This night/evening/day (whatever your timezone) the world is watching America, with bated breath. Who will win the race to the White House? Will it be Hillary Clinton, Democrat nominee, potentially the first female President? Or will it be Donald Trump, Republican Nominee, thought to be standing for a laugh and somehow is in the final two. Disclaimer. I am British, and not only am I British, this is the result of a very late, caffeine fuelled day and constitutes my OPINIONS about the differences between British and American Politics.
Not going to lie America, both options are a wee bit bleak, kind of like our Brexit/Bremain situation. Either way, a lot of people are going to be incredibly unhappy. Personally, I can’t take Trump seriously. I mean, I don’t think Clinton is all that great, but lesser of two evils. However, I woke up to a country that had voted to leave the EU and is still suffering the repercussions of this, so I honestly don’t know which way this election is going to go.
At the time of writing this, as of 02:10 am, Trump is in the lead with 129 points to Clinton’s 97, having just gained Texas. So rather than focussing on the candidates (because I am too tired for that and probably won’t be all that coherent with my opinions) I will be offering a few opinions about the whole presidential election system. Hold onto your seatbelts, my sugar high may end rather swiftly.
- Why does it take so long???
- I am pretty sure this election has lasted forever. I mean, when did it start exactly? I saw somewhere the other day saying that ‘after eighteen months of campaigning’ and I just kind of started. Eighteen months? That’s a year and a half! And you have to plan the campaign/proposal/application? in advance of that and get funding and backing and … wow. I get that lots of people have to be whittled down to two nominees, one for each party, but it is weird. That being said, I am pretty sure that in British politics, the campaigns are generally along the lines of ‘Didn’t the governing party do such a bad job, let us have a go!” and ‘”Didn’t we do such a good job? So much better than them. Keep us.”. Here in the UK, I didn’t really tune into the election coverage until early Summer, and even then it was kind of running behind the Brexit campaign and was less salient to me at the time. It just seems like such a long time, even though, really, it’s a year and a half… still, eighteen months?!
- The length of campaigns leads rather nicely into my second point, which is:
- THE COST?!?!?!?!
- The Economist, in 2014(here), stated that the 2012 presidential elections, including congressional race, cost $7 billion. Seven billion dollars. Seven BILLION. Do you know how many zeroes are in a billion? NINE. NINE ZEROES. SO, that is $7, 000,000,000. That is absurd! I get that the US is waaaayyyyyy bigger than the UK (did you know the UK is actually the same size as the Mississippi flood basin? Thank you GCSE geography), but over here, there is a limit to the amount that can be donated and used in an election campaign to ensure plurality between political parties. If you spend too much on an election campaign, the party is independently audited by the Electoral Commission.
- It seems (to me, again, opinion) that the more money spent on a presidential campaign, the more positively the candidate is viewed. I actually saw an article in the BBC saying that (parphrased) While Trump’s team had doubled their spending they still lagged far behind Clinton’s team – at $18.5m compared to Clinton’s $38m.
- Funding comes from big corporations mostly right? And private donations of course – Obama was praised (if that’s the right word) for raising so much through less than $200 donations for his 2012 campaign. But, still, a lot comes from the big corporations. So, how is that fair for the people standing independent of the Republican/Democratic parties? Do other parties even exist in America??
- The two parties
- I would love to comment about this, but I live in a country where the government flips between Conservative and Labour every few years and the Green party candidates are token exciting colour in an otherwise entirely predictable map (I think everyone has forgotten that the Liberal Democrats exist after the coalition). BOTH systems seem strange as they claim to be a plurality, but really, they are a…dirality? whatever the word, you have two options and that is really it if you want your vote to count.
- Speaking of voting – HOW DOES THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE WORK???
- I get that it’s based on population density and each state gets a certain number of points, but at the same time, we have a one MP per constituency, who has a political party, and once the political party has filled more than a certain number of seats, hoorah, we have a new parliamentary majority. I guess given how America can have a different party President to the Senate, our system wouldn’t really work. But trying to explain my limited understanding of the Electoral college to my friends while waiting for the election results to start was difficult.
- But mostly, its all a bit showbiz
- I actually spent my morning watching the first five minutes of the second presidential debate (the town hall style one), watching for gestures and how it matched what Hillary Clinton was saying (There is a reason, I have a module on multimodal communication and one very fascinating non-verbal area is body language and gestures. Especially fascinating in politicians). The whole set up of that debate, and others, just seems to much more staged and production like than our party leaders lined up like bowling pins behind their podiums. For example, the walk on and the little stage off in the middle (where society dictates they should have shaken hands but instead squared off a bit then turned to the front), the walking around and, well, just the set up, it seemed so much more … I can’t even think of a way to put it. It was more showbiz, more designed like a game show. Is politics a game? Is that where all the money is going?
It is now 02:47 – Trump is still in the lead at 137 to 103, and apparently Florida and Virginia are neck and neck. I am worried, especially as I went to sleep a member of the EU and I woke up to a country which had voted to leave. Media swayed opinion scares me. I mean, look at this election campaign, and others – the will of the people shift depending on which candidate has a bigger scandal stacked against them. So, I don’t know how this will turn out. I hope that the swing states swing Democratic, but, I suppose the votes will tell.
Good luck America, but this Brit has uni tomorrow morning.