10
Elections and campaigns

The US electoral system is, at first sight, open and democratic. Public offices, at federal, state and local level are subject to competitive election. Positions that in other nations would be assigned through an appointments process – such as judgeships or school board membership – are contested. Furthermore, party candidates are chosen by the voters themselves in primaries, not by party leaders or committed activists alone. Any citizen can run for office, as neither previous party membership nor a record of political activity is required. At the same time, in some states, issues may be decided directly by the voters themselves in referendums.

However, despite these features, the US electoral system has been subject to sustained criticism. Money and the media, it is said, play too much of a role. The length and complexity of the system discourage people from voting, contributing to low levels of turnout. Furthermore, those who are elected are – all too often – empty mediocrities. This chapter considers and assesses these questions.


Electing the president

The president is elected every four years. Since the twenty-second amendment was adopted in 1951, no president can be elected to serve more than two full terms. Candidates for the office face a two-stage system structured around the race to secure their party’s nomination and the general election contest.


Candidates

Article II of the US Constitution establishes three basic requirements for those who serve as president. An individual must be at least thirty-five years old, born in the US, and a resident for fourteen years or more. In practice, however, a further qualification is required. Since March 1853, presidents have been

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US Politics Today
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables vii
  • List of Boxes ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Differences and Divisions 1
  • 2 - A Shared Culture 20
  • 3 - The Us Constitution 33
  • 4 - The Us Supreme Court 52
  • 5 - Congress 79
  • 6 - The President 102
  • 7 - The President and the Executive Branch 135
  • 8 - Federalism- The Role of the States 157
  • 9 - Political Parties 177
  • 10 - Elections and Campaigns 209
  • 11 - Interest Groups and Lobbying 249
  • 12 - Ideologies, Issues and Controversies 271
  • Appendix I- A Brief Chronology of the United States since 1789 289
  • Appendix II- The Us Constitution 293
  • Index 309
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