incomes over $50,000 annually. He fell behind his opponent when it came to the households that made under $50,000 annually. To gain more support from the lower middle class Bush should have revised his policies to help benefit them and try to appeal to the working American. This was a strategic failure by the bush campaign as they were not sensitive to religious issues nor did they significantly take into account the variation in socio-economic statuses throughout the US. The basic lessons to be learned from the 2004 election are outlined above. Bush can also learn from the DWI incident before the election. Sometimes it is better to reveal the skeletons in ones closet than to let someone else reveal them. Being completely honest with the American public is the best way to go about things, so you wont get a reputation of being deceitful that may be undeserved. (Crotty, 2005) The election of 2004 was extremely close according to the New York times. In order to make sure Bush won the election he needed to continue to do well in the areas he is strong in, and focus more on the areas that he lacked support in. Personality is everything, the American people want a president that they can identify with. The best way to win the election was to become the average American's best friend. Be open minded, and a least pretend to love your job and the people of America that you serve. In many ways Bush's strategic move was to the liking of the American people who chose to stick with his regime. (Loven, 2005, pg44) Strategic campaigns are also highly implemented on TV sets. Television can be viewed as the medium from throughout the country. It is the source that allows campaigners to voice their opinions and for voters to analyse them. The New York times states that television had a very a wide geographic distribution and impact in the 2004 election and provided a new, direct, and sensitive link between the Bush/kerry and the people"(Source A). Their explanation shows how television is a fast, direct link for the public to know what is happening with the candidates. This link is a positive aspect in elections because the public is kept informed about the candidates' issues and the candidate can be kept informed on the public issues. Prior to the invention of television this was not possible as it took days for a newspaper article to be written and distributed. Even with a radio, many times the public would have to wait until the evening to hear the day's news. Angus Campbell says that this technology has, "given a new, immediate contact with political events". This is another example of how television has allowed the candidate to communicate to the public. This is a positive impact because candidates can get out their ideas to the public and receive feedback fast. (Wilkinson, 2005) Another way that television has had a positive influence on presidential elections is by making the candidates seem more human. During the time of radio, the candidates were thought only as a voice not as a real person. Television has made, "the American people feel they know their Presidents as persons" . This close intimate feeling can help people make their decision on whom to vote for. (Loven, 2005, pg64) Not only has television created a link between the public and candidate, and made the candidate appear more human but it also has made the candidate more accountable for their actions. Due to television, voters can now analyse their candidates from not only what they say but their body language. Louis Menand even said that, "without a television debate would seem almost undemocratic, as though voters were being cheated by the omission of some relevant test, some necessary submission to mass scrutiny" . Menand views television as a way in which the public can test their candidates and see if they are right for the job. Reporters ask candidates questions and they must be prepared to answer them immediately. This gives the public and opportunity to know what the candidates are thinking. Television makes this possible; this wouldn't be possible with radio or newspaper. (Wilkinson, 2005) Moving back to the issues of elections firstly and maybe most importantly is the US people's fear of terrorism. America has not experienced any foreign attacks since 9/11. This is very much because it's geographical position, but it also has to do with the American government's strict control of anything or anyone wishing to enter its country. Thus the people of the United States have great faith in their government. That was indeed until the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Americans were filled with fright and desired revenge, because on this day they realized that they were vulnerable to overseas attacks. Luckily for them they had a strong leader that would teach the world not to "mess" with the US. With his war declaration against terror he made Americans feel safer. Bush was clear in his statements and actions, he promised that he would hit hard down on terrorists and terrorist regimes no matter what the rest of the world thinks of it, a promise that he indeed has kept. The bush strategic campaign build around the 9/11 catastrophe. They sought to highlight that they defeated the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans see great value in a strong leader that in times of a crises is ready to make unpopular decisions that favours the US, Bush was known to be such a leader. Many Europeans might think, "What dos 9/11 have to do with Iraq"" or "why cant Americans let this go? Look at Spain that were attacked 4 years ago, you don't see them invading the Middle East! " too understand the American's fear it is important to keep in mind that they were constantly reminded by the much often republican media that the US is the most attractive terrorist target in our time, and that the enemy is the Muslim-world. American's therefore felt that a forceful leader as Bush is their saviour. Kerry on the other hand did not seem like a strong leader at all as his strategic plan focused on comparably more trivial issues such as immigration etc. Kerry's strategic plan seemed extremely vague in his statements and did not manage to address a clear view on the Middle East situation. Even though he was fairly good at criticizing Bush's ways he did not come with any good solution. This made him look like a weak leader, and not at all what a frightened America seeks. (Wilkinson, 