I want to take a moment as absentee voting begins to do a comparison between the British and American styles of elections.
The British have a Parliamentary system. Americans may like to criticize it, but remember, it’s the style of government we instilled in Iraq when we reorganized it. (So, by logical extension, if you supported Bush’s policies, you should support the Parliamentary system. I’m kidding, of course.)
For anyone who may not fully grasp the Parliamentary system, a quick rundown: you don’t vote for a particular candidate, you vote for the party. Granted, someone from the party comes to your local area, and that somebody will presumably be “your” representative if the party wins, but that’s not guaranteed. Whichever party gets a majority (if a party gets a majority), their party leader becomes the prime minister. If no party has a majority, as is common in countries like Israel which have multiple parties (Britain has two big ones and smaller third, fyi), then the party with the most votes has to build a coalition government, involving negotiations over policy directions and other factors. If a coalition government cannot be forged, often times there is a new election.
In Britain, as I mentioned, there are three parties. Usually one of the big two (conservative and labour) win out. However, in June there was a “hung Parliament,” in which no party had a majority (get your mind out of the gutter while you’re at it). Britain, for the first time in a long while, now has a coalition government.
However, the biggest difference, at least for politically jaded Americans, is the election cycle: there is none. Elections are held when the Prime Minister says there will be an election, which can be at any time for any reason.
Now, I’m not advocating for a Parliamentary system in the states. Point in fact, I prefer the idea that each section of the state or country, depending on the level of government, can elect their own representative, knowing that the person they elected will serve. What I do like is the short election period: the British people do not have to suffer through months and months of advertisements about how great the Conservative party and its leadership is, rather David Cameron (the current leader and British PM) participates in a few debates, there may be a few ads, and some public rallies, but the end is in sight when it all starts. When do people begin Presidential campaigns? Eighteen to twenty months prior to the actual election.
In California last spring, other Democrats and myself got a good view at the Republican candidates as they tried to vie over who was more conservative; too good a view almost. Now, the TV is swamped with advertisements between gubernatorial and senatorial candidates, and with all the negative campaigning, I just wish that the election would come already. (Fortunately, there are not a lot of political ads during football games, so at least there’s that.)
I’m not sure why I started thinking about this, but it has become a topic that I like to think about whenever I see all the negativity in American politics.