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Lessons to be learntfrom US election

From its exposure to wall-to-wall coverage of the United States presidential election, Trinidad and Tobago should derive more than a share in the Hollywood-type excitement of the world's most-hyped electoral horse race.

The campaign actually offered an object lesson in the operation of an advanced political system, employing elaborate techniques for discovering the popular will and ensuring self-determination.

One object lesson was in the number and variety of opinion polls that delivered reliable data, not only on popular attitudes but also on electoral outcomes.

Another valued illustration is the sidebar referenda-like exercises determining policy on issues such as marijuana legalisation, gay rights and abortion.

Again the presidential election provided an opportunity to reveal indicative attitudes among sectors defined by age, race, national origin and immigrant status, economic bracket and employment position.

If nothing else, the US election should be a reminder of how far behind T&T remains in realising widespread aspirations for constitutional reforms, such as advocated most recently by the People's Partnership.

After more than two years in office, the People's Partnership Government has yet to enact any of the reforms that it advocated leading up to the 2010 general election, including the limiting of the terms of the Prime Minister to two stints at the helm.

Such shirking of responsibilities should not be tolerated, but, of course, in this nine-day wonder called Trinidad and Tobago most voters would have long forgotten about those promises once their party got into power.

It is this clandestine behaviour that has kept T&T politics in the dark ages, with the country suffering in the process. Instead of the nation moving forward as one, with a common goal, there are cliques and interest groups which demand their pound of flesh and it usually results in one step forward and two steps backward.

After all the bickering and backbiting on the campaign trail, President Obama stressed the need for Democrats and Republicans to now work together as one to move America forward, especially in dealing with its dire debt crisis, with love of country taking precedence over partisan politics.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, one of the first things we do after an election is to dispatch every member of state boards—never mind what a fine job some of them may have been doing—and install lackeys and loyalists. Then everything lurches to a halt and it takes quite some time before the machinery is back in good running order.

And no one is held to account to make good on the many pledges made on the campaign trail, things that would certainly make Trinidad and Tobago a better place in the long run, but which have been conveniently forgotten after the euphoria of ascending to the highest office in the land.

The American voters won't let their President get away with such expediency and neither should the citizens of T&T when it comes to their elected government.

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