The U.S. Election: Democracy Had It Coming

US Election
Greetings all, Steve here, back again. I was going to post something last week, but, like many people lately, I came down with mild death-like symptoms. I went to the doctor and he said that, hypodermically speaking, I should be fine, ouch, so after a few days rest, I'm back in the saddle. Today I'm going to take a break from saying silly things about business and say some silly things about something many people are critically concerned about these days, something that could effect every area of our lives, business and personal: the U.S. presidential election.

Here are my thoughts: It's insane.

Allow me to elaborate. The United States presidential election is a time-honoured tradition, but like many time-honoured traditions, it's completely mental. I mean, think about it. Why must the election be held exactly every 4 years and consist of an arcane series of nominations and pre-elections to elect a candidate from one of two parties which are not really that different from each other? Because it's tradition. Fair enough, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. I mean, it used to be tradition to use left-handed people as test projectiles in catapults. Honest, look it up. They did it all the time. That's why there are so few left-handed people around. See, you learn something every day.

But times change and perhaps the U.S. election process is in need of an overhaul and it's something a lot of people are interested in. In recent decades, the U.S. election has elicited about as much interest as a clearance sale at Bagpipe World, but these days it's on just about everybody's minds. And you can see why. The United States is beset by problems: The war, the economy, the environment, terrorism and the return of the Spice Girls. Things are getting serious people! And everybody's concerned about the election, but many people find the process confusing.

So allow me to simplify it. The candidates for both parties square off, a bunch of wealthy middle-aged white guys with strong hairlines and nice teeth, and they compete in a series of primaries, which are like small pre-elections, used to weed out the least worthy candidates. The first and most important primary is in Iowa, because it used to be one of the most important and populous states. Like, 250 years ago. While this may seem seem antiquated and illogical, it's actually an improvement over the original weeding-out process, which involved the candidates squaring off in a butter-churning competition. Honest, look it up.

So, as I say, all the rich, white male candidates square off and the candidate who wins the Iowa primary usually takes an early lead in the overall election. What they do is, they take your total vote tally from the Iowa primary, multiply that by your standing in the California, Washington and New Hampshire primaries, see what zodiac Venus is in, divide the year you were born by your shoe size and then elect you based on how well you play the saxophone. See what I mean? This process is convoluted and makes no sense and you can tell that by watching CNN. All the commentators sit around and discuss with great concern the results of this or that, but nobody ever says why it matters, because nobody has the foggiest idea why the hell it matters. It's just tradition.

But maybe it's time for tradition to change and what better year than this year? After all, for all the votes and all the posturing, all the name-calling and butter-churning, the only real question on people's minds is whether the U.S. will vote for a white male candidate who stubbornly refuses to be white, or one who stubbornly refuses to be male. I guess we'll see.

But in the meantime, I want to offer some other comparative perspectives from around the world, to show some different approaches to electing a leader. I'm Canadian and we have a very different system here. Instead of the U.S. two-party system, here in Canada, basically anybody can start a political party and since we vote for our local candidates and not for the leader, we can end up pretty much randomly electing whoever happens to be standing there to run the country. And this can be kind of frightening when, given the freedom to create their own political parties, you see the kind of political parties people actually create. We have, and I swear I'm not making any of these up, the Conservative Party (which is keen on big business), The Liberal Party (which is keen on different businesses), The New Democratic or Really Really Liberal Party (which is keen on small business), The Bloc Quebecois (which is keen on breaking up the country), The Green Party (which is keen on trees), The Marijuana Party (which is self-explanatory) and the Sex Party (which would be a great name for a punk band and which is also self-explanatory).

See what I mean? Canadian politics may be a little weird, but at least we're interesting. And there are many other examples from around the world. Australia is run by a benevolent council of surfers who rule, both politically and in terms of surfing. In Scotland they give it to the person who can throw a telephone pole the farthest and in Italy they give it to somebody new every week. Even in ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, it was different, much more hands-on and immediate. Candidates would meet in public and engage in a battle of words, hitting each with dictionaries. Honest, look it up.

And none of these systems, crazy though they are, is quite as crazy as the American system, which nobody even understands, with it's convoluted processes, Supreme Court decisions and hanging chads. They need to get the Sex Party in there, just to shake things up, get everybody to relax a little. But that's just my opinion.

