Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I don't know much about American politics,

so correct me if I've got it wrong.

A while ago, I joined a facebook group (I still don't understand what facebook is for, still less facebook groups, still...) called something like "One Million Against Hillary" (Clinton, that is. I'm not getting self-destructive.) Then I joined another one called "We don't like Obama". Ok, I thought. They're both dangerous leftists, so, whatever.

But then I thought, hang on. What if everybody just doesn't vote for either of them? What if the duelling facebook camps just cancel each other out and they both lose? Does that mean the third guy gets to run for president for the Dems? Or is it that the whole president election just gets canceled and it automatically goes to the Republican guy (whoever he is) in the absence of anyone running against him?

Honestly, with all the expense they all go to for their years and tedious long years of campaigning through all this Byzantine "primaries" business, you'd think they'd get fed up and just go back to the sensible British Parliamentary system. I think I have sussed out why the voter turnout is so bad in the US. By the time you get to the voting part, everyone has been bored into a coma by the ten or fifteen years worth of lead-up.


Anonymous said...

It is long and can be quite tedious, but does help reveal stamina and staying power, and the quite-varied states let us see candidates in the round over time and tends to force compromise over more extreme views.The presidential system also provides more definite separation of powers. The people actually get to choose their chief executive (from a short list, true, but how many average Brits had a chance for hands up or down on Gordon Brown as chief executive?) Plus, the Parliamentary system guarantees an executive with a legislative majority, and given modern democracies tendencies to over-promise (and then under-deliver) sets the government up for over-reaching with speed. We like the executive and the legislature to tug in different directions, restraining the impulses of both. The last time we had an executive aligned with a serious majority in the Congress was LBJ after the Kennedy assassination, and the result was the unsustainable and counter-productive "Great Society" legislation pulling us toward the European welfare state model, a misstep that has taken 40+ years to undo. As for voter turnout--it is not too hard to actually register and vote here; the interested do, and therefore have more say in how things are run--that doesn't seem too awful a set-up to me.

I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work!

Jim McCullough
Greensboro, NC

Mark S. Abeln said...

The Founding Fathers of the Republic did love the English Parliamentary system, but felt betrayed by it due the intolerable 2% tax on tea (which is why we drink coffee) and the audacity of actually legalizing Catholicism in Quebec (which is a fact not taught in the government schools).

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

At least we get it over with.

A five-week campaign and its all over.

Five. Weeks.

Anonymous said...

There are some advantages to our methods for presidential elections, Hilary, over a parliamentary system. Just to mention one, the group voting aspect (all states but one, IIRC, being winner take all) tends to marginalize the nuts, rather than forcing the leading party to take them in, in a coalition, to have a government forming majority.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

being a pro-life Christian and social conservative, and therefore one of those regarded in mainstream modern politics as one of the "nuts" who tends to get marginalized, I can think of ways in which this effect might not be desireable.

Anonymous said...

No doubt, but look on the bright side: Neither you _nor_ the Socialist Workers Party is getting a seat at the American National Political Table. Though either of you can get a seat with a political party, which seat will let you speak, within that party, but not rule. It's another little oddity but, while America doesn't have a parliamentary system, one can argue with a straight face that we have _two_ of them, Republican and Democrat.

While culture probably explains much of it, I suspect that our _system_ drives us toward the conservative and has helped us remain probably the most centrist / conservative of significant western states.