From NBA, to American Idol, to American Presidency

August 5th, 2011
in Op Ed

by Frank Li

Democracy, in its “pure” form, simply means “one person one vote” and the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner. It is a popularity contest by definition. 
When a popularity contest becomes big, it inevitably becomes a showbiz. Now, does democracy really work in the showbiz? Let’s see three showbiz examples: NBA, American Idol, and American Presidency.

Follow up:

Showbiz #1: NBA (National Basketball Association)

NBA honors its all stars every year. Ten starters (i.e. five for the West and five for the East) are selected by the fans via votes, while the reserves are chosen by the coaches. Two issues:

  • The starting center for the West this past season (2010-2011) was Yao Ming, thanks to his millions of fans in China, despite the fact that Yao played only about five games before his season-ending injury and he missed the entire 2009-2010 season due to injury. 
  • Why can’t the fans vote for the reserves as well?

Pure democracy does not work - NBA knows!

Showbiz #2: American Idol

In this popular TV show (in its 11th season), 50% of the points of a contestant are decided by the fans via votes, while the other 50% by a panel of 3 judges. Two issues:

  • Why can’t the fans decide the entire 100% points by votes?
  • Why is there such an outrageously anti-democracy rule called “save”, by which the panel can “save” a contestant by totally ignoring the votes by the fans?

Pure democracy does not work - American Idol knows!

Showbiz #3: American Presidency

An American President is chosen much more democratically (despite the existence of the electoral college) than NBA’s all-stars as a whole or an American Idol. Why is that? If democracy does not even work for NBA or American Idol, how could we possibly expect it to work for a much more serious business like the American Presidency?

Maybe the American Presidency has not been a serious business at all, especially after WWII. It seemed to have worked out well for America [until recently] because the American economic (i.e. free enterprise) system was so much better than the other systems that America, as a country, could simply do no wrong. More modestly, America might have screwed up from time to time, but America’s competitors screwed up a lot more (e.g. Germany and Japan in WWII, the Soviet Union and China throughout the Cold War). Now it does not seem to be working any longer because the rest of the world has caught up with America, especially China, which opened for business in the 1990s, with a copy of America’s economic system (with a long way to go though) and a political system that is “slightly better” than ours. Worse yet, decades of the big screw-ups by the American political system in general and by the American Presidents in specific have finally caught up with America too, bringing our economy down to its knees

Want some examples of the big Presidential screw-ups? Here is an excerpt from a previous post of mine:

Many American presidents damaged America hugely by introducing programs (mostly as part of their re-election effort) that were doomed to fail. For example:

  • FDR: Social security - It’s the biggest ponzi scheme ever! Shame on Madoff (for being such a small potato of only $50B)!
  • LBJ: Medicare and Medicaid - We are still borrowing to pay for them!
  • GWB: The Iraq War – The beacon went off with it, and I believe it will eventually be marked as the beginning of the end of democracy as we know it.
  • BHO: Obamacare - It was introduced when we could least afford it.

How about some examples showing that President Obama has become a laughing stock around the world?

  • The Chinese laughed when President Obama issued a memorandum, establishing a task force on childhood obesity.  Is this really a job for the government?  Which government is more controlling: “communist” China or “free” America?
  • The Americans laughed (or cried) after its government, led from behind by President Obama, finally solved the debt-limit crisis this week, which was created by the politicians in the first place. What is America’s #1 problem? Jobs? No, that’s the #1 problem for the politicians (yes, it’s the votes, stupid!). America’s  #1 problem is bankruptcy-bound and out of control spending by Washington!  Do we really need another [super] committee to study the problem? What about the report by President’s own committee chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles? President Obama ignored it, completely!  He again kicked the can down the road, just beyond his re-election bid this time, all the while America continues to suffer! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

Case made that the American Presidency has not been a serious business at all?  Can we afford to have more Presidents who are inexperienced and incompetent as compared with the other world leaders?  Above all, can we afford to have another President who serves for no purpose but his own re-election, and at all costs?

On the other hand, the American Presidency may not be a “pure” business per se. For this reason, let’s give it another chance to work by setting it to be 1-term (e.g. 6 years) and raising the statutory requirements before it’s determined by a popularity contest, shall we?

My Conclusion

Given the fact that our country is so deeply in trouble, it’s time for us to seriously examine the American Presidency in specific and American democracy in general, before it’s really too late.

Rome was not built in one day, nor did it go down in one day! Should I also mention Greece or yet another Greek tragedy?

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About the Author

Frank Li Frank Li is the Founder & President of W.E.I. (West-East International), a Chicago-based import & export company. Frank received his B.E. from Zhejiang University (China) in 1982, M.E. from the University of Tokyo in 1985, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988, all in Electrical Engineering. He worked for several companies until 2004, when he founded his own company W.E.I. Today, W.E.I. is a leader in the weighing industry not only in products & services, but also in thought and action. Dr. Li writes extensively and uniquely on politics, for which he has been called "a modern-day Thomas Jefferson" (see page 31).


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