American politics from a distance
One foreign view of American politics
American politics from a distance
One view of how foreigners see American politics.
America is a great nation, its people seem to have a collective energy and a general belief in their nation that is most admirable, they do not seem to have succumbed to the cynicism and pessimism that engulfs Europe.
American politics; as seen from thousands of miles away with only local press, TV dramas (such as west wing—designated survivor --- house of cards) and internet, as sources of information.
The President is elected though an over complicated election system, they then become head of state and commander in chief of the military and of security services. While they have some arbitrary powers they have to have agreement from two elected “houses”, the senate and the representatives. Only the senate seems to have much power. The president can veto laws wanted by the senate, the senate can prevent the President from ordering new laws. The house of representatives does not even get a mention in the fictional drams. Each state has its own government headed by an elected governor.
There are two main political parties, republicans and democrats. Both spend increasingly huge amounts of money on political campaigns. This money seems to come only from the very rich, who may or may not attach “demands” to their donations.
The administration of governance is divided, the presidents have their own staff but other bureaucracies exist to administer the house of representatives and the senate.
The presidential election system measures overall national votes for each candidate then also for each state. Each state has a number of “electoral college votes” To foreign eyes the use of electoral college votes seems oddly undemocratic, since the votes from each state are allocated; (mostly but 2 states do differ from this); on the bases of simple majority in that state. So if for example a state has 10 electoral college votes and the popular vote in that state is 51% for one person and 49% for another all the 10 electoral college votes go for the winner thus disenfranchising the 49% even though they have voted-- this seems odd to non Americans. Especially when there is available a total national popular vote.
The long drawn out postal voting system and the practice of having many different proposals to vote on, from Presidential to local by-laws; seems to be so unnecessarily complicated that it must raise concerns. Not all Presidential candidates appear on every states election papers. That is also seems odd to non Americans
The two parties are the Democrats and republicans
In an English dictionary democracy is define as Government by the people or their elected representatives.
Republic is defined as a form of government where the people or their elected representatives posses the supreme power.
This suggests there is very little basic difference between the 2 parties. We are told the Democrats are centre-left and support American liberalisation while the Republicans are centre-right and support American conservatism.
There is an election process for each party to select who will be its nominee for the presidential election, to an outsider the question of who gets to vote in these “primaries” is a bit vague, It seems anyone can register to vote in these “selection elections” but how deliberate distortion ( by some one favouring a rival party gets to vote and deliberately selects a weak candidate) is prevented; is a bit of a mystery.
America is a huge geographic area, it now is estimated to have a total population of around 330 million. In the 2012 presidential election the 2 main contestants obtained about 127 million votes between them. So the person who was elected President did so by getting about 20% of the total populations support. The qualification for voting rights appears to vary slightly from state to state.
What does seem questionable, to those of us way outside of America, is the quality of presidential candidates. Looking back over the last 25 years it is true to say many people think that the quality of statesmen leadership has declined world wide. Those towering giants of the world stage have been replaced by lesser people. The powerful intellect and emotion of conviction, has been replaced by political party machinations. This seems to have affected America as well as, if not more so, than every other democracy in the world.
The sheer size of the electorate, in most democracies, precludes any hope of consensus among the electorate but the amount of dissatisfaction at the election results, appears to be growing everywhere.
When a nation the size and power of America has many millions of dissatisfied voters, the world gets very worried.