Well, that was my unsolicited and completely unresearched opinion on American politics. Until next time, keep your pen on the page and watch out for hanging Chads.

Steve Sharam

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I have wondered where you

I have wondered where you were based out of because of the different spelling of some words.

I had to comment on this posting though. I agree the election process here in the US is strange and complicated but I also have to say that basing the elections on time honored traditions should be maintained. While the process has changed over time, the traditions and ragalia associated help to remind where this country began. Maybe by using antiquated ideals, etc. in the elections will eventually bring an honest, moral candidate to the White House. Although, I believe that we should elect a kindergartener to the White House. At least a kindergartener has not yet been jaded, most have not yet been made racist by ignorant parents, most can't lie to save their life and they have a wonderful point of view-always amazed with the smallest thing.


"The first and most

"The first and most important primary is in Iowa..."
Iowa does not have primaries. Iowa has a caucus system. If you had ever heard or read any election coverage, you would have come across this fact.
(Starting the process in small states seems to make sense because it allows lesser known candidates have an easier shot at doing well and becoming better known -- like starting a play away from Broadway before bringing it to the big city).

I stopped reading at your Iowa mistake. Clearly, you are seriously uninformed.

Lighten up a little

I stopped reading at your Iowa mistake. Clearly, you are seriously uninformed.

You're being waaaaay too literal. I found this to be a seriously funny piece, not meant to be taken completely seriously. Didn't "That's why there are so few left-handed people around" tip you off?

A Caucus Race you say ?

Forward, backward, inward, outward
Come and join the chase
Nothing could be drier
Than a jolly caucus race

Backward, forward, outward, inward
Bottom to the top
Never a beginning,
There can never be a stop

To skipping, hopping, tripping fancy free and gay
Started it tomorrow
But will finish yesterday

'Round and 'round and 'round we go
Until forevermore
For once we were behind
But now we find we are be-

Foreward, backward, inward, outward
Come and joing hte chase
Nothing could be drier
Than a jolly caucus race!
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

I like it:)

Where did you find that?

Steve Sharam

Classic literature

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Honest, look it up

You learn something every day:)

Steve Sharam


my mistake. Understandable perhaps, given the system we're talking about. Well, I guess we're even: I tuned out of the interminable election coverage and you tuned out of my article:P

It is a weird system, though. Everyone takes their own system for granted, but if you're coming in from outside, most of these sort of arrangements look pretty strange.

Steve Sharam

Not to worry

They look pretty strange from the inside too . . .

love it

Does Canada really have a Sex Party? I think the US would just explode if we had such a political party.

I've gone back in forth in my moments of serious political thought about whether term limits are the best thing. No one in power seems to think beyond the next election, we have so very little longterm infrastructure investment here. Not since the CCC and that time frame have we really had a systematic program of infrastructure investment. And yet, so much damage can be done in 2 x 4yrs Maybe the Italians have it right after all.

After all, for all the votes and all the posturing, all the name-calling and butter-churning, the only real question on people's minds is whether the U.S. will vote for a white male candidate who stubbornly refuses to be white, or one who stubbornly refuses to be male. I guess we'll see.

I'm still chortling over this one! mucho gracias!



Apparently Canada does have a Sex Party. Very new. They have a number of vigorous policies that take interesting positions on interesting positions.

Steve Sharam


There is also the Bloc Pot (Federal) and the Marijuana Party (provincial).


Politics might actually be fun there, rather than merely frustrating as all get out!

Anyone want to sponsor me to move to Canada?


I have a blow up air mattress

you can use:) We had a fair influx after the last election. Depending on how this next one goes, we're expecting a tidal surge across the border:)

The Bloc Pot, I hadn't heard of that. I did walk past the Marijuana Party bookstore today though. Very good if you need a puff of inspiration;)

Steve Sharam

You lucky, lucky Bustards!

Over the pond in dear old blighty we don't get a say at all in who is the head of state - she was born that way.

As for the head of the Government (the Prime Minister) well we don't get a choice in that either. We all vote for local members of parliament, who then club together in parties and the party with the most clubs chooses our glorious leader.

