In many respects, the two elections are very different. But in some others, they are strikingly similar.
THE US elections are far more corrupt than ours. Inevitably so.
Since the advent of TV, they have become hugely expensive. TV ads cost a lot of money. Enough money can come only from big corporations and billionaires. Both candidates are heavily mortgaged to pressure groups and commercial interests, which they will have to serve from Day One in office.
The immense power of the pro-Israel lobby in the US derives from this fact. It's not so much about Jewish votes. It's about Jewish money.
The only way to change this is to provide the two sides free TV time and limit political TV advertising. That is highly unlikely, because the billionaires of both sides will not give up their stranglehold on the system. Why would they?
In Israel, all parties get free TV and radio time, according to their size in the outgoing Knesset (with a guaranteed minimum for newcomers). Outlays are strictly controlled. That does not prevent the same type of corruption. The same Sheldon Adelson finances both Mitt Romney and Binyamin Netanyahu. But the amount of tainted money raised and expended in Israel is much smaller.
On the other hand, we have no presidential debates. No Israeli prime minister would be so foolish as to agree to them. In the US debates, when a challenger faces the incumbent, the challenger gets a big prize right at the beginning of the first debate. Until that moment, he is a mere politician, far away from the White House. Suddenly he is raised to the status of a potential president, who looks and sounds presidential. Netanyahu would never agree to that.
(By the way, Barack Obama's inept performance (the whole thing is a performance, after all) in the first debate was most glaring when Romney sneered at Obama's "green" donors. That should have been the cue for Obama to jump and attack Romney's donors. I suppose Obama was just not listening to his opponent, but thinking about his own next line -- always a fatal error in a debate.)
THE MAIN difference between the two elections corresponds to the difference between the two political systems.
The US presidential elections are competitions between two persons, winner takes all. This means, in practice, that the entire battle is for the votes of a tiny minority of "independents" (or "swing voters") in a small number of states. All the others already have a fixed opinion before the first election dollar is spent.
Who are these swing voters? It would be nice to think that they are sovereign citizens, who weigh the arguments carefully and work towards a responsible decision. Nonsense. They are the people who do not read newspapers, who don't give a damn, who must be dragged to the ballot box. Judging from the ads directed at them, many of them must be morons.
Yet these people decide who will be the next President of the United States of America.
And that's not the end of it. It should not be forgotten that the election may decide the composition of the all-powerful Supreme Court and many other centers of power.
IN ISRAEL, elections are strictly proportional. In the last elections, 33 party lists took part, and 12 passed the 2% threshold.
The next prime minister will not necessarily be the leader of the party with the most votes, but the candidate who can put together a coalition of at least 61 (out of 120) Knesset members.
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