US Democracy


Michelle Wang 王美琇 has an editorial in the Taipei Times, entitled Looking at the recall bid with a foreign eye.” The point of the article is to show that the current KMT recall strategy (see here for some background) is a dangerously undemocratic strategy that would never be acceptable in an advanced democracy like America. While I agree that the strategy is undemocratic, I am somewhat more sanguine about the imminent collapse of Taiwanese society; but what really gets me is the claim that something like this would never happen in the US. Taiwanese have a strangely distorted and utopian view of America. In this post I attempt to correct some of those misconceptions.

Leaving the Taiwanese part out of her piece aside, lets take a look at the claims Michelle Wang makes for the US:

For a fresh perspective, let’s try looking at the situation through US eyes. The US is a mature society that has practiced democracy for more than two hundred years.

Women got the right to vote in 1920. Blacks only secured their right to vote 40 years ago. In the last two presidential elections a significant number of Black voters continued to be disenfranchised in Florida and Ohio.

The preposterous presidential recall bid proposed by the blue-camp would be unlikely to occur in the US, given that country’s more mature legislature, media and society. If a US Congressman made random accusations in the way KMT legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) has done recently, he or she would face immediate condemnation from the media and society alike, for such accusations are a serious matter that could undermine the nation. Without substantial evidence, those who make random accusations in the US really do die a nasty death” as Ma likes to put it.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has yet to die a nasty death” for all of his lies! (They might get him on the last one, but that’s lying about things he’s been accused of, not his lies about other people which have gone unpunished.)

Under no circumstances would the legislature seek to recall the president on the pathetic pretext that he is allegedly involved in a scandal.”

No. Nothing like that would ever happen in America … never.

As a longstanding observer of US politics and media, I have never seen the US media make a big stink of what the first lady is wearing. How she wants to dress herself is a private matter unless the way she dresses is obviously inappropriate or connected with bribe-taking. US media and lawmakers are more interested in whether the president is competent to govern the nation than in how the first lady dresses. They supervise how the president manages foreign, economic and domestic affairs.

Sheesh … I don’t even know where to begin with this one. How about here. Or here. And here’s some history.

If the president is clearly involved in any misconduct, the media and Congress will move to impeach him or her based on the evidence. Former US president Richard Nixon’s downfall over the Watergate scandal is a classic example.

Here are 20 reasons to impeach Bush that the media and congress have failed to act upon.

US politicians and citizens did not initiate impeachment proceedings against former US president Bill Clinton over his sex scandal, although the US public definitely disapproved of his behavior. In the end, Clinton remain as president until the end of his second term. The moral is, if the president did not break the law, he cannot be impeached or recalled.

Well, at least she heard of that one, but she’s flat out wrong about the details. Clinton was impeached in 1998. It is true that he was subsequently acquitted, but that’s besides the point. It is also worth noting that the charges were not those of adultery or sexual misconduct (which is not a crime in the US the way it is in Taiwan), but perjury and obstruction of justice” in relation to the investigation into his sexual behavior. The vote to impeach was strictly along party lines.

On this blog I usually avoid picking on articles that are so obviously wrong or misguided, but because misconceptions about America are so widespread here in Taiwan I thought this would be a good opportunity to correct a few of them. One of my (many) plans is to set up a Chinese language blog specifically focused on educating Taiwanese about American history and society.

UPDATE: More trashing of this article over at ESWN.

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