So much for the mother of democracy...

At least you don't have to say that you are a card-carrying christian to get elected in the UK, and you can openly admit that you were once left wing (and by left wing we mean Left Wing, not the US version which is really a liberal capitalist).

Our legislature and executive are one and the same, which shows we never watched the American experiment very closely, there again if you don't have a majority in the House of Commons you ain't the executive no more... GWB wouldn't have lasted a week :)

We've devolved power now into three other assemblies/parliaments now (Scotland, Ulster and Wales), which annoy the hell out the English MPs as our national MPs can vote on English affairs but they can't vote on ours - revenge is sweet...

So you can see that our system is just a s arcane and nonsensical as yours. Don't worry your vote doesn't count either.

We don't here either

In Canada, the Head of State is the Governor General, who is appointed by your Queen, my dear, as per the recommendation of the government over here. And if she sets foot on our soil, then voilà, she becomes the Head of State.

"It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy." -- Steve Jobs


I see your point. Most political systems are a bit strange. Canada's political system is roughly the same as Britain's (after all, that's where we got it from), minus the House Of Lords and plus the Marijuana Party. It's arcane and strange and inefficient, but it does have a certain air of silliness about it, so it's a bit more fun to watch. But, like the British parliament, the opposing sides are positioned two swords lengths away from each other, for when those debates get extra-heated:P

Steve Sharam

Taiwan though

I do think that the Taiwanese parliement is the most fun to watch. They break into fist fights on a weekly basis. People waking down the aisles to smack one on the current speaker's jaw, male or female. Now, THAT'S democracy!


"It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy." -- Steve Jobs


if you can't be democratic, at least be entertaining :)

Steve Sharam

I just realized I switched

I just realized I switched the two parties up. Bloc Pot is provicial and Marijuana Party is federal. For what it's worth.

"It's better to be a pirate than to join the Navy." -- Steve Jobs


We certainly wouldn't want to get those two powerhouse political forces confused:P

Steve Sharam

New Zealand also has a

New Zealand also has a Legalise Marijuana party and a Green party as well. Being from the USA I found these two parties very interesting. I couldn't believe they were for real, but they are.

Which proves my point

exactly. It's this unusual political system that has made New Zealand the political and economic powerhouse it is today! wonder those Hobbits were always smoking weed...:D

Steve Sharam

Monster Raving Looney

Here in the UK we have the Official Monster Raving Looney Party. Used to be that the only true candidate they fielded was the 1960s pop-star Screaming Lord Sutch; but sadly he died back in 1999. Thatcher, in whose constituency he once stood, tried to prevent him standing again by putting up the deposit each candidate had to put down --- Sutch usually lost his --- because she didn't like humour in politics. Neither Thatcher's attitude nor Sutch's death has stopped the Party from putting up candidates and for a short time ran one of our local town councils. OMRL is usually reckoned to be a joke party.

We have a Green Party too trying to do serious politics. We also have a "Veritas Party", which while claiming to be serious is pretty much a joke.

Australia has some unusual parties too

Down here we've got the Greens - who are our 3rd major Federal party or top minor Federal party ...depending on who you ask.

But in the States and Territories there are some really unusual parties. My favourites for outrageousness stood in some of the early elections in the Australian Capital Territory, just after it got self-government in the late 1980's.
There were five or six of them but the ones I remember most are:
the "Warm Sundried Tomato Party" who described themselves as backyard greenies;
the "No Self-Government Party" who promised to put themselves out of office if they got anyone elected and then didn't; and
the "Party Party Party" who I believe wanted 24-hour drinking, preferably in parliament.

By the way, our press is also blathering on about the US pre-selection stuff. It's rather redundant for us as we can't change the outcome so why tell us about each tiny step. Zzzzzz!

Perhaps it's just because it's January and there's nothing else to talk about. :)

Those are excellent!

Personally, I miss the Canadian Rhinocerous Party, which ran on a promise to keep none of their promises. Among other ideas, if I remember correctly they wanted to knock down the Rockies and use the rubble to fill in the Great Lakes to make the country flat and they opposed the idea that the Earth was round. *sigh* Those were the days, weren't they?

