Yes We Might! | Issue 17

Yes We Might! | Issue 17

A non-confusing guide to democracy

Many things in life are confusing and esoteric – rugby, wine reviews, the word “esoteric”. So that the US election (and, by extension, this column) doesn’t become one of those, let me clarify a few things:

New Zealand has a democratic system where the government is elected by the people and the Queen decides who the government is. We have an elected legislature and appointed ministers, but ministers are chosen by the government, which is the group that can win votes in the legislature. Government ministers are in charge of the executive, and the legislature makes laws which bind the executive (which is called the rule of law), but the ministers are in charge of the government and the government controls the legislature, so really the ministers are in charge of everything.

We have a unicameral legislature, which means that only one photographer is allowed in the press gallery, which is upstairs in the House of Parliament where the legislature makes laws, even though the government actually makes laws in the Beehive. Ministers meet in the Beehive and select new laws out of a Cabinet, and then whip people until the legislature passes them.

The situation is slightly more confusing in the US. The President is elected by the Electoral College, which is elected by the states, but in different ways, and this makes some states better than others. The President is in charge of the executive and the legislature makes laws that bind the executive, except when the laws are unconstitutional, which is decided by federal courts.

Federal court judges are politicians pretending to be impartial, and they’re appointed by the President and the Senate, which is the upper house of the legislature, which is bicameral, which sounds like a cough medicine, but isn’t. The lower house is called the House of Representatives, although the Senate is also technically a house of representatives, just not the House of Representatives (because it’s less representative). Americans aren’t as good at whipping as New Zealanders, which is funny because you’d think they’d have had lots of practice, and this makes it harder for the President to control everything.

In New Zealand we elect our representatives by voting for which party we choose to represent us. In the US you just vote for the person who has the most ads on TV, which is certainly easier but some people don’t like it. There is also a lot of gerrymandering, which is where Gerry is less popular than Mandy but he wins anyway because he’s better at geography.
I hope you get it now.
This article first appeared in Issue 17, 2012.
Posted 10:46am Sunday 22nd July 2012 by Creepy Uncle Sam.