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The US & UK General Elections Compared.

Yes it is also a General Election in the USA.  But there the similarity ends.  In this piece I will cover the differences in the process and list the issues that are prominent in the US election campaign but would rarely appear in a British one.

In the UK the party leaders at the start of the campaign is a given.  They may be changed if they lose.  But in the USA the people are picking their leader.  The Head of State, Chief Executive, Commander in Chief and party leader all combined in one person.  It might have the makings of a dictatorship except Congress is not usually compliant.

The 2016 election campaign in the US is a most unusual variant of the species.

The first thing you notice is money.  Mountains of it and lots going to negative, sometimes vicious TV adverts about the opposing candidates.  In contrast the UK has a comparatively miniscule cash limit and no TV advertising other that the strictly controlled Party Political Broadcast.

Then there are PACs (Political Action Committees) and SuperPACs who are well funded, media savvy biased to one candidate and responsible for much of the vicious advertising.

A spin off of this first point is the probably true accusations that candidates are restricted in what they can so in office by the donors who have funded their campaigns.  The donors are in the main large corporate entities.

Next you notice religion.  Candidates vying to be more “Christian”.  There is the Born Again and Evangelical vote.  And of course aggressive courting the Afro-American and Hispanic vote.  Emphasising that in many States the “whites” is now approaching a minority.

This year the picking of Judges for the Supreme Court has become political.

Endorsement by fellow politicians or celebrities are much publicised, but probably are of little value in terms of votes, indeed in some cases they may have a negative rather than positive effect on the candidates numbers.

Other issues that would be unlike to appear in the UK are:-

Defence of the letter of the 200 year old Constitution.  The right to bear arms, the right to silence, freedom of religion, privacy etc.  Except for the weapons issue, we tend to accept them all as a given.

The middle class and its protection are prominent.  The middle class seems to be everyone from the bottom up to the billionaire class. 

The anti-Abortion lobby is very powerful.  Pro Life is very important to the Christian vote.

The Wall to keep Mexicans out, as opposed to the Berlin Wall to keep East Germans in.

Veterans Affairs, in theory and to large extend in practice they do this well.

Finally twice in the process the majority vote is not the absolute determinant.  The parties can set the number of delegates are selected from each State for the Conventions that picks the party’s nominee.  For part of the time it is proportional to the voting tally, but about one third through the process it becomes winner takes all.  And in some case there are party hacks appointed to cast their vote as they feel fir or are instructed regardless of the popular vote.

This offence to democracy is repeated in the actual General Elections where the contests in each of the 54 States or Territories select members for the Electoral College in a proportion to population basis, but again the candidate with the most votes takes all the College members for that State.

The college has to select a President by passing the 270 delegate line.  Ii is not normal, but if there were more than 2 candidates in the race it is possible no-one would get to that mark.  And in this most unusual variant of the species, the 2016 election we may have a third (and in extremis a fourth) candidate.  The decision then goes to House of Representatives where the majority party, currently the Republicans, will decide regardless of the total national vote for the candidates.  Although at the time of writing on Leap Year Day, there are likely to be just the two.

 

Norman Harris                   29 February 2016