Steve Sharam

Most notably in 1971, pop

Most notably in 1971, pop singer Robert Charlebois ran again Pierre-Eliott Trudeau in his Montreal riding and had to withdraw from the election at the last minute because he was about to win!

PM Jean Chrétien changed the rules for parties in elections, in a way to prevent parties such as the Rhino from running at all. The ÙRhino had to fold.

What a shame

Well, we would have ranked below Uganda as a world power, but it would have been entertaining:D

Steve Sharam

All too typical Canadian

Canadian criticism.

My girlfriend attended U of Manitoba. While visiting, I had a chat with her landlady. The landlady started in on American politics and when she wound out her views were different than mine, she immediately became upset with me. I had to wait for her storm to blow over. Afterwards, I explained the situation to my gf (who is neither American or Canadian.) Your typical American had no idea or opinion of Canadian politics. Your average Canadian is the opposite. (Go out any time and ask American and Canadian who the leaders of both countries are.) Contrary to Canadian conspiracy theories, most Americans have no desire to be involved in or change Canadian politics. (Except for maybe people on the border.) (Get a clue - it's a different country with a different culture. We DON'T want to be like Canada. Why would we want to be? (Canadians seem to do this to themselves - Quebecers seem to think the rest of the country wants to be like them. And the rest of Canada seems to think Quebec wants to be like them.))

The average Canadian seems to swallow whole everything his government tells him. Most Canadians no sooner meet me than start in on how superior Canada is because of it's healthcare system. Somewhere, they have heard that Americans don't have government health insurance and therefore cannot see a Dr. The truth seems to be that Canadian Drs cannot do business independently of the government (why are Canadian Dr.'s pushing for being allowed to engage in private practice?) Somehow, they seem to think the way things are in Canada are how it works in the U.S. (One Canadian started in on stupid American health care and how he was glad that although he had to wait for care, at least he could go in. I mentioned that during a visit home, I had to go to the ER without health insurance. Cost me $50 for the Dr's exam and X-ray.) Duh. It's the insurance that makes things cost more. Ever heard of COBRA? Why are Canadians coming to the U.S. for private care? Why is California having hospitals go bankrupt because they have to care for illegals coming in from Mexico for free care? When the money all goes into one pot, it is easier for some bureaucrat to steal it - how many times has that happened? What happens to the insurance system when the money is gone?

I'll give you a hint about the American presidential election. It seems complicated or based wholly on tradition, but there is a purpose to how it is done. Why hockey teams have such complicated play offs? Why don't they just have all the teams play each other for a season. The winner of the most games could be declared league champion? (If you can understand that, maybe you can understand the primaries.) You can't understand the Electoral College? -- go read about the Connecticut Compromise. The electoral college was designed for the same reason. (Hint: It helps smaller states have more say - so California and New York don't run the country. It also helps localize the effects of corruption.)

I don't understand the Brits and cricket. Watched it a little, but don't have much interest. But they seem to understand it and it makes them happy. As long as they don't criticize me for not being interested, I won't criticize them for playing. Live and let live.

If you get tired of watching the campaigns on TV, do what I do -- dump your TV. Life is too short to waste it watching TV.

I explained to my girlfriend that the American/Canadian relationship is like two sisters, one a teen, the other a kid. The younger sister is jealous because the older sister is older. The older didn't ask to be born first - it's just how it is. The younger criticizes the older because they don't have the same goals and interests. When the younger has failures, it is because the older "did something." When the older's friends are over, she has to put up with public criticism, but true and false, from the younger. "I'm better than you because I have a doll that says, 'Mama,' closes its eyes, and wets itself." The older sister just sighs and rolls her eyes.

Canadian criticism. They can dish it out, but can't take it.

*** Note: Steve considers himself and expert on American politics because he watches TV. I am an expert on Canadian culture because I watched Strange Brew. *** ;-)

Well, aren't we anonymous!

Well, aren't we anonymous!



I hate to get political on such a friendly site but am curious about this post:

I had to go to the ER without health insurance. Cost me $50 for the Dr's exam and X-ray.) Duh. It's the insurance that makes things cost more. Ever heard of COBRA?

