US 2012 elections: A Multi-Billion Dollar Battle for the status quo?

Shamina Singh
President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth; Executive Vice-President, Sustainability, Mastercard
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As the US elections draw to a close on Tuesday, 6 November, the big news on Wednesday may be that candidates and their donors have spent almost 24 months and more than a record-breaking US$ 2 billion to end up right where they started – with the executive and legislative branches consisting of essentially the same group of people as at the beginning of the cycle.

The electorate has spoken – and their answer is a resounding vote for the status quo.

However, the process of arriving at that conclusion is the beauty of American democracy. In the pitched battle of positions, and the churning and turning of ideas and candidates, we end up with a conflict-free transition inclusive of social policies that bend slightly left and fiscal ones that bend slightly right, but none too far in either direction.

In recent years, local and state elected officials have started to trend either sharply left or right, which likely reflects the “nimby” approach to issues closest to home – and makes for maddening governance and gridlock.

The presidency, however, continues to be determined by the moderating middle. As evidenced by the disproportionate attention paid to the battleground states, the rest of the country has become almost painfully aware of the priorities of our fellow citizens in 10 to 12 states.

“Change” is not the election outcome. “Change” is in the manner and method that campaigns now use to engage voters. Whether it is technology and social media platforms that track, slice and dice voter behaviour, or the amount of money that is spent influencing voter attitudes, voter contact has progressed by leaps and bounds and shows no signs of slowing down.

Based on the technological advances in voter engagement, the trend to watch will be similar innovations in the quest to influence sitting elected officials. The question won’t be “if” but “how” and “when” technology will be used to influence and advance policy agendas and interests during the governance/deliberation process. If this election is any indication, there will be a ton of investment with little change in the actual outcome. Another resounding vote … for the status quo?


Author: Shamina Singh  was honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010.

Photo Credit: Reuters Pictures

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