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Good To Know: Trump vs. Hillary PART 1 - How US Politics Work

Contents:
- THE ISSUE
The US Government Structure
Election Campaign Explained
Why Trump and Hillary?
When Does it Finally End?!
- RESOURCES

THE ISSUE

The US Government Structure

  Thanks to Hollywood, multiple television dramas (Scandal, I'm looking at you), and over-saturation in the news, we know a fair bit about American politics compared to almost any other country that is not our own. It is similar to the Australian structure, in that it is a constitutional government made up of two houses; the Senate and the House of Representatives. In Australia it is called Parliament while in the US it is called Congress. If you're not familiar with the exact way Australian government works you can check out a straight-forward explanation here. And here you can find a thorough explanation of the US government.

  There are of course key differences between the Australian and American governments. The US is obviously a Republic with a President, while Australia has a Prime Minister and is a Commonwealth Government under the British Monarchy. The US presidential term is four years and a President can sit for two terms only, whereas in Australia there is no limit on how long a Prime Minister can serve. A term for an Australian Prime Minister is generally three years, unless of course you factor in the last six years, in which case you'll notice Australian Prime Ministers come and go as they please.

  Another key difference is the voting process.
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Election Campaign Explained

  The US election campaign goes forever, it never ends, and you will hear about it for the rest of your life. Well that is how it feels. Because the current US election campaign kicked off in April 2015 with the first of the party candidates announcing their run for presidency, and it is still going. To put this in perspective, an article published by NPR compares the average duration of a US election campaign (500-600 days) with that of Canada (78 days) and France and Japan (only a couple of weeks).

  One of the reasons it goes on for so long is that the party candidates have to first be nominated. This is why the news feels like déja vu. Yes you have already seen Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton going around America giving speeches and trying to win votes, but this wasn't in competition with each other, this was in competition with other candidates to gain leadership of their parties, and this was to win the votes of their party members. Now they're going around America trying to win the votes of the people to become President. And they try hard, because unlike Australia, where you are fined if you fail to vote, Americans are not legally obliged to vote. Because democracy.

  This is a poster published by the US government to teach children about the election process. I'm not going to lie. This helped me understand more than I care to admit...



  This video, published by the BBC, is also handy and goes a little more into explaining how candidates are elected by their parties.


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Why Trump and Hillary?

  Yes. I think this is the question most Americans have found themselves asking. The truth is Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are technically not the only candidates for presidency. Much like Australia, and any similar constitutional democratic government, there are minor parties and independents. The US also has a Green Party, among others, the full list of which can be found here and here. Actually, according to the American Federal Election Commission, there are 1925 people who have put themselves forward as presidential candidates. Of course on this fantastic list, among the serious well-known candidates, there is Jesus Christ, Captain Crunch, Disco Daddy, Dat Ass, Moose the Dog, Beast Mode, Sneaky Pete, Mr Ronald Reagan's Ghost, Walt the Savage, and of course, Vladamir Putin of the Communist Party (honestly, this is my new favourite website. It actually is the official US government electoral website. Hours of fun. Hours.).

  And yet while one suspects that quality candidates like 'Sneaky Pete' and 'Dat Ass' might actually be better suited for the head job, the presidency will really only boil down to Trump or Hillary, as they head up the two major political parties. Donald Trump is the nominee for the Republican Party, and Hillary Clinton is the nominee for the Democrats. I'll go into more on Trump and Hillary and their respective party policies next week in Part 2, but the links are there if you want to find out more. 
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When Does it Finally End?!

  I'm glad you asked. The actual election will be held on 8th November 2016, the inauguration of the new President will be 20th January 2017, the apocalypse will kick in on January 21st, and you'll probably see the next election campaign start up a few days later.


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KEY RESOURCES

- USA.gov - Presidential Election process 

- National Archives: America's Founding Documents - Here you can find the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. You know, just in case you're up for a bit of light reading.

- The Guardian: US Elections 2016 - Exhaustive media coverage with a wide range of news stories and feature articles.
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