I was just reading this and felt that I had to have a say and then my comment started getting very long so I will blog instead. Thanks Vanessa.
I find the American (and to think of it, most other democratic countries) election system fascinating. With the writers strike, the Democrat candidates up for the right to be the American president, we Australians are having an amazing education. I don't think we would cope with the length of time involved. 6 weeks maximum here!!!!! Oh and the voting thing - once you turn 18 you enrol to vote and then you HAVE to vote. (Still laugh at the concept that we have a democracy that demands you take part, rather than following the real idea of democracy.....)
Voting on election day goes like this - get up, go to the local primary school, get bombarded with fliers from prospective candidates (oh we dont really care at that stage it's more like collect paper to throw out, including from the Greens.....), line up, get name marked off, take voting papers, go to booth and complete, drop into electoral box THEN go outside and GET A SAUSAGE FROM THE PRIMARY SCHOOL BBQ. This is the most exciting part for most Australians, getting a sausage in a slice of bread!
Yes I know there are times when we get really excited about politics. Think of the last Federal election when we decided that John had had too much time and wasnt doing it for us anymore and we liked the look of Kevin as he looked like John, sounded like John but wasnt John. He had much the same policies and he told us he wasnt going to quit soon into the term and hand over to Peter (who most people dont seem to trust even if he was the treasurer.)
In contrast the American system is much more interesting and mysterious. There is the preselection which gets heated and personal (and that is just from their own party!). [How do we know who our leaders are - vote in the party room behind closed doors, very trusting I know.] Then the campaign starts.....there is so much dirt that is uncovered. I think of incidents like John McCain (?) and if he did or didnt sleep with said party official. Here we have a different view - Kevin was caught in a stripper joint not that long ago (few years) and most Australians thought "good on ya mate! Now you look almost like a real man......" (it actually made him look like a standard Aussie bloke rather than a pretentious, uncaring figure head).
Also, how many times do people vote? Preselection - if signed on for the party, election..... too many in one year for my liking.
There is so much angst about the idea of voting for a black man or a woman. I dont think we really care that much, in fact this is what we think of our deputy (read vice) Prime Minister Julia. (so you go there it is about her sexiness.)
Please dont get me wrong, we do take politics quite seriously but the business of government is more important than who they are and how they get there. Are they doing the job we asked them to do adequately? N0? Get rid of them if the opposition looks decent. Yes? Keep them there for another term. Most of our decisions about who to vote for are hip pocket related. We like to have more money in our pocket but we also understand the need for realistic spending at a government level.
It is the process that amazes me and I think many Australians. And it keeps us entertained.