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Election Post-itIt’s election time. and I’m confused.

Back home (aside from local council elections which I confess I never really understood), it was always a fairly simple case of knowing if you were in the blue/red/yellow camp when it came round to general election time. Every time that I was able to vote since the age of 18 I have done so quite willingly – always thought it was important.

But now the words ‘primary’ and ‘caucus‘ have floated into my election vocabulary.

People keep sayings things like ‘colleges’, ‘congress’, and ‘the senate’, and I confess I’m having a hard time understanding it.

A guy here called Alan spent twenty minutes on a car journey with me explaining it nicely, and even went so far as to draw a little diagram on a post-it for me, and yet it hasn’t really sunk in.

South Carolina went a bit mad here on Saturday as that was Republican voting day. Next Saturday is Democrat voting day. That’s right – there’s more than one voting day! It’s not a case of ‘turn up, and tick the box of the party you support’, you have to turn up on a particular day for that party, and pick that candidate for that party that you want to support. What you’re doing is then electing them to then vote for you later in the year when the election proper comes around.

Or it’s something like that anyway. It’s very confusing. I’ve tried – no really I have – to get my head around it, but in a world where I am no longer a citizen and thus I can’t vote anyway, the motivation for learning it properly is somewhat lacking.

“You’re going to keep that post-it and put it on your blog, aren’t you?” says Alan as he sees me tucking it away into my pocket.

Indeed I am. But please don’t ask me to explain anything about the election.

14 responses to “Arcadia”

  1. Dan says:

    It’s very simple: Imagine what democracy would look like if it were conducted by a colony of psychotic, retarded weasels, and then ask yourself “How could I make this dumber?”

    Got that result in your head? Good. Now imagine that a bunch of dishonest dickheads have taken that answer and spent decades coming up with new and ever-more-evil variants, each of which are then blessed by political scientists, pollsters and the political press.

    Americans who object to this are known as “radicals,” “troublemakers” and “terrorists.”

    Personally I think it’s all just hunky dory. Now explain to me how this whole “constitutional monarchy” thingy works.

  2. Ian says:

    I think it was Scott Adams who said “the electoral college is an elaborate system designed to shield Americans from the truth: that they invariably elect the tall guy with the best hair”.

  3. Paul Leonard says:

    You’re back – where did you go? I figured you had man flu or were just plain old busy?

  4. Mum says:

    Yes welcome back, got all excited when we saw South Carolina on the news. Is it all a bit like a ‘Dilbert’ cartoon strip with weasels etc? I have the calendar with a new joke every day. I hope Hilary wins I like her(hair)style!

  5. Tugs says:

    Hi Geoff. You’re not alone – I’ve tried several times to understand the American system, but have failed. It all started in 2000 when Bush won with a smaller percentage of the overall vote than Gore. I think I now get the college votes thing, but as for primaries and caucus’s, I’ve been beaten. No website has yet provided an easy-to-understand explanation of the whole thing.

    Anyway, are you always going to be barred from voting, or do you have to wait a certain period of time?

  6. Jono says:

    Congress === Parliament
    House of Representatives === Commons
    Senate === Lords
    President === Dickhead

  7. Brent says:

    Let’s see if I can put the primaries simply. In the months prior to the “real” Presidential election (1st Tuesday in November of the election year, so this year, 2008, on November 4th), the national parties (Democrats/Republicans) hold primary elections to determine what candidate from that party would be suited to run in the presidential election in November. The idea is that by having the common people vote on the available candidates beforehand, that then the party has the candidate that would gain the most votes for their party at the presidential election.

    HOWEVER, what the primary votes really do is elect delegates for the candidates who then go to the party’s National Convention (either Republican or Democratic) to actually select the party’s runner. This works perfectly for the parties when one candidate gets the majority of the delegates and so gets selected as the party’s running candidate for the presidential election…although this doesn’t always work and so the National Convention becomes a Brokered Convention. This is where a bunch of richy riches sit around smoking stogies saying how much they think one candidate would do better than the other and it basically removes the “people’s” vote.

