Why does a great nation choose its leaders so foolishly?

What has gone wrong with the American Republic?  Why do we choose our Presidents in such a bizarre fashion, often electing people with a combination of inexperience and personality disorders?  Results unlike those of any other major nation.  It’s a broader problem, with our inability to reform our health care system another prime example.

This book review chronicles in painful detail the some of the madness that was the 2008 Presidential election.  Another fine article from the London Review of Books, which I strongly recommend.

Enabler’s Revenge

David Runciman, London Review of Books, 25 March 2010 — Subscription only.  Reviews of the following:

The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down by Andrew Young, 301 pages

Race of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, 448 pages

It contains an unrelated vignette about an important aspect of life in America, where many people become almost indentured servants of their employers by their inability to get healthcare elsewhere.  Why does Andrew Young remain with Edwards rapidly rotting campaign?

But the real glue that keeps Young in place is the American healthcare system, a subject on which Edwards had made himself an expert and the reform of which formed the centrepiece of his bid for the presidency. Two of Young’s three children experience serious medical problems in the first year of their lives that require expensive treatment. On the rare occasions Young considers breaking his ties with the Edwardses and starting afresh, the first thing that comes to mind is that they are not only paying his wages but his family’s health insurance as well. And it always gives him pause.

This book is, among other things, a truly chilling portrayal of the way healthcare works in the US. The treatment the Youngs’ second child gets, even with insurance, is haphazard at best, with diagnostic failures and inadequate nursing. When they complain, someone from the hospital’s Risk Management Office is sent to calm them down. By the time their third child develops similar problems, they have learned enough about the importance of personal contacts to trade on the Edwards name to get the best treatment available.

Meanwhile, when Rielle Hunter arrives at a hospital in California to give birth to John Edwards’s child, it turns out she has no insurance at all. Young has to front up $5000 on his own credit card just to get her admitted

For more information on the FM website

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page. Of esp relevance to this topic:

Other posts about American elections:

  1. Why McCain will lose the election, 1 July 2008
  2. Lilliput or America – who has a better way to choose its leaders?, 19 November 2008
  3. About Obama’s coronation – wisdom from Fred, 23 January 2009
  4. “Lights, Camera, Democracy” by Lewis Lapham, 24 May 2009
  5. About campaigns for high office in America – we always expect a better result from the same process, 17 June 2009
  6. More about the tottering structure of the American political regime, 17 August 2009
  7. Campaign finance reform = incumbent protection, 20 December 2009


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