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American politics

One of the good things about American politics is that it currently practices party-centered campaigns when it comes to electing its leaders. Under this system, American voters are given a choice to support either Republicans or Democrats. Each of these parties have their own positions on specific issues and whoever wins majority seats during election period gets to set the direction, so to speak, of the country. While the losing party gets the minority, it does not automatically imply that it has no more power. It can still object to certain policies and if it handles its objection well, may even get is way.

The problem with a party-centered campaign is that in order to get majority of the votes, these parties have a tendency to avoid controversial issues lest they alienate the voters. There are times however when the stand of the Republicans and Democrats differ so sharply. An example was during the 1992 presidential elections. The Republicans had thought that  George H.W. Bush was unbeatable but the Democrats managed to get the top seat by focusing on the economy. Recent events in the political arena though have shown that the parties’ ability to control the platforms and even nominations have greatly declined. The elections in the United States are now following what may be termed as a candidate-centered campaign.

Just what is a candidate-centered campaign? From the term itself, it is campaign that centers on the candidate and not on the issues. An easy example would be the just concluded political exercise where Democrat candidate Barack Hussein Obama II won against Republican John McCain. It cannot be argued that while the main issue of the elections was the recession that America was currently experiencing, Obama being black played a major role. Consider also the fact that when Obama announced his candidacy, he did it on Illinois’ Old State Capitol. The site where Abraham Lincoln gave his speech “House Divided.” It did not help McCain when Obama used “change” as a slogan.

While there may be nothing wrong with a candidate-centered campaign, especially if the candidate is really qualified and capable, it is what happens behind the scenes that may be a concern. Although candidate-centered campaign puts primary focus on the candidate, it is also a contest on whose professional consultants have better skills and better media connections. Unlike campaigns of the past where issues where tackled and debated thoroughly, modern campaigns during elections now employ other strategies like money and even television advertising.

The problem with candidate-centered campaigns is that it makes the electorate put their hopes on a single person. While the president of the United States is considered by some as the “most powerful man” in the world, that power still hinges on the upper and lower houses. Thus when George W. Bush expressed his intention to invade Iraq, he had to ask permission from the congress. Of course, whoever wins the election means that they get majority seats. However, by focusing on a specific candidate, the people tend to forget that the policies will still be dictated by the senate and congress.

A candidate-centered campaign is good only if it happens every once in a while. Campaigns must still be centered on parties and issues. Look at what happened to developing countries. Candidates who win by popularity eventually get replaced if they are found to be not delivering on their promises. If this happens, it is actually to those who are serving in the upper and lower houses. Having party-centered campaigns is still better during elections since the responsibility of running the country does not rest on the shoulders of one individual but rather on a team. It is always important to keep in mind that while a candidate may have the charisma to win the seat, charisma alone is not enough to help run a country. A party-centered campaign assures everyone that whatever problems are faced by the country, it will be solved by everyone and not just one person.

2. Lobbying is the practice of trying to influence the way a government will decide on a particular issue. One way to do this is to influence the legislators or officials involved in the issue at hand. In the problem presented, the President’s budget has a provision that eliminates the “Research and Development” tax credit of a company.

In order to sway this policy from being implemented, a successful lobby must be done. In order to do so, as chief lobbyist, it would take more than just making a sales pitch. Under the law, the President’s budget still needs approval from the congress. Thus the main strategy would be to lobby at congressmen. While every vote counts, it would really be costly if the lobbying is done on an individual basis. Thus the initial lobbying must be done on the states where the plants of the members of the National Chemical Manufacturers Association are located. Before going to the congress, the union at the plant must be approached. The workers must be made to understand that if the President gets his way, then the company may have to lay-off workers due to possible smaller profits or even losses. Working only at a budget of $1 million, the meetings with unions and their leaders must be done simultaneously. Whatever happens at these meetings, whether positive or negative, will be used as ammunition when the congressmen are approached. Union leaders will be treated to a dinner meeting and offered additional benefits if they support the lobby. Contributing to whatever cause the union is fighting for could help.

In the case of the congressmen, it gets little tricky given that the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 is already in place. A golf tournament in the congressman’s honor could be held. Of course, under the law, it would not be good to pay for it directly. The best way would be to pay that particular politician’s fund-raising committee. At whatever event is devised, the congressman must be made to listen to a representative of the NCMA. Making sure that he understands what happens if the policy pushes through. It would be best to use part of the budget for research on each individual official. The research conducted must assess the personality of the politician in mind and his political behavior and decision-making styles. For example, a congressman may not like golf do holding a tournament in his name would be futile. However, if the research shows that he is a family man, then maybe a weekend to Disneyland with the congressman and his family plus some selected kids and their families from the state would be a better option. By carefully studying the official, plus the results of the meetings with the unions, convincing him would be easier.

Meeting with the union leaders and politicians may take only part of the budget. The main expenses would be on advertising. As chief lobbyist I would have to play my trump card after meeting with everyone involved. The trump card? Environmental issues. Since it is a chemical manufacturing industry, the ad should put emphasis on the fact that the plants continuously undertake research and development in order to keep the environment safe and clean. If the tax credit is eliminated, then it means that the company will need to put in more money for its R&D division. If it does so, then some employees would have to be laid off. This, I believe, would be a very good bargaining chip in the lobbying process. Another ad must also be put out in order to remind people just how important the chemicals being manufactured are.

The final step would then be to lobby other officials that show concern for the environment. These officials and congressmen will be used as additional votes in case the congressmen initially convinced need some support at the house.

To reiterate, the strategy is first, talk to the unions and show the possible effects that the policy may have on the companies. Next is to approach officials in specific states and convince them of rejecting the provision. Ad placements should then be done before finally approaching officials who are “environmentally aware.”

Online Learning Center. Political Parties, Candidatges, and Campaigns. Retrieved December 13, 2008, from http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072481218/student_view0/chapter8/

Kirkpatrick, David D. (2007, February 11). New ethics rules raise price of lobbying Congress.International Herald Tribune. <http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/02/11/news/lobbyists.php>

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