    The Presidential candidate’s running-mate (Vice-Presidential candidate) is also selected during the National Conventions, thus forming the party’s “ticket” – the full form of who the party is endorsing for the run at the presidency.

    So once the parties have determined their ticket at the National Conventions, we begin having more formed Republican vs. Democrat vs. whoever else is running from another party (there are many more parties than just the Big2) debates and other forums in which the parties’ ticket tries to outshine the other to gain the popular vote.

    And then finally comes the first Tuesday of November, where many American citizens say one of a few things: “yippee I get to vote and make my say in my country’s process”, “yippee I get to vote for the first time because I’ve never voted before”, or “yippee, I don’t have to watch all those horrid political commericals anymore!” (I’d be the latter). Also on this day, we get to see how badly the national Media can mess up the projections on who is going to win the presidency. Whether it be something as mentioned in the case of Bush v Gore in which the media declared each the winner at least a half dozen times before giving up and saying they have no clue, or in the case of Truman v Dewey in which a largely circulated newspaper (dipicted in the Truman link) actually declared Dewey the winner in their early edition. Good times, love the media.

    So with all that, going back to my first statement, I guess I really can’t put the primaries simply, because they are too convuluded to make any sense. Great stuff, this American Politics.

  8. Paul Webb says:

    You think the US system is wierd – don’t forget that we have things like Black Rod, an old man in tights who carries a stick with a “gold sovereign inset into a gold knob”, whose most memorable function is to have a door slammed in his face. Have you tried explaining that to anybody without laughing?

  9. (William) Andrew says:

    BBC Radio4’s comedy “The Now Show” a few weeks ago did a sketch on the complexity of the US voting system… needless to say that the sketch involved explaining the process to a certain non-comprehending President 😉

  10. Chz says:

    It’s basically a case of a bunch of *very* idealistic revolutionaries (Jefferson, in particular) taking what they know (the UK parliamentary system, which circa 1775 was fairly similar to its modern form except for the power of the Lords) and deciding to… “Fix” it.

    The secondary reason was that the individual states demanded a fairly decentralized system, which leads to all these primaries that you see now.

    The main problem is that America has this “Holy Bible” approach to the various works of the Founding Fathers and refuse to accept that what might have been a very good idea in 1788, is not necessarily so now.

  11. Chris says:

    The Beeb’s 10 o’clock news had a news report from Charleston today regarding the elections.

  12. jj says:

    i heard that report – it was amusing, in a way.

    one of the difficulties with the American system is that there is no one body that makes the rules. while there are certain rules set by the Federal government and Constitution (for example, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November being national election day), there are a lot that aren’t (local principalities like towns and counties can set their own election dates for local offices).

    in addition, the primary and caucus system isn’t run by the government: it’s run by the political parties. to make things more confusing, each state’s branch of the party sets the rules for the state. that’s why some states have primaries, some states have caucuses, and some states in the not-so-distant past have had neither. delegate allocation to the candidates is set by the state parties, but number allowed to each state is set by the national parties: for example, states with Republican Governors (or that voted for Bush in the last election) get more delegates than others. in addition, you get goofy things like “superdelegates” who are elected officials who get to vote for whomever they choose.

    and this is all just to choose who runs for president. not who actually becomes president.

    concerning the electoral college: they vote for president and vice-president in separate ballots, so it’s conceiveable you could have one from each party. they too are chosen by the states (they used to be chosen by the state legislature, not the voters), and less than half the states have laws that punish an elector if they vote for someone other than whom they were “supposed” to.

    and then you get into situations where Congress has to choose the president and/or vice-president…

    it’s not that bad if you grew up with it; i mean, i couldn’t really explain how Parliamentary or Council elections work…

  13. Stiffler's Dad says:

    Is it as hard to believe as Spurs being beaten by the best team in the land again?

    Live long and proper,

    Former Supervisor, Class r4.

  14. Helen K says:

    Howdy Geoff!

    You may or may not be very interested, but incase you are, i have tagged you in a little sort of blog thing that someone tagged me in, you can have a look at it on my post on my blog! But if you’re busy or easily bored, you might want to give it a miss!

    Happy new year!


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