2005) Secondly Kerry's great advantage was in domestic matters such as health care and economics, but as the Election Day was closing up on us many switched sides, viewing Bush as just as good a candidate in these matters too due to his late strategic tactics where he shifted his focus on on these issues and in deprived areas of America such as inner city Detroit and urban Atlanta. Even though Kerry stood further towards centre in these issues than Bush's far right position, Bush's easy solutions seemed more tempting for many. With Kerry as a President the government would spend more on public spending, which of course required slightly higher taxes. Bush on the other hand did not wish to increase the public spending, and thus the taxes would be kept as low as possible. There are many Americans that had no problem paying for their medical insurance, and others that could not afford to pay any higher taxes for both these groups Bush's way seemed like the best one, and they just had to gamble that they do not fall ill. (Wilkinson, 2005) Thirdly was Bush's conservative view on life that appealed to many Americans. Not that Kerry didn't have strong family values, but he also was pro free abortions and homosexual marriages. Kerry lost many religious voters in these matters, and because the US was a very religious country, this became a lot of votes. Someone with Bush's values must be trustworthy, mustn't he? A second thing that gave bush reliability was that he (unlike former president Clinton) came clean with his problem. While telling the nation about his drinking problem he chaired a part of him self, which made the population feel empathy with him. Furthermore it was important to many Americans to feel safe that they would not experience another "Clinton-Scandal. " (May, 2004) Finally Bush appealed to the voters with his "all American" charisma. He talked like an "average Joe" and appeared like an old cowboy, this way Americans felt like he was one of them. He glorified the people of the United States, and let them know that they were the finest people on the world. Clearly this had drawn the people together, and made them feel superior of the world. Many did not worry about the rest of the world's opinions at all, because they felt like America knew best. In the article from Time Magazine a response from Texas to Tony Blair's wish to withdraw the armed forces from Iraq was: "Real Americans aren't interested in your pansy-ass, tea-sipping opinions. " This reflected how much some Americans care about the rest of the worlds judgement on their foreign politics. This was disturbing knowledge for many non-Americans, considering the fact that the US was the only world power. (Crotty, 2005) Numerous people found it rather surprising that Kerry did not win the election bearing in mind that he did have countless of A-list celebrities on his side, but clearly they did not have a large enough impact on the American body to get him elected. Today it looks like the next presidential candidate is Barrack Obama although John McCain wont give up that easily. The issue of heresthetics was full taken into account by both camps during the lead up to election day. Bush appeared to be on the defensive for the major parts of debates during the 2004 election, he did compellingly charged that Kerry was inconsistent in his views. As time wore on, the toll of the debate can be seen in the Presidents body language. He sounded increasing angry especially when he is repeating various statements such as the war was hard work. Furthermore, in reaction shots, especially when Kerry was speaking, Bush appeared to be arrogant in the ways he smirked and shook his head as well as in his looks of disgust. This was a strategic plan devised by Bush in fully utilising his political space. Mcclean (2003) claims 'Parliaments elected under PR systems contain on average more parties than those elected under non- PR systems'. This is because PR is based on the premise that parties are represented according to their popularity with the electorate. Adam (2007) argued that single-member, simple plurality systems naturally lead to a two-party system. His argument, in short, claims that voters have incentives to abandon non-competitive parties in favour of parties that have a realistic chance of attaining political power, or at least a share of it. Thus the argument claims that under a single-member, simple plurality system, only two parties can consistently gain enough votes to win seats in the legislature. This theory was supported by Riker (1982), who however highlighted the exception of India. India, until 1977, had not had two national parties despite having a plurality electoral system, thus directly contrasting Duverger's Law (Mcclean 2003). Riker argues that the dominant one-party system was a result of the structure of voter's preferences which is applicable to the republican party. The main impact of the Indian electoral system was to guarantee majority governments on the basis of a minority of voter support. (Riker, 1986) It is not possible to argue that, as a rule, proportional representation results in a proliferation of parties, as likewise it is not possible to argue that non-proportional electoral systems always result in a two-party system. Examples will always emerge to contradict the consensus, such as Canada which operates on a FPTP system yet has usually had more than two main parties, sometimes as many as five. This perhaps due to the highly regionalised nature of Canadian politics. Similarly, the United States is often cited as a primary example of a two-party system resulting from a FPTP electoral system. However the US only became a two-party system after the 'New Deal', and this occurred without any qualitative changes to the electoral system. Thus the electoral system does not necessarily influence the number of parties present. The number of parties present in a political system is more likely to be explained in terms of social, religious and ethnic divisions, which result in the emergence of political movements, rather than simply the electoral system. Although in general terms it is possible to argue that PR is more likely to result in multi-partyism, while plurality voting is more likely to result in a two-party system, this clearly not always the case. (May, 2004) A common concern about PR electoral systems is that by allowing small parties to gain