To give readers a unique insight into the historic US presidential elections which have for the first time an African-American, Barack Obama, as a candidate, Mint tied up with Live Journal, a community that has more than a million members dedicated to the discussion of the issues and personalities in the 2008 US election. Mint’s staff writers and editors will be participating in the discussion forums and edited excerpts from this conversation will be carried in the newspaper. We also invite queries from readers, a selection of which will be posted on the Live Journal site, thereby enabling interaction of communities in the US and India.

N-deal: a pretty big deal for India, Bush

This is Melissa Bell from Mint. This is a bit off-election topic, but it’s a pretty big deal in India and I thought I’d ask your opinions. ...As one of Bush’s last moves as president, will his (nuclear deal) efforts gain him some respect, or do you disagree? (Editor’s note: Bush signed the nuclear deal on Wednesday, after this discussion took place.)

Standing tall: US Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama (left) and his Republican counterpart John McCain field questions during the 7 October townhall-type debate at Belmont University,Tennessee. Scott Olson / Reuters

I’ve strongly disagreed with it as it undermines the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the US so stridently wields against countries like Iran. Furthermore, it undermines the US’ relationship with Pakistan which is allegedly such a key the war on terror. Indeed, I am concerned about the balance of power between these two countries and feel it’s not a good tactic

There’s a valid strategic question to ask if it is an attempt to divorce India from the Russian and Chinese spheres of influence, but is this the appropriate priority if the war on terror is the so-called greatest threat to the US?


It depends on what the “sophisticated US technology" is...

It is important to have cooperative efforts that encourage peaceful development ...This kind of an agreement should be available to any country willing to make promises and stick to limits on non-proliferation. ...But being bellicose with some nations and overly squishy with others about proliferation is not going to help us. We have to be consistent.


I am a US citizen and a big supporter of India. I believe them to be a responsible country interested in peace. I have no problem with India possessing nuclear facilities.

As for the effect on the “Non-Proliferation Treaty," does it really matter? I have no problem with the US wielding the treaty against dangerous havens for terrorists and giving its allies a little more leeway.

India is the future of the Middle East (I know, it’s not technically in the Middle East) and the East. They can be a huge counterweight against the Islamic radicalism and Chinese Communism that infuse the area.


Actually, forging new and stronger ties with India can be said to be one of the only foreign policy successes that the Bush administration can claim. India will be a high-ranking second-tier world power and an extremely important counterweight to Chinese regional hegemony within the next 20 years, and it would be good for the US to have a solid foundation of trust with the Indian government.


Can a multi-party system work in the US?

“Do you trust the media and their covering of the election? I sure don’t. Take a look at the front page of this community. What do you see in there? A picture of Obama/Biden on the left, and McCain/Palin on the right. Now tell me, are they the only candidates that are running?" In India, there’s a multi-party system that constantly needs to create a tenuous balance of compromise to make sure the government can work. Why hasn’t this happened in America? ...Or do you like the two-party system?

In India, there are more ethnic groups who need representation to prevent fighting between them—this system of government also happens in Northern Ireland, for example, where Catholics and Protestants share power to prevent one group governing, which would cause conflict. Though the US is culturally very diverse, there is not enough conflict between these groups to warrant a more representative form of government as it is in the cases of India and Northern Ireland.


Ethnic and religious conflicts aren’t the only or even the best reason for multiparty democracy. I think that multiparty democracy is more typically about ideological than ethnic competition.

For example, the various political parties represented in the French, German, and Italian parliaments mostly represent conservative nationalist or pro-business sentiments, or socialist or green platforms. Israel’s multiparty system includes some specifically sectarian religious parties, but the three major parties are basically secular: the nationalist Likud, the socialist Labor, the centrist Kadima. Even in India, I think that the only significant party with a specifically ethnic or religious cast is the Bharatiya Janata Party.


But you are in fact provided with more choices today.

At the end of the day, only you can decide for whom you want to vote, of course. I don’t understand, however, how can one vote for someone they don’t believe should be the next president simply on the grounds of fear that their vote is going to be wasted.

That doesn’t sounds in the spirit of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Remember that with three candidates, the pie is divided into three parts, so provided enough people stop being afraid of telling no to R and D, Nader only needs, say, 14% from Obama and 13% from McCain to get the majority of vote. With the bailout, I hardly think this is impossible. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.


I want my vote to count. I’m not afraid of my vote not counting, I know it won’t. That’s just how it works, like it or not. Only a little over half of all Americans turn out for even a presidential election, which makes my vote a bit weightier. Last election it all came down to one state (Florida); if the same were to happen again and it happened to be my state (though doubtful, I admit), I don’t want a bunch of like-minded people who voted for a third party to cause the person who actually is going to make it into office to win or lose the electoral college vote.

All you can do, really, is vote for the lesser of the two evils, you’re right.


Of course, if everyone follows the same logic, no third party candidate is ever going to win. The problem here, is not only who is going to win, but how much effort they need to put in to win. As it is, the two parties are so confident that most people think just as you have expressed, that they don’t even bother taking any significant stance on the majority of issues raised by the third parties.

By voting R or D, you are simply reaffirming your stance in the two parties, and I, personally, still think that in reality you are...wasting your vote.


Just how important are the debates?

With early voting in place in 37 states and the debates often devolving into a little more than just stump speeches these days, do we even need a third debate? Everyone always says in politics, a month is a long time to go, but in this day and age of constant streaming information, haven’t they already said pretty much everything they could say (over and over and over) again?

For those folks who are just now starting to get interested in the presidential race, these debates are probably very important to them, as it’s their first time really sitting down and listening to what the candidates have to say. Some of them are not avid followers of the evening news, and there are others who still do not have access to the Internet, so are unable to follow that way.


The debate formats to date have not been terribly substantial and in that I blame both campaigns. While they appeal to the soundbite nature of current news coverage, they fail to seriously address issues beyond a few sentences. But I can’t solely blame the campaigns on this. If we had a significant discussion on a single topic for an hour, would people watch?


I’m a registered independent in Maryland, and ...since in MD I can’t vote in the primaries, I tend not to watch the news coverage of them. So this “late" part of the process is when I, personally, start tuning in. I like to begin gathering my facts and such when it’s closer to the line because then I don’t spend six months frothing at the mouth about something that only matters five months down the line. I like to come along, do a month or so’s intensive research into the issues, start talking to people at a point when people generally have a better understanding...I’m a first year law student, age 20, if that helps. This is my first presidential election.