Election polarizes US politics

Election polarizes US politics

CHICAGO - Hürriyet Daily News
Election polarizes US politics

Over 20,000 people wait for Democratic candidate for US President Barack Obama to address the crowd during his final rally as a candidate in Des Moines, Iowa in this No. 5 photo. EPA photo

Whoever wins the presidential elections, whether it’s Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, will have to lead an already politically polarized country with little room for compromise, after a hectic campaign process full of mud-slinging.

“Not only the country, but the state is polarized too. We now have a polarized country and a polarized electorate,” Paul Green, chairman of the Political Science and Public Administration Department at Roosevelt University told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “In American politics the key word was compromise. People used to sit around the same table, negotiating and compromising. However, these days, statesmen and stateswomen are called party traders.”

Romney has accused Obama of partisanship, but his party’s leading figures have not hesitated to criticize New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for praising Obama’s handling of the recent Sandy superstorm. The growing polarization is widely thought to hinder the parties’ ability to compromise, as neither Republicans nor Democrats fully control the Congress and Senate.

The campaigns ended yesterday with millions of people casting their votes to elect the next president.

Both parties held rallies until the last minute to push for more people to vote and to attract undecided groups. Alongside the rallies, both sides aired thousands of T.V. ads - especially in swing states - whose votes are critical for the poll results. Many of them were considered to be “negative ads,” containing direct attacks on the background of the opposing candidate.

“Do you think they would spend so much money on these negative ads if they didn’t work? They work. It’s easier to get people on your side with a negative ad rather than a positive one,” Green told me. Much of Obama’s campaign was based on Romney’s background, while Republicans have often claimed that the president was not born on U.S. soil, a prerequisite to run for the American presidency. “This is the greatest democracy in the world, but election campaigns do not talk about substance. Everybody is talking about plans but no one really knows what these plans are.”

Loyalty to party

For Paul Beck, Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Ohio State University, another indication of polarization is the increased loyalty of both Democrats and Republicans to their parties.

Some 91 percent of traditional Republicans are likely to have voted for Romney and 92 percent of traditional Democrats are likely to have endorsed Obama in the 2012 polls, well ahead of the 84 and 79 percent respectively in the 2008 elections.

“Democrats and Republicans vote loyally with their parties. The differences [in the percentages] are more substantial than in 2008. This is part of the polarization of the U.S.,” Beck told the Daily News.

This polarization also has effects on society, especially in states where waves of immigration are changing the social and economic order. According to Richard Longworth, from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a cultural backlash is hitting four mid-western states - North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, and Kansas - especially after the recent Hispanic influx into these places. Hispanics and Afro-Americans overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008.

How does the presidential election system work?

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press

The outcome of the hard-fought but still deadlocked presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be decided by a small percentage of voters in just nine of the 50 U.S. states. That’s because presidents are elected not by popular vote, but under a state-by-state voting system, known as the Electoral College.

The system was born from an 18th century political compromise. States are allocated a fixed number of electoral votes based on population. In almost all cases, whoever wins a state wins all of its electoral votes. And the candidate who captures a majority of the 538 electors becomes president.

Most states are reliably Democratic or Republican, but neither Obama nor Romney has a lock on enough states to win a majority of electors. That means the real battle is for the nine “swing states” - those where the outcome is uncertain. Whoever can carry enough of those states to bring his overall electoral vote total to at least 270 will win.

Florida is the largest swing state in terms of Electoral College votes. Then comes Ohio with 18, North Carolina with 15 and Virginia with 13. The electors, as they are known, will meet in their state assemblies on Dec. 17 to formally elect the next president and vice president of the United States.