Monday, November 3, 2008

US Elections

It's already November 4th in Mongolia, and polls should begin opening in the United States sometime this evening. As a political junkie who cannot seem to get enough of the twists and turns this campaign season has brought, I will be anxious over the next 24 hours as everyone waits for the first results to come in.

Some might ask if the ACMS has done anything over the last year to raise awareness among Mongolians about how the political process works in the United States, especially in light of the historic nature of this year's election. The short answer is no. The longer answer is given the mission of the ACMS (i.e. Promoting scholarship in Mongolia), it would make far more sense to focus energy on raising awareness among international observers about the political process in Mongolia, which to some extent we have done over the year. But, in general, the ACMS only gets involved in politics when a researcher comes to the center investigating a political issue, which again more often than not involves understanding the political issues of the day in Mongolia.

Nevertheless there have been a few opportunities to discuss the US political system at the ACMS. In 2007 we actually had two Speaker Series lectures in a row that dealt with the political process and campaigning in the United States. Bob Betty of Washburn University gave a lecture on the use of tv advertisements in US politics with special emphasis on the state of Kansas. Then a week later Dale Lawton, who earned his PhD in government at the University of Virginia and was a Foreign Service Officer at the US Embassy in Ulaanbaatar at the time, gave a lecture on ethics and social responsibility (or lack thereof) in campaigns in US presidential races. Both lectures were based on academic research each had done, and they provided a very interesting look into the mechanics of campaigns in the US system.

To do my part in engaging in the American democratic process, I will take Nov. 5th off to participate in the election day gathering for US citizens and Mongolians being sponsored and organized by the US Embassy. It turns out that the polls will begin closing about 9 in the morning here, so everyone attending will be able to see the different states and races being called in real time. It should be a very interesting day, and a rare opportunity to discuss the US political system.

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