[Viewpoint]I envy AmericaThe U.S. presidential election is creating a worldwide sensation almost every day. It is, of course, natural that the world is paying attention because the results of voting by 126 million Americans will directly or indirectly affect the entire world’s population of 6.6 billion.
But this year’s U.S. presidential election is attracting the world’s attention more than ever before.
Political audiences across the world, not just campaign volunteers or members of the U.S. political parties, are following every development in the primaries.
They say the conventions are more fun than going to the Grand Canyon or Disneyland.
The reporting by the media in other countries about the U.S. presidential election rivals the coverage of their own elections.
Reversals and accidents are essential for the success of a play, film or television drama. Without them, the audience is bored.
The U.S. primaries and elections have a similar aspect. The reversals and twists and turns add to the fun.
The Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary election recorded the highest voter turnout rate ever recorded in those places.
The winners in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the first primary reversed in the second one.
Public opinion poll takers embarrassed themselves by failing to accurately predict the outcome in New Hampshire.
However, the element that captured the attention of the United States and the rest of the world was not the dramatic elements.
It happened because talented candidates emerged during the course of the election. They came prepared with tangible policy platforms.
Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee have the ability to be star attractions in the early stages of the presidential race. The two broke down the strongholds held by the influential candidates in both the Democratic and Republican parties, creating a whirlwind by emerging as strong new faces.
The fact that they gave people unexpected hope is also refreshing.
Obama has become the symbol of the “American dream;” he would be the first black president in U.S. history if elected.
The fact that Obama has made such great strides has in itself improved the image of the United States, which eroded after the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Huckabee made the people who were sick and tired of the George W. Bush administration regain interest in the Republican Party.
As a former Baptist Church minister and a conservative, he opposes abortion, homosexuality and gun control, and has a good sense of humor. He showed potential and gave hope to Republican Party supporters who had almost given up on this presidential election.
There is a popular feeling that an election is a party, and that seems increasingly real for this presidential election.
Whether it is Obama or Hillary Clinton who ends up winning the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, which is said to have the best chance to come into power, it will be a great change in itself.
Until now, blacks and women have not been able to aspire for the highest position in the United States; for so long, they have been stopped by the “glass ceiling.”
The breaking of such taboos is a big event that foreshadows huge changes in American society. Their emergence portends a shift in power relations in the United States.
I truly envy the Americans. I envy them because their candidates become true contenders for leadership as they go through the election process.
I envy them for their presidential election, because it can give the people, who felt powerless with fear following 9/11, a message of hope and change ― change, moreover, from the bellicose image of the nation to a positive one.
I envy America even more because we, too, had a presidential election not long ago.
At least the Grand National Party’s primary offered some fun. We watched the primary breathlessly, wondering who would become the party’s presidential candidate.
However, the United New Democratic Party’s primary process had no fun and it didn’t give us any hope. It failed to overcome the influence of former President Kim Dae-jung and President Roh Moo-hyun.
Due to the party’s failure to change, they ended up with a miserable election defeat.
The strong theme emerging for this U.S. presidential election seems to be “change,” but it has been a long time since change has defined Korean politics.
There has not been even one year without any tumultuous events since national liberation in 1945. Has there been a day in Korean political history that was quiet, without any turmoil?
We have been trying, within a very short time, to catch up with the historical process that took hundreds of years for Western countries to develop, so we have had no choice but to walk the road of continual change.
The U.S. presidential election highlights the importance of undecided, or swing voters.
In Korean politics, this has been the case for a long time. People who are not exactly progressive or conservative, who are not affiliated with either the Grand National Party or the new party, swayed the election results.
These people do not cling to a certain regional or party loyalty. They simply cast their votes in support of the candidate and policies they like.
Whether or not the Lee Myung-bak administration and the Grand National Party, which will be the governing party soon, will fail or succeed depends on their ability to move the hearts of the people.
The same goes for Sohn Hak-kyu’s party, the new opposition.
People will turn away if either fails to show signs of change.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo