A British Take on US Politics

I have always steered well clear of the minefield that is talking about politics on my blog, but it is rather topical at the moment and a lot of Americans have asked for my take on US politics.

Let me start this post by admitting that when it comes to US politics I really don’t have a clue (apparently I have something in common with Ben Carson after all) and in addition to this as a US permanent resident I am not even allowed to vote here. Despite this, I have tried to develop some kind of understanding of the US political system because the winner of the next election will have a big impact on my life.

I have to admit that I don’t understand that in the land of choice where you can pick multiple different hospitals to be treated at and where there are 16,000 different ways to order a coffee at a café there are only two political parties that you can vote for that have a chance of winning in each state. Why not switch it up a bit and have a bit of variety? In the UK you can vote for Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, UKIP (please don’t), SNP, the Green Party and even the Monster Raving Loony Party (I kid you not) and a host of others. Okay we end up getting stuck with either the Conservatives or Labour governing the country but at least the ballot paper is a bit more interesting.

Another thing that I don’t understand is the fact that you have to be born in the US or born abroad to a US citizen to be President. I don’t like this because as someone who is bloody awful at sports and is too awkward to be on television there are already enough potential careers that are closed to me. Why make it even harder for me to be successful? I jest of course but the rules that someone has to have been born in the US seem a lot harsher than other countries and lead to unnecessary distractions, as Ted Cruz has apparently discovered. To be the Prime Minister of the UK you just need to be a British citizen or a citizen of the Commonwealth (about 50 countries) and command a majority in the House of Commons. In Canada you just need to be able to apologise a lot and to play ice hockey (I may be twisting the truth slightly here).

I must admit that I like how dynamic the US political debates are. British political debates are too… British. “I would like to inform the Right Honourable Gentleman that I disagree with him on this matter”. I used to fall asleep every I tried to watch David Cameron and Ed Milliband argue over who was the most useless. In contrast the US televised debates are far more vibrant and interesting to watch as the crowd boos or cheers their rhetoric like a chat show. I have to confess that I don’t like watching the Democratic Party debates because I feel sorry for the third wheel (or Martin O’Malley as he is officially known).

Another thing I like about the US elections is the Primaries. Nobody cares about Iowa or New Hampshire but by having their Primaries first they manage to bring themselves into the limelight. I once Googled Iowa to find interesting facts on the state and learned that an asteroid hit the state 74 million years ago. Apparently nothing interesting has happened there since. I’m only surprised that North Dakota and Idaho haven’t tried to make theirs even earlier to grab some of the attention.

I find it both scary and liberating that I am not able to vote in the upcoming elections. Liberating because when voting in UK elections it was hard deciding on which politician I disliked the least to vote for and not writing something rude next to smug candidates’ names on the ballot papers was always a challenge. If you write something rude (or anything) on a UK ballot paper the vote isn’t counted. It’s scary because I have no impact on the outcome and not being able to cast a vote against Donald Trump is just unfair!

What is your take on the upcoming elections? Do you disagree with anything I said?

31 thoughts on “A British Take on US Politics

  1. A.PROMPTreply

    Boy, Tom, I have to say your interest far outweighs my own anymore…..it seems such a mockery at this point, I just try not to look!

  2. As a German I can tell you that to us the US elections feel like a circus. Whenever a Trump-like candidate pops up we say: Oh God – they’re NOT going to vote for HIM, are they!? Although we don’t trust the American people enough to be sure… 😀 Of course, on TV they only show people who are pro-weirdo candidates.
    Having said that – US elections are definitely more interesting and hilarious to watch than the German ones, which are positively sleep inducing in comparison.

    1. Haha the UK ones are sleep inducing too! I agree with you that they put the people with the most out there/ scary views on TV (eg Trump voters). Luckily everyone I know here is not a fan!

  3. I watch US politics from afar with a sort of bewildered fascination and horror. The fact that an awful racist comedy double act (dumb and dumber?) are strong contenders in the election race seems to be huge embarrassment to most of my liberal US chums on Facebook. I suspect emigration will skyrocket if those clowns actually win.

    1. I think everyone I know on Facebook is for Hilary or Bernie and I haven’t seen any love for some of the more outlandish candidates. But I guess I live in a very liberal state which helps. I’ve been watching with a mix of horror and fascination too!

  4. As I understand it, there are other US parties but they never come close to getting seats. In order for that to happen, the divisive two-party system needs to be broken in the mind of its citizens. It’s down to the voters, basically.

    I am surprised there is not greater variation, because I am sure that should you venture to other corners of the US outside of New England, you will come across many cultural differences. That such cultural variation exists across 50 states with their own histories and attitudes, I simply cannot reconcile with a two-party system, especially when we see in the UK that SNP, Plaed Cymru, UKIP, Greens and Sinn Fein all have seats in the national Parliament.

