I don’t claim to understand the American political system. It is quite complex and has actually changed several times over the years, but in general it goes like this:
The United States of America, contrary to what most people believe, (including many Americans) is not a democracy – it is a republic – a federation of states. Each state may be called democratic, if by democratic we mean that it elects its representatives in each state legislature and each state government derives its powers from the consent of the governed.
The US federal government on the other hand is elected by the states themselves and not by the popular vote of the nation as a whole. So the US is a mixture of a democratically elected House of Representatives, a State-appointed Senate, and a President elected by the States with each State having selected its electors by popular vote within each State, the only exceptions being Maine and Nebraska.
It is the Presidential election system of winner-take-all based on a plurality of votes in each state which keeps out smaller parties who would have to demonstrate a very broad appeal to be able to command the ballots of a majority of the electorate. Hence we have two historical parties develop over the years to dominate the system; the Republicans and the Democrats.
Try as they might, smaller parties like Gary Johnson’s Libertarian Party or Jill Stein’s Green Party face a Herculean task of pushing out either the Democrats or Republicans to take first place and get any electors in the Electoral College.
Write-in candidates like a Green Ralph Nader or a quasi-Libertarian Ross Perot didn’t stand a chance with the winner-take-all system of electoral votes. Consider that Ross Perot, in the 1992 election received 18.9% of the popular vote, almost 20 million votes but not one Electoral College vote.
Running for the House of Representatives or the Senate is somewhat different for independents and several have been elected to these Houses but the Presidency will probably be forever beyond the grasp of any third party.
Thus, Americans are left with two parties to dominate the political scene for the foreseeable future.
The differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the US are much starker than the differences we see here in Canada between the Liberals and the Conservatives. In fact, this election has made me consider the duality of voters in the US and to a similar extent here in Canada.
With a large degree of generalization I would say that these are the two types of voters.
One is a producer; the other a parasite or moocher.
One has personal integrity; the other is willing to sell his soul to the highest bidder.
One asks no one to sacrifice himself to him; the other demands others sacrifice themselves to him.
One has pride in accomplishment; the other takes pride in destruction.
One is peaceful; the other violent.
One is patriotic; the other wishes to destroy the state.
One tells the truth; the other lies.
One is willing to listen to the argument of the other person; the other has no time for debate.
I leave it up to you to decide which of these would vote Republican and which would vote Democrat.
I’m sure there were both liberals and conservatives who placed themselves on the side of the peaceful, productive, truthful, patriotic, creators and thought that their opponents were on the other side. In fact there is some truth to that. There are people from both sides of the aisle who could be said to fit one description or another. There are no doubt Democrats who believe they are genuinely truthful, productive and patriotic as there are Republicans who are truthful, productive and patriotic.
That is the problem the US is having; not necessarily with a two party system, but with having each party represents only one aspect of a complete truth.
The Democrats are considered to be the defenders of individual liberties such as the right of a woman to choose the destiny of her own body, the right of gay people to enter into consensual relationships and marriages (If I can use that term), the right to consume mind altering drugs, the right to behave in ways not conforming to tradition.
The Republicans are considered to be the defender of economic and property rights, the right to self-defense and to bear arms, the right to own and keep property, the right to treat one’s home as one’s castle, the right to create and amass wealth, the right to trade freely with others.
But each Party has its list of faults. The Democrats are seen to be destroyers of business, wealth re distributors, protectionist, squanderers of the public purse, and pacifists. The Republicans are seen to be war mongers who are anti-gay, anti-women, against personal liberties and any aberrant yet peaceful behaviour such as consuming mind-altering drugs.
In general these observations are accurate. And yet while the US has had the Democratic Party control both Houses and the Presidency for the first two years of Obama and the Senate and the Presidency for the last four years, the war on drugs has escalated and they are still in Afghanistan and have active military operations throughout the world. When the Republicans were in power we saw a massive increase in regulations and government spending and debt.
It seems that regardless of which Party achieves power Americans are doomed to see the steady erosion of both personal and economic rights and liberties. I don’t believe anyone can say with absolute certainty that a Romney Presidency would be any better than an Obama Presidency; although personally I believe Obama to be the absolute worst President our neighbour has had the misfortune to endure.
I can say this with certainty. Unless one or both parties begins to adopt the perceived positive policies of their opposing Party the United States is doomed to fail as a nation.