Whoever you are, I can't tell what your point is (short of bashing Canadians and their country). Are you saying that in the US you had access to cheap healthcare in the ER? And that by choosing not to have insurance, your costs are lower? What does COBRA have to do with it? It sounds like you're saying the US healthcare system is great, if you don't get insurance.

But if you can afford insurance and are choosing not to pay for it, you have to realize that the burden for your medical costs then falls on everyone else. Is that the situation you're bragging about?

Hope I haven't misconstrued your message terribly and that you'll clarify if I have...

" used to be tradition

" used to be tradition to use left-handed people as test projectiles in catapults..."

Excellent tradition - we should do the same with left-wingers - my kingdom for a catapult!


As both a Lefty and a leftist I resent that.

one of two parties which

one of two parties which are not really that different from each other
Except in this election we've got one party in favor of ending the war in Iraq, and another in favor of ongoing, escalating war until "we" "win." That's a pretty significant difference.

It sure is.

It sure is.

Amen to that

That's the only difference that matters right now. Speaking of Canada/U.S. relations, if the war continues and they institute a draft...well, let's just say I expect many young Americans will start to look very fondly on Canada, and I can't say I blame them.

Steve Sharam

Artistic Young Man with Lamy

Seeks domicile north of 49th parallel ... (c:

(I'll send my step-kid to see you - any place he could apprentice to a tattoo artist up there?)

But don't even think!

That if the Dems win the White House, that they will start pulling troops out of Iraq, because they won't! Already, Barack has been distancing himself from any promises or commitments to such folly. Let me put it this way. Dems don't want to be tagged with being losers any more than anyone else. And if you lose in Iraq---well, you lose it all. So, it's your choice--lose it all or win it all--there's no half-way--and both Obama and Clinton know this, and they won't do anything stupid.


I'm not sure I agree

with the all or nothing view of the Iraq conflict, though my gut tells me that leaving would be preferable, but it's a catch-22. Staying could mean a decade of conflict and leaving could mean anarchy, unless something changes radically and soon. So, sorry to say, I think that anybody's who's elected will end up with a long commitment on their hands, but I could be wrong.

Steve Sharam

News sources

I think one needs to be careful how much one trusts his news sources. The American media has invested itself in declaring defeat for so many years now, that it would be egg on their face, if they turned out to be wrong. Besides that, and if you read the editorials that appear in various places, as well as some extreme-left blogs, you will see that there is a desire to repeat their "success" of Vietnam, in which the US retreated, mainly because of media pressure in the States, rather than for tactical reasons on the ground. So, the media has a template and a goal from which to work--and that's all that many of them know! So, in the end, it would be wise to broaden ones news sources. Personally, I have friends who are serving, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the stories they tell me are a far cry from what I read and hear in the news. Also, something else to consider.... while the left in the US is very eager to cry "pull out!" Notice how the Congress doesn't really want to do it.... This should be a red-flag to any person wondering what the reasons may be... Yes, there would be political consequenses if the Dems were responsible for a hasty pull out, and it failed--because it seems that those who want to leave--at all costs--asap--are in a significant minority in the US. But also, there would be nasty consequences beyond political, and _nobody_ wants to have that on their hands--not even peacenik Dems. ;-)

Yes, it's an ugly thing--but the rule applies--you break it, you bought it. It would be morally wrong for usto leave hastily, and leave, as you mentioned, anarchy behind. Besides that, it's improved vastly in this past year. I would remind people that 5 years after victory in Germany in WWII, there was still anarchy and chaos in Germany! It takes time to rebuild--but more importantly, build trust with the conquered people. This is the most important commodity we can offer--trust in our good will. Leaving now would completely undermine that--and I would contend that our record as a nation since the Vietnam war has not been good on this front. The only honorable thing to do now is earn their trust--a different perspective, I think, than you hear in the news, but one that I know is primary in the minds of those serving over there, and, I believe, for Bush--whether you like him or not.

I don't know how I got into this conversation. I don't want to inflame opinions, nor upset people. I just wanted to share a perspective that seems to be different than what you see in the popular media today, including web blogs, etc.


