Leading article: A revival of democracy

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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower