Leading article: A revival of democracy

Share
Related Topics

There was an impressive turnout for last week's presidential primary in the American state of Iowa, despite the freezing temperatures. The Democrats in particular benefited from a surge in the number of first-time caucus-goers and young voters. And last night the signs were that these levels of enthusiasm had been maintained in New Hampshire. But the story of the 2008 presidential election so far has been about more than mere numbers. Party activists and independent voters seem especially energised.

Predictions of steadily growing apathy among American voters are beginning to seem somewhat misplaced. A few years ago it was being said that Americans cared more about television talent contests than national elections. Not any more, apparently. Of course, there is still a very long way to run in this contest. But at the moment, the US election feels more unpredictable and open than any in recent memory.

There are a number of factors behind this. One is that the present occupant of the White House is hugely unpopular. The appetite for change in the country is palpable. That there is no presidential incumbent or Vice-President standing has also encouraged activists and voters alike to take these early stages of the contest seriously. All is to play for.

Another important factor is the nature of the candidates themselves, who are running starkly different campaigns. Despite being largely unknown several months ago, the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has won many admirers among Republicans with his easygoing manner and homespun appeal. On the Democrat side, John Edwards is running on the sort of social welfare reform ticket not seen from a realistic contender for the presidency in many years. Hillary Clinton has run a more centrist campaign, but the participation of the first-ever serious female presidential candidate has grasped the public's attention.

Finally, there is the Obama effect. Barack Obama is the first African American with a genuine chance of going all the way to the White House. The Illinois senator's upbeat campaign has caught a public mood of optimism. Independents, even some traditional Republicans, have warmed to him.

The race is still open. But what the early days of this contest demonstrate is that exciting candidates and interesting policies can successfully re-engage people with the political process. It is a phenomenon that we in Britain, with our own depressingly high levels of political apathy and stifling first-past-the-post electoral system, could learn from. We could do with some of the democratic buzz that this US presidential campaign has generated.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Larry Fink, the boss of fund manager BlackRock , is among those sounding the alarm  

Not all discounts are welcome: Beware the myopia of company bosses

Ben Chu
Cilla Black lived her life in front of the lens, whether on television or her earlier pop career  

Cilla Black dead: A sad farewell to the singer who gave us a 'lorra, lorra laughs'

Gerard Gilbert
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen