US Elections For Dummies

That tricky choice: more drone strikes and torture or more drone strikes and torture?

As we approach another US Presidential election, increasing numbers of non-Americans are watching proceedings with great interest; however, the US electoral system is a strange thing, and many foreigners fail to understand its subtleties. As a non-Yank who takes a great interest in US politics, I felt I should explain US elections to those foreigners who would like to follow events in the run-up to November 6. So here is the MoronWatch quick guide to American elections.

Only Two Parties?

That’s right, the American system is carefully engineered to ensure only Democrats and Republicans have any chance of winning. To outside observers, used to multi-party democracy, this seems a little strange. America, in its usual efficient way, has optimised democracy to the bare minimum. Cuba, of course, has a one-party state. America has TWICE the number of parties that Cuba does, and is therefore twice as democratic. And what better measure of democracy could there possibly be?

To ensure no other parties have a chance, the Ds and the Rs have things sown up. For example, in the current run of presidential debates, the parties signed a legal contract promising not to debate with any other candidate, thus creating an unbreakable duopoly and excluding any possible third-party candidate from gaining any publicity. The media plays along with the game, ensuring that alternative candidates are seen as little more than cranks. And when force is needed, it’s freely used; indeed, when Green Party candidate Jill Stein tried to attend this year’s debate, she was arrested and held by New York police. Smell the democracy!

No Spending Limits?

Outsiders have a quaint idea that elections should reflect the will of the people. America is smarter than this (as are other advanced democracies such as Cuba, Zimbabwe, etc). The People, as everyone knows, are idiots and shouldn’t be allowed to make any serious decisions. Presidents should instead be chosen by the nation’s cleverest people: CEOs. Unlike many democracies, America imposes no spending restrictions, and even allows third-parties (such as corporate front groups) to run political advertising. The election result is thus a simple matter of money.

So corporations fund the campaigns and the campaign that spends the most money wins. Simple! Which party do the corporations prefer? Both of them! Since both parties represent corporate interests, it doesn’t really matter to corporations which one is elected. They fund both parties to make sure that they, rather than any accountable body, control the system. If one of the parties suddenly questioned the rights of corporations to own and run US society, that party would lose its funding and the other one would win. The system is balanced and fair (unless you’re some kind of commie who believes in “one person, one vote” type stuff).

No Progressive Party?

Real democracies represent all parts of the political spectrum, but that can be messy, and result in the people actually choosing their government; so the enlightened system in America (like that in Cuba) ensures this doesn’t happen. Most societies split into two parts – conservatives (those who think the past was great) and progressives (those who aren’t so sure about that). So the main political parties tend to represent various flavours of these strands. America has evolved beyond this crude system; since progressives tend to be uneasy about corporate power threatening democracy, they had to be excluded from the electoral process.

Instead, Americans are offered a simpler choice: pro-corporate sane people vs pro-corporate insane people. This means that a knowledge of politics isn’t necessary for voting in America, since the parties disagree on very little anyway. Just decide whether you think raped pregnant women should be forced to carry their babies to term or not, and your choice is simple.

Make Up The Rules As You Go Along

Here’s the best thing about US elections: if the vote doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t even matter! You simply ensure the voting machines will give the right answer, people have trouble voting, and the supreme court is packed with your friends.

Why bother with elections at all? Why not just allow CEOs to nominate the next President at a secret meeting? Americans are proud of their semi-democratic past, and voting reminds them of the days when they actually used to have some control over national policy. Besides, the corporations who make rigged voting machines would be very upset to lose all that business. As with many African nations, which have so carefully copied America’s version of democracy, the US enjoys going through the motions of voting, secure in the knowledge that the rich people who own everything will still be in power after election day.

So Does Voting Make Any Difference?

Yes. Despite the fact that both parties are largely funded by the same interests, small changes of direction can make a big difference. The Republican party has been taken over by people who will happily start a nuclear war, since they believe God’s on their side and they’re guaranteed a spot in heaven whatever happens. And the difference between “nuclear war” and “no nuclear war” is pretty significant. Romney has signalled a more aggressive attitude towards Russia, China and Iran if he’s elected, which is bad news for global stability and the economy, but good news for the oil and weapons companies that back him.

So here we go again: through some joke of history, the entire future of global humanity rests on the whims of a handful of badly-informed morons in a handful of swing states. If there is a god, he has a wicked sense of humour.

11 thoughts on “US Elections For Dummies”

  1. As an expat Brit with dual nationality I have to say that this article is broadly correct. I will vote for a President in 10 days time and have realistically just two choices with very little substantial difference between them. I will however go for the more moderate choice rather than the man supported by extreme right wing loonies and the incredibly selfish mega rich.
    As for the voting system itself, I firmly believe that 12 years ago the “hanging chad” debacle allowed in a Moron who initiated two major wars and the virtual collapse of the global banking system. Perhaps even worse than this it was an end of the one realistic chance to avoid global warming and to save the planet from its now almost inevitable fate.

  2. Not directly relevant to your blog, but I’m not on Twitter. In reply to GOPMinion, the Treaty of Tripoli specifically states that America is NOT a Christian nation, so it seems unlikely that’s why they were attacked.

    I suspect large quantities of cash were a more likely motive!

  3. You might like to compare the terms of Article XI of the Treaty of Tripoli (1797) with current US attitudes
    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

      1. No problem. It’s worth noting that the “America is a Christian nation” claim by the likes of GOPMinion directly contravenes this Article (signed into law by John Adams, who I think was one of the Founding Fathers), and also the “Freedom of Religion” articles of the US Constitution. Most of the Founding Fathers were allegedly Freemasons.

        You could even argue that Right wing nutjobs are anti-American, which should annoy them!!

  4. BTW is the UK system so superior? When was the last time the majority of the electorate voted for the eventual government, with the exception of this current coalition. And just how many votes does it take to get an MP for each of the parties?

    1. “BTW is the UK system so superior?” – in a word, yes. We Brits so excel at moaning about our leaders that we fail to recognise the strengths in our system. In the US, a lone billionaire can run attack ads against a progressive candidate and defeat them. In the UK (or any genuine democracy), that would be illegal. In the US, the Republicans blatantly remove valid voters from the roll. In the UK, prison sentences would result. In parts of the US, police stop black voters from reaching the polls. That doesn’t happen here. In the US, “voter ID” laws are introduced to make it harder to vote. That doesn’t happen here. Most important, we have spending caps here – how can a true democracy function without those?

      “When was the last time the majority of the electorate voted for the eventual government?” – In a truly representative democracy, no one party should ever get a majority of the vote – societies are far too diverse and complex for that to happen. Only in a rigged system could one party win 50%+ support. It happens in the US, and in such wonderful places as Uzbekistan and Saddam’s Iraq.

      1. Also, the UK uses humans to count the vote, not voting machines with unverified (allegedly for commercial reasons, but there is a clear public interest override) programmes, supplied by Republican contributors connected with one of the candidates.

Leave a Reply