Namaskar Y'all - 2016


The Elections Are Over! Now What?

By Shyama Parui

Who is it going to be? Hillary or Trump? We pondered. Trump or Hillary? We continued to wonder with abated breath throughout the last few months. Now, we know.

I recognize that we are truly privileged to live in a democracy and in spite of witnessing a long and bitter campaign battle among presidential candidates, what we endured is a piece of cake compared to living in an undemocratic society. With freedom comes responsibilities, says the age old wisdom reminding us that a lot is expected of us. At the very least, we should have cast our votes. However, the lengthy process from weeding out the hopefuls to settling on the finalists and then leading up to Election Day did push the limits of patience. The political jokes stopped being funny, the mudslinging became unbearable and the stress of putting up with overbearing, passionate and opinionated frenemies divided by political beliefs pushed your blood pressure out of control. If you think the campaign period woefully drags on and you are just glad the elections are over, you are not alone. The US may be among the very few countries that stretch campaigning to over a year. According to a feature on NPR, Mexico campaigns for 147 days, UK for 139, Canada for only 78 days and in Japan the citizens have to bear the cacophony for a mere 12 days.

I tried to recall what the average days spent campaigning in the Indian General Elections but my memory failed me and I had to turn to the annals of the worldwide web. Much to my amazement, I found some extremely interesting numbers on the last general elections held in 2014.

India is an enormous democracy with nearly 815 million eligible voters and the process of electing 543 parliamentary was conducted in nine phases stretching over a month. With a 66.38% voter turnout, one can surmise that the campaigning was loud and lasted long. I remember turning 18 and being excited about casting my first vote in India. My family members were amused by my sincere attempt to read through all the literature the candidates sent. I ignored their cynical smiles and carried out my civic duty with due diligence. Some may mistake me for an idealistic fool but I'd still like to vote with a clear conscience.

Regardless of your nationality, at times you are compelled to question the reliability of selecting an important official by popular vote. If I owned a company and modeled my hiring practice after the elections, this is what it would look like. Candidates would bombard all the hiring managers with resumes, commercials and endorsements but on the day of the selection, most of the hiring managers wouldn't show up. In fact, they may neither read the resumes nor would they interview the potential hires. They would either randomly pick someone to fill the vacancy or make their decision based on arbitrary criteria. There would be little scrutiny while the employees did their job and managers may not even bother to deliver a face to face performance review. As an employee, you could complete only 25% of your commitments and still be rewarded. Imagine that!

Years ago, my former co-workers and I from the field of Human Resources, drew up an elaborate selection process for the most important job in the country, the President of the United States. Admittedly, this was hypothetical and drawn up in the cafeteria over tasteless sandwiches and overheated soup but the discussion was full of energy. Our process included simulating domestic and international scenarios that a president may face to see how the candidate would react and as a voter we could assess their actions. However, our enthusiasm was short lived as one of our coworkers remarked, “This would be a waste of time. I'm too busy and will go by my gut." So much for a fair and meticulous method to find the most effective president.

In all honesty, the last two decades have robbed me of some my optimism but I am holding on to my faith in the democratic process. It would be a mistake to think that voting is the only thing we have some control over. As clichéd as it sounds, we have a voice and we have access to information like never before. So why not create your own scorecard to assess the effectiveness of the current elected officials including every position from the County Commissioner to the President. What are the most important issues for you and how are they doing on those issues? Personally, I will take great pleasure in being the hard to please boss and rate stringently but I'm also known to be fair. Attending Town Hall meetings, writing to elected representatives or calling the County office sounds humdrum, nevertheless it is better to be heard than be silent.

Pointing fingers to blame the government or others sounds like the easier option but what good is that when a real problem exists. We have all been guilty of merely focusing on the problem but I've realized that it is better to focus on a solution. To take a very simple example, my kids will sometimes complain repeatedly saying, “I'm cold, I'm cold" and that's when I remind them that they should ask themselves, “How can I keep myself warm?" Soon they figure out that they know what to do, that is, get a sweater or blanket or adjust the thermostat. Whether the election results favored your choice or not, the worst thing we could do is get complacent or give up by feeling helpless. By all means hold individuals in office accountable. Let them humbly accept that they are not entitled to your vote, they have to earn it the next time.

At the end of the day, if my kids come to me and declare that they want to be the President when they grow up, I want to look them in the eye and say that, “I believe in you and will support you every step of the way because it is a worthy office". After that, I will say a prayer.