This week – once again – we are riffing on the broad theme of ‘democracy’ and how it manifests itself. We thought that this time around we’d look at how it’s done in America since we have a passing interest in things American (the clue is in the title). Now, we thought we knew a bit about their process here in the UK (the clue is in the title) but it really does bear closer examination if only to marvel at the intricacies of the thing. The “Youknaghted Staytes of Uhmerica” (said in our best/worst drawl) is a republic. Not for them being ruled over by some system of inherited family wealth/influence/genes (at least not since the late 1700s at any rate). Instead they choose one bloke (and its always been a bloke up until now) to rule over all that he surveys. Simple enough. How they get to that point, however, is fascinating. Step one is to choose your bloke. So there are essentially two parties – Donkeys and Elephants. Confusingly the Donkeys (supposedly those on the left of the political spectrum although elsewhere in the world it would be a bit of a stretch to describe any American political party as left-wing) are coloured blue and the Elephants (those on the right) are coloured red. Again anywhere else in the world Reds are left-wing and the Blues are right-wing. We wonder if its because they like ‘flipping’ things such as driving on the wrong side of the road and so forth…must be a genetic trait…etc.
Now then – in order to choose your bloke you need to have a selection process. This could either be by a ‘primary’ or a ‘caucus’. In a caucus you have to be a member of a party and registered to vote in order to have a say. They are, essentially, a loose gathering at a specific place (like a library or church or some such public building). At that gathering lots of candidates send along their cheerleaders and they try to influence people to vote for their preferred candidate. At the allotted time the voting is done by a show of hands (wtf?) or by standing in a certain place (a show of feet – wtf?). In any particular state there are lots of caucuses (caucusi???) and eventually all of those votes are tallied and the particular state announces who is their preferred choice. These votes are then taken to a ‘Convention’ (a gathering of the party) by ‘Delegates’ (party officials) and the delegates, sort of, vote for the top candidate. It is, we suppose, a fairly simple system only marred (as recent events suggest) by trying to do the vote tally via ‘technology’. Not all states of ‘The States’ use a caucus system. In fact very few of them do nowadays but Iowa has become briefly interesting in that they have just fucked things up royally via an app (applies to Donkeys only).
Other states use a Primary. In a primary anybody can turn up and vote (wtf?). So a stone cold Elephant can vote for a stone cold Donkey (wtf?) candidate. Its done via a polling booth so votes are confidential and you don’t have to hang around being harangued by party officials. At least for some States. In others (Closed Primaries) you have to be registered with a party to vote. However your vote still goes to a Delegate who transfers it at conference time to whomever was the most popular (in your vote in your area).
Just bear in mind that this ‘delegate system’ is highly skewed. Iowa has forty-one delegates and California has four hundred and sixteen. Just so you know. Also there are people called ‘Super Delegates’ whose vote counts for more than the others (for various complicated reasons). At least that keeps things interesting. Also of interest is that the actual election of The President boils down to an ‘electoral college’. Tune in next time for a breakdown of that…