seats in government, it facilitates the emergence of extremist or fringe parties. This increases the prospect of instability in the political system, as the views of such extremist parties and politicians will achieve a level of representation in society, often against the consensus of the majority. (Loven, 2005) In comparison, Kerry possessed by far, the cooler and calmer demeanour, especially when he smiled which made him look all the more respectful as well as poised a quality that is greatly admired in a debater, as well as in a potential president. One of the negative attributes of his manner was that he was not as warm as Bush appears to be Kerry did not address the public. Rather, he points his answers, attacks and exclamations towards his opponent. In this way Kerry was trying differentiate his own strategic tactics from Bush's. (Loven, 2005) As a method of grasping listeners, each of the two opponents utilized words that are loaded with emotions as well as meaning. As a result it left the public clinging on to the very last syllable. (Crotty, 2005) It has long been argued that many aspects of political parties actually threaten democracy in the USA. Firstly, although the electoral system is indeed simple to understand, party choice is limited. Many people find that their favourite party has no chance of winning in their constituency, and so they cast a vote for the candidate they consider most likely to stop their least favourite party winning. This threatens democracy, as poll results consequently do not reflect voters’ actual preferences. Furthermore, although campaigns prior to elections increase awareness, much of this campaigning may actually mislead the electorate. For example, the democratic party's previous 6-point manifesto mislead the public by presenting policies too simplistically. It is very unlikely that all a party’s plans for government may be reduced to a simple 6 points; ergo it is likely that parties strategically leave out radical, delicate issues from their manifesto leaflets. This threatens democracy at election time, as the electorate often votes for a party based on their manifesto, unaware of certain radical policies that they may actually object to. Again, this means that election results may not actually reflect party support. (Crotty, 2005) Additionally, no matter how representative parties are made, democracy is still highly threatened as long as parties can be run by cabals who may control the party for narrow policy ends. We can accuse both George Bush of the Republican party, and Bill Clinton. This type of dictatorial leadership. Both leaders often sidelined their respective cabinets, passing legislation to serve their own political interests, regardless of the rest of their party’s wishes. George Bush did this with the introduction of the Iraq war, despite strong opposition both within the white house and his party as a whole. Bill Clinton did the same with his decision to go to war in Africa in 1998, sidelining many in his government, making the decision without their support and acknowledgement. This threatens democracy, as parties are often unable to carry out their policies for which they were supported at election time, as long as cabals are able to run parties to serve their own narrow political interests. Furthermore, although some parties have shown themselves to be adapting their policies, parties often water down these new ideas to fit their ideological framework. They often avoid radical policy change for the sake of political safety. This threatens democracy as it narrows the scope for proper political debate on key issues. (Crotty, 2005) The political space as used by Bush in 2004 ensured that they catered for working classes who were not radicalised enough to be withdrawn from their trade unions and Democrats appealed to the upper classes. In contrast to this the Democratic party had did not have a normal political culture with an anti-democratic ideology and authoritarianism alienating potential support. Kerry's inability to truly challenge the government was because essentially it was impossible for him. (Crotty, 2005) Republican propaganda showed them to be a lively and organised movement behind a leader who was incapable of failure or error. In cases this was true, Bush for example was an extremely powerful and skilful orator and ‘certainly the best speaker in politics’1, he could hold a speech without notes for hours. As a party there were endless and inconclusive debates, a lack of courage and decision on some occasions. A number of events in the party highlighted these weaknesses - for example, the basic division existing in the leadership of the Republicans. Bush only attempted to deal with this when the lack of funding forced him to make cuts, illustrating his inefficiency. In the party there were those who favoured a ‘military’ approach which they believed should consist of order, discipline and marches to demonstrate power. (Loven, 2005) In conclusion, although it can be argued that political parties are indeed promoting democracy through several factors of their composition, it is evident that there is still much room for improvement. Perhaps stronger unity and communication between party leaders and members or even electoral reform could be the next step. Either way, it is clear that parties must re-evaluate their respective standards of democracy, and ensure that steps are taken to raise these levels, and thereby increase overall democracy in the USA. Both the 2004 presidential elections and the 2006 congressional elections were well manipulated with different issues being highlighted to capture the minds of the voters but some elements failed and some passed with flying colours. Bibliography John Pomper, 2005, Freedom press, election 2004, 1st edition John Wilkinson, 2005, New York times, The presidential elections Diva Adam, 2007, Cambridge online, 2006 congressional election analysis, 2nd edition, A Defining Moment: The Presidential Election of 2004 by William J. Crotty M. E. Sharpe; New edition edition 31 Oct 2005 Heywood. A. ,(2002)Politics(Second Edition),Palgrave Fawcett,E. Thomas,T. (1983)America And The Americans,Fontana Mclean,I,McMillan,A,(2003),Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics,Oxford Publications Monk,H,I. ,(1995),A History of Modern Political Thought,Blackwell Publications S. 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