US elections and what we could learn from the circus

In less than 10 days Americans will have decided who is going to step into the rather big and cool shoes of President Barrack Obama. Their choices on which person will be have been narrowed down to mainly the seasoned politician, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the enigmatic tycoon, Donald John Trump.

In less than 10 days Americans will have decided who is going to step into the rather big and cool shoes of President Barrack Obama. Their choices on which person will be have been narrowed down to mainly the seasoned politician, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the enigmatic tycoon, Donald John Trump. 

USA being the superpower that it is, a spectacle like their election will always top global news and it therefore becomes difficult to ignore what is happening between the two individuals as the polling date draws closer. Mrs Clinton is so close to being the first woman to occupy what is often considered the most powerful job in the world. Trump on the other hand is probably the most ‘ungovernable’ candidate to ever get so close to winning. 

 

Given the characters of the two main contenders, the race has become arguably the most entertaining in recent years. And the truth is we have been quite entertained and shocked in at each stage from Clinton’s illness, her never ending email saga or Donald Trump’s language of arrogance and leaked videos with sexual assault talk. 

 

I have seen some East African TV stations labouring to explain to viewers how the US electoral system works. On radio you will hear people analysing the chances of the two candidates in winning the election. It all gives me that déjà vu feeling from the now popular European football that has bred a host of local ‘experts’ who will even tell you how much time a certain footballer spends at the barber shop. 

 

My fear is that just like the now popular European football, we may just be in it for the entertainment and not so keen on learning any lessons. It is quite obvious that the Americans are being compelled to choose from the two most undesirable candidates in a long time but there is more to the election that the entertainment. 

In the title I called it a circus because it is quite funny to be honest when one candidate is dogged by secret emails and another keeps his tax returns a secret. There are other candidates in the race who don’t even know what Aleppo is. However from this circus we can learn a lot too in order to improve our democracies. 

For example, it is important to have civic education so that ignorance ceases to be a key voting decider. Many of our people are now more knowledgeable about how the European Champions’ League Football works than their own electoral systems. If indeed we vote using secret ballot then why are voters always threatened? I have read in Kenyan press of threats being made to certain communities in case they do not vote in a certain way. 

Is it also not time that we scrutinise politicians more about their conduct, business links and practices, sources of finances and general integrity? In Kenya for example, an election is due next year and corruption seems to be at the peak as politicians stock up on cash to use to fund their elections. Funding here often means buying a lot of alcohol and T-shirts for supporters. 

Politicians too can learn a lot about personal branding, advertising and mobilisation of funds for elections instead of stealing blatantly to fund their election bids. It is should be clear whether people used in these campaigns are volunteers or will be paid. Often you see people being paraded on TV claiming politician X owes them money for a service they delivered. The media should also help people understand what a politician can do and can’t do so that people’s votes are not earned of Utopian lies and promises. 

The same applies to our love for European football. It should not just be a key driver for the current sports-betting addiction but also a source of learning on talent scouting, talent management, and investment in sports facilities. We should be picking lessons on how important it is to develop sports into a huge industry that employs many and supports other sectors like advertising and tourism. 

I like that some people have seen through this election that the US can also have bad candidates but that should not be an excuse to for us to do the same. Their being a superpower should not be seen as an endorsement for mediocrity. It’s also good that there is no African American on the ballot so we won’t be asking that question of what he/she will do for Africa as if we were invited to vote.

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