One man claims his opponent hates Catholics. Another man is accused of using cocaine while in college. Yet another man falsely claims to have invented the internet. Still another wants to give elderly people free medicine, and spend less money at the same time. One man even wants to make the Czech Republic our 51st state! (I am joking about that!) All of these men claim to be more honest than the man they want to replace. It is dirty business, and it can be fun to watch. Of what am I speaking? It is but the usual circus that occurs every four years when Americans choose their next president.
An American president serves a four-year term, and can be re-elected only once more. By the time eight years have passed, we are usually tired of a president anyway!
Only one US president was ever elected without a political party. He was the founder of our country - George Washington. After him, political parties formed based on farm or business interests. The US is unusual in that it has had but two major parties throughout our history. And it still has really only two, now: The Demagogues and Republicrats. Sorry! I get the names mixed up sometimes, they behave so similarly: I mean the Democratic and Republican parties. However, there are many other minor (and some funny) parties. More on that later!
Should an American actually want the job of president, the first step a candidate must take is campaigning to win state "primary" elections. This is what is taking place now. Many candidates go from state to state trying to win contests to represent their party. You can imagine how expensive this is! Many candidates begin, but the number is reduced very rapidly. We have currently reduced the number to only two candidates from each party.
At the end of the primary campaigns, there are big party conventions in the fall. The winning candidates are officially announced. The only suspense these days in conventions is finding who will be selected for vice president.
After the convention, Americans have two clear choices on which to vote: the Democratic presidential candidate or the Republican one. Our final election for president takes place this November 4th. Finally, the circus will be over, and news reporters may take a rest.
Of course, if one really likes neither the Democratic nor Republican candidates, one may always vote for a third party candidate. Did you know the Communist Worker's Party always has a candidate for U.S. president? So does my favorite party, the Libertarians. We have a Green Party, and even a Bhuddist Peace Party. And if you don't like any candidates on our ballots, you may "write in" the name of anyone you wish. I have often thought of running for president as a "write-in" candidate, but I know I could not tolerate people knowing all about my personal financial affairs.
Third parties usually hold no real hope of winning the election. Running a candidate for president provides the party with a good deal of cheap publicity. However, in recent years, the new "Reform" Party has been gaining voters. This is the political party that billionaire Ross Perot adopted.
Politics is a dirty game, whether it is played in the United States or in Uganda. When distilled to its essence, it is a vote-buying game. To win, a politician must promise to steal as much money as possible from less numerous and politically unpopular groups, and transfer the money noisily to numerous politically popular groups. In other words, politicians must take a lot of money from a few people who won't vote for them, in order to give money to a lot of people who will vote for them.
This year, our election's targets of political theft are smokers, tobacco companies, gun manufacturers, international corporations, households with more than one telephone line, and of course, wealthy individuals. The politically popular recipients of this robbery are children, single mothers, the elderly, and anyone who can claim to be a "victim" or a member of a "minority" group. As you must see, the recipients of the booty are much more numerous than their unwilling benefactors. Which means that hard-working people who produce good incomes should watch out!
It is a tribute to our U.S. constitutional system that we have made peaceful transitions to new leaders ever since American independence. Despite some distasteful aspects of our elections, we have yet to find a superior alternative.