Now to any people that may have read some of my other work it is evident by now that I am not an American, I am British. I’m happy to be British, I enjoy living in Britain and life is for the most part good. But unlike with any other nation or society, America has a layer of wonder over it to people all across the world. Over the decades, people have given up everything in their home nation and in some cases even died trying, so that they can come and live in America. This dream countless people have had of moving to America is something that is unique to America, I don’t think there has ever been a time when people have had such a strong feeling about coming to live in Britain.
There are countless reasons why this obsession with moving to America exists and it’s far too complicated to go into here in any depth. I would say that I feel that America’s political system and how it was born is part of the reason.
The United States exists as a reaction against British colonialism and rule and a desire for the people to have self-determination. From The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union all the way through to the constitution in place today it has at its heart; rights of the people, rules of government and a system in which what is put into the constitution is supreme, it’s binding.
For the most part, America is the first nation to have something that deals with the mechanics of government in such a way. The laying down of human rights/rights of citizens does pre-date the US Constitution (Some rights for some people were laid down in England in 1215 through the Magna Carta). But for all intents and purposes we shall say that the US constitution and the system of government derived from it, is the first modern example of a political system.
Of course, the political system in the US centres around the constitution as that is where all political and legal authority is derived from. But certain aspects of US politics have come into being and have nothing to do with the constitution and it is these aspects that make American politics so fascinating.
A primary example would be (which I have alluded to in previous work) is the two-party system that exists. There’s nothing in the constitution that expresses there cannot be more. The cause for why American party politics is a two-party system is down to political developments throughout time.
Now the parties themselves, Democrats and Republicans, are looked at by many in Britain as rather humorous, especially the Republicans. The reasons for why the two parties are seen to be quite amusing is because with the Democrats, we see elected Democrats campaigning for so many issues and policies that as a British person we just think ‘why do you need to campaign for that? That should happen anyway’. An example being, universal healthcare. It’s not that the policies the Democrats campaign for are amusing in themselves but the fact they have to campaign about certain issues in the first place is what is amusing.
However, there are some truly fantastic Democrats; Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts leads the way, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, California Governor Jerry Brown and of course Presidents Clinton and Obama.
And now for the Republicans. In all honesty, I could probably write a book, around the same size as Chris Christie, about how the vast majority of Republicans (at least at a Congressional level) are not the brightest bulbs in the world. But to be fair there are some who aren’t totally away with the fairies; we often her Congressman Ron Paul speak a lot of sense of American foreign policy and Governor of Ohio John Kasich, who recently had a terrific performance on Real Time with Bill Maher, has got a lot of good things to say. The stupidity that people in Britain see is based on their beliefs and how some of them go about justify their beliefs. Also some Republicans have just acted in hilarious ways you can’t not laugh.
Now I mustn’t seem too partisan, although it is probably clear which side I bat for by now. My main point is that to a British person the sheer difference between the two competing parties and the actions of one of them is baffling, hilarious and concerning all at the same time.
A different aspect of American politics that a lot of British people find confusing yet fascinating is the amount of respect and grandeur that the President receives. I can think of no living British politician that commands the same level of respect and grandeur. The only British politician that would get close is Winston Churchill. No British Prime Minister commands that type of response from the people when going about the country and talking to the people or visiting certain places. No big deal is made by families if their kid gets to meet the Prime Minister in the same way that if a kid in America meets the President.
Of course, the reason for this is that the President is Head of State and Head of Government. The President is the big dog, the person in charge, they represent America abroad and command great power. Now in Britain, for the Head of State bit we have a Monarchy and the at present it is the Queen that has that duty to be Britain so to speak.
Time now to look at an aspect of American society and not politics. It may be a stereotype and to any Americans who read this I apologise but I do think despite it being a stereotype there is some truth in it. The stereotype is that Americans, compared to other nationalities, are outlandish and terrifically outgoing. This is not meant as an insult, in fact I’m rather jealous of this particular quality. The British stereotype is the total opposite; we have a strong upper-lip, prepared to grit our teeth and merely tut if someone or something acts in a way we disapprove of and we like to have an overall sensible decorum with not too much fuss.
The above points mentioned all relate to Democracy. Not in terms of Democracy as a theory but in terms of the presentation of Democracy. American Democracy is much more engaging to the electorate; elections for both houses of Congress and a sort of election for the President *cough* Electoral College *cough*. Representatives campaign so much more aggressively than their British counterparts. You won’t see in Britain an MP having their own campaign ad to have on television (This may be because it’s illegal but I’m not sure). Elections matter so much more to people in America than they do in Britain.
Now here in Britain we’re having a General Election and the feeling from the people about it is lukewarm at best. Both of the main parties are campaigning furiously and by British standards a lot of money is going to be spent on the campaigns but it won’t have the same vigour and panache as you get in an American Presidential election.
Both the US and UK are Representative Democracies but I would say as a British person, America is an up-front Democracy and I like that.