That's very true

As a Canadian, with access to Canadian news sources, I can say that the slant of the majority of U.S. media has changed greatly over the course of the war and, especially, at the beginning, was very different than what you saw outside the States. No doubt this has to do with ownership of the news channels, but public opinion on the war no doubt pushes these things as well. For the first couple years of the war, you certainly didn't hear too many dissenting voices in the popular U.S. media, at least from where I was sitting.

Steve Sharam

They let us down

Journalists have a duty to explore and find the truth--that's a responsibility that goes along with their constitutional freedom of the press. And they let us down on that in 2003. They went along with the administration and didn't dare to express anything other than "support for the troops."

Any possibility that the invasion wasn't justified was expressed very weakly, if at all. Partly this is because people are primed to turn on any dissent and claim that we aren't patriotic or don't support our guys who are in danger, or even that we are putting them in danger by questioning the war to start with.

But the more patriotic and supportive action is to insist on the truth about the invasion and the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind it. I mourn the 4,000 lives we have needlessly lost in Iraq and the many more who are injured and maimed and will suffer all their lives because Congress and the media allowed themselves to be squelched.

Unfortunately so many here believe that Bush has carried the battle to the terrorists and saved the homeland from repetitions of 9/11. Never mind that the Iraqi people have suffered and died for something they had nothing to do with.

If someone had told us

7 years ago that we'd be here, now, I don't think most of us would have believed them. Whatever our political stance or opinion on the necessity of the war, I think most of us could agree that somewhere along the way the whole thing went sideways (helped by patriotic boosterism along the way) and the question now is how to get out with the least subsequent damage. I'm glad I'm not the one making the decision.

This is a very interesting documentary by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation about the manipulation of the American media in the first years of the war: link

Steve Sharam

What media you all been watching?

Maybe my perspective is a bit skewed, being 5000 km from home, but I remember distinctly, that CNN and MSNBC (the only two American networks over here) were _never_ pro-Bush or pro war. And I've been reading the NYT daily headlines for well over 10 years--they were never "pro-war", nor was the Miami Herald, nor the LA Times, nor The Atlanta J&C--nor any major city newspaper I remember....

Sorry, but this current propoganda flies in the face of my own very strong memories--I wrote letters to editors of some of these papers--as far back as 2002. Nope. The US media was never pro-Bush, or pro-Bush policy. And the Dems were only pro-war because the public seemed to be for it, and then, when it looked like public opinion was switching, the Dems, like wind socks, flipped positions to go with the current wind.

And for the record, it never "went sideways." One thing I remember Bush saying even before we entered Iraq--that it wasn't a matter of a year or few, but a long term commitment--looong-term commitment. Problem is, today, people want it slam-bam, thank you maam. with no commitment whatsoever.

And I say it now, hoping that somebody remembers. It doesn't matter _who_ gets in the White House this coming term. They will stay there until the job is finished properly. And this means, for a long time. Trust me, they were perfectly willing for Bush to leave in a disaster, but they don't want any failure on their own heads. Mark that in your calendar.... Don't have any hopes of us leaving soon.


Not pro-Bush is not the same as standing up for the truth

Jon, they weren't pro-Bush, but that's not the same as objectively and independently investigating the rationale for the war and having the courage to stand up and risk the wrath of the neo-cons and the evangelicals and Bushies and report the truth. Of course, if they had, the country has been so polarized and shell-shocked by 9/11 and the 2000 elections that maybe it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

And never fear for Bush--he has the full support of Fox News.

And I agree with the person who said it's a shame to have this subject tarnishing the pages of such a great site, so I'm going to swallow my bile hereafter. At least here on DIY Planner.

I actually hadn't intended

to start a polarizing political debate. If you'll look carefully, you'll notice the article isn't actually about the war. I don't remember what the hell it was about, but it wasn't about that. Still, it's to be expected, these are heavy issues people feel strongly about. And I don't really think that discussing these things necessarily tarnishes the site, but it certainly is off-topic for our stated purpose. Still, so is 90% of the rest of the stuff I write, but there you go. So let's bring it around again to what the article was about in the first place: Many people, inside and outside of the U.S., are deeply concerned about the U.S. election because of all that's at stake and the electoral process is, let's be honest, weird:P Thank you.

Steve Sharam