    You’re not allowed to vote in the US, but are you allowed to send your vote back home? If so, would that also include council and MEP elections (based, presumably, on your last known address)?

    1. I am allowed to vote in UK national elections but not sure about local and Euro ones.

      You make an interesting point about the lack of more parties considering the huge amount of regional variation in the US. I’m interested in doing some research as to why that is the case.

  5. Bea

    I feel the need to speak up for Iowa. (I have family there.) They HATE being the center of attention . They started seeing the first 2016 campaign ads 4 years ago after Obama was elected again. The tv is nothing but campaign ads now and they seem pretty irritated about it.

  6. Isaac D.

    There are plenty of other political parties in the states, but few people take them seriously (even when they align with a voter better than the main 2 candidates) because, like any good catch-22, nobody takes them seriously, so they’re not going to win, so nobody takes them seriously.

    There is a whole list of officially registered Massachusetts political parties (http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepar/paridx.htm). This one is my favorite, because I think it’s written by a gloriously crazy person: http://www.timesizing.com/1polprty.htm

    1. Bea

      Well shit! I’m going to run for Mayor under the Pizza Party! If I lose, we’re still the Pizza Party and can cope with the loss by having a pizza party!

  7. Wow, you seem to have noticed a lot notwithstanding your failure to have been born here. Let’s see. There are other parties to vote for – Libertarian, Green, and a couple others I cannot seem to remember but they do get listed on the ballots. You can also “write in” a vote but it’s not easy anymore with the electronic ballots….no keyboard on the machine. Having said that, I have a cousin who was elected mayor of his very small town in SC twice by write in before he convinced the other 22 or so people in town to stop writing in his name because he wasn’t going to serve as mayor anymore. After I heard this, I started writing his name in on any ballot that I could at the national level. As for the part about having to be born in the country……I have no problems with that one once I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he would run for President if he could. I think the California people found out that they didn’t like the “gouvenator” once they elected him. Then again, he did cause a lot of craziness when he called the state legislators “girly men” when they disagreed with him on the budget…….hmmmm, that alone might get my vote for him for President. Those budget meetings can be so boring. So it is best that we stick to natural born (or Caesarian born, I suppose) citizens.

  8. I like your take on everything. Interesting to read your opinions, and I think you’re a great writer. I do agree with our rule that you have to be born here or to a US citizen – I’m sorry that limits your options lol!

  9. I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here, as well as everyone above who’s pointed out what a circus American politics has become.
    I’m just mad that the European Union has made it close to impossible for Americans to emigrate there if Trump actually wins (the likelihood of which I hope is small, but seems higher each day.)

  10. Yank, here. I think you’ve summed up pretty nicely! Yes, the GOP candidates are rather unsavory this year.. but I think that kind of controversy gets more people to vote who otherwise wouldn’t have (were all the candidates boring and qualified..yawnnnnn!), if only to keep these clowns out of office.

      1. Now if only physical contests could be included in debates, like UFC or possibly ping pong. Or perhaps a Japanese style game show where candidates have to complete an obstacle course wearing anime character suits.

  11. There are more than two parties…unfortunately none of them actually have primaries so you never hear of anyone running until you see an actual ballot. I have become so disgusted by the mainstream parties that I cringe now when having to listen to someone from either party speaking. Bernie Sanders is so far the only one that hasn’t offended my sensibilities so badly that I throw things. The thought that people of other countries are watching these (pardon my language) ASSHOLES is cringe inducing and more and more I am ashamed of America. The disgusting rhetoric is compounded by the media’s glee at catching those disgusting soundbites and reinforcing the idea that all of America is full of bigots and morons. Sorry for the rant.

    1. No need to apologise for the rant, politics has that effect on many of us! Bernie is the only candidate that doesn’t offend my sensibilities either and if I was allowed to vote I would be voting for him. Maybe one day I will be a US citizen and be able to see the greater choice on the ballot. 🙂

  12. This is the first year I’ve been entirely disgusted by the political process and left unable to find a candidate I can support. I find the Democrats asking the questions that matter, yet am appalled that their answers will result in more government bureaucracy/intrusion/oversight [essentially, Big Brother sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.] I usually lean conservative, but the Republican candidates are so off base they might as well campaign for Mayor of Mars . . . if Mars would have them.

    Personally, I’d have no problem with a non-native President, provided said candidate was a citizen of the United States for a certain number of years.

    As for only citizens being allowed to vote, that’s just one of the duties that comes with being a citizen – one that many refuse to do. In my opinion, if one does not vote, one has no right to complain about the government.

    1. They are a difficult bunch to support, I had the same problem at the last UK election! Hopefully the choice will be better next time, I totally get your dilemma.

      I can’t complain about only citizens being allowed to vote, I knew that was the deal when I moved here after all. 🙂

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