US Presidential Election - Obama, McCain All Set to Create History

November 4, 2008

On Tuesday November 4, 2008, the world will witness one of the most exciting democratic exercises when the citizens of the United States of America (USA) will participate in the election of their next President and Vice-President for the next four-year term. On this occasion, it would be worthwhile to know some of the interesting facts about the Presidential elections in the US.

As per the US Constitution, the President is the head of both State and the government. He is the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States. The Presidency in the US is the highest political office due to its influence and prestige.

The US President and Vice-President are jointly elected indirectly by the people for a four year term. In case the President dies while in office due to natural cause or assassination, the Vice-President takes over as the next President and continues in office till the expiry of the four-year term of the Presidency. There is two-party system in the US. Since 1852, every President has been either a Republican or a Democrat.

To be a Presidential candidate in the US, a person should be a natural-born citizen of the United States with the minimum age of 35 years and should have resided in the United States for at least 14 years. Those citizens 18 years and above and registered as voters can cast their votes in the Presidential election. The President is indirectly elected by the voters.  The voters vote for ‘electors’ who are members of a party. All together there are 538 electors in the "Electoral College”. The ‘electors meet in their respective States on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December (December 15, 2008) to vote, separately for President and Vice President. The winning candidate needs a majority of at least 270 electoral votes out of a total of 538. The Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes on January 6.

Barak Obama, John McCain, Roosevelt and Washington

Following this procedure the candidate securing the majority of votes will be declared as the next President. The President will be installed on January 20, 2009. From that date the Presidential term begins which continues for four years.

The Democratic and Republican Parties nominate their respective candidates at the primaries which takes place about one year prior to the Presidential elections. Although the major political parties dominate Presidential election contests, there are usually a number of independent and minor party candidates. While Democratic Party candidate for Presidential election on November 4, 2008, is Barrack Obama and Republican Party’s nominee is John McCain, other minor parties in the forthcoming electoral race include Third Party (Ralph Nader), Libertarian Party (Bob Barr), Constitutional Party (Dr Charles O Baldwin), Green Party (Cynthia McKinney), American Independence Party (Alan Keyes), Party for Socialism and Liberation (Gloria La Riva) and Socialist Party USA (Brian Moore).

The forthcoming election on November 4, 2008 would be the 56th consecutive quadrennial (four yearly) election for the coveted post of the President of the United States.  There have been 42 persons sworn into office and 43 Presidencies (President Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms and is counted chronologically as both 22nd and the 24th President). The first President of the US was George Washington, the supreme commander of the victorious colonial troops in the American War of Independence. He was unanimously chosen by the Electoral College and was installed in 1789 and continued for the second term.

Out of the 42 persons elected as Presidents of the US, four died in office due to natural causes (William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren Harding and Franklin D Roosevelt), four were assassinated (Abraham Lincoln, James A Garfield, William McKinley Jr and John F Kennedy), and one resigned (Richard Nixon). While Franklin D Roosevelt served the longest time of over twelve years as the President, the only President to be elected for four consecutive terms, William Henry Harrison spent the shortest time in office with 32 days.

By the Twenty-second Constitutional Amendment, ratified in 1951, the total number of full terms a person could serve as a President was limited to two (Eight years). No President other than Franklin D Roosevelt has ever served more than eight years. Franklin D Roosevelt who was the President of the US from 1933 to 1945, is the only President elected to more than two terms.

John F Kennedy was the youngest President elected as President of the US. However, Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest person to assume Presidential position. As Vice-President he succeeded President William McKinley as President following the assassination of the latter. The oldest person so far to become the President of the US was Ronald Reagan. John McCain may surpass Reagan’s record if elected President in the forthcoming election.

The Presidential election on November 4, 2008 is unique in the sense that for the first time in the history of the United States an African American is the Presidential candidate. Besides, for the first time two sitting senators will be contesting against each other. Whosoever finally wins the Presidential race, history will be made in the United States. If Barrack Obama wins, he will be the first African American to become the President of the US and his Vice-Presidential running mate Joe Biden would be the first Roman Catholic Vice-President. On the other hand if McCain wins he will be having for the first time a female Vice-President, once again a first in American history. Moreover, McCain would be the oldest President.

Another curious factor in the November 4, 2008 elections is that for the first time since the election of 1928 neither an incumbent President nor Vice-President sought their party’s nomination in the Presidential election.

In the general elections of November 4, 2008, besides electing the President, thirty-three States would be electing Senators and all the States would be electing the members of the House of Representatives and eleven States would be participating in the election of Governors.

The democratic process in the United States can be considered as a model which could be emulated by those countries, especially India, which believes in democratic way of life. The political maturity manifested by the US politicians and citizens are the hallmark of a nation that was born out of sword and fire.

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by Dr Eugene D’Souza, Mumbai
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Comment on this article

  • Captain Stanley Latif Correa, Mangalore/Saudi Arabia

    Sat, Nov 08 2008

    Thank you Dr. Eugene D'Souza for your wonderful article. Hats off.

  • kaitlyn, WI

    Thu, Nov 06 2008

    I love Barak Obama oh ya he rocks

  • joyce, mangalore/u.s.

    Wed, Nov 05 2008

    Thank you Dr. dsouza for your article. which enlightened me as I am here during the election time I see the difference between our 2 countries. Its total chaos in its so peaceful and calm. Only thing is the voters are few and mostly above 50 yrs. our curruption level is high from the lower levels.which has to be curtailed.

  • Ramesh, Bangalore/Newyork

    Tue, Nov 04 2008

    I am not at an expert in constitution and structure of Govt. My knowledge comes by what I hear on radio. I believe both US and Indian democracies should be decent, but Indian democracy if drenched in corruption. The load of corruption is makes one feel that they are not living in on it is a window with think coat of dust. If some one can clean that, for which we may need a miracle, then citizen would *really* see the power of democracy. Voting does not make a place, democratic.

     In US it feels the people really have rights because one can it working so feels like you are living in a democracy. What is the use of democratic constitution, however stellar it is, if it is just limited to paper? May be it was my ignorance, in Bangalore I always felt that Govt. is entitled to access every bit of my information, but in US rules are very different till they came up with 'Patriotic Act' Govt. did not have free access to public libraries records. And when Govt. fails protect people from morality police, like Shiva sena, democracy looks useless.

  • melroy, USA/Mangalore

    Tue, Nov 04 2008

    The major difference between in US & Indian election is as follows -

    1. Since one person serves full term, developement favourable to one half of the population happens. No matter who wins, people will get the benefits for sure. There is no withdrawing support, no NO CONFIDENCE MOTION, no double corruption where you pay both Police & Theif. Sp, four years of all good things happening to one half of people, no matter what the other half fusses about. Of couse the president is sensible not to go extremems. Ex - If one person supports abortion and other one doesn't, then we know for sure what the law is after the election. The same for immigration policy, Iraq war, etc.

    2. There is no family politics unless the family member is equally educated. If Hillary made noise, that is because she is a top lawyer, not a puppet wife.

    3. Education & political experience of the person matter most. There is no kitchen wife becoming cheif minister just because someone else has put the Chief minister in A/C jail. No KURUBA becoming a PM and telling I studied till 3rd std.

    4. No chicken biriyani bribed voting, no putting ink on hand, much lesser proxy voting.

    5. There is no unwanted noise pollution. People dont go shouting on Rickshaw with a mike. The radio and TV is rubbish and it is your choice to turn it off.

  • bharath shetty , Kateel -USA

    Tue, Nov 04 2008

    India's democratic system is emulated from British. In general Indian system is far mature than US system(if people vote for the right candidate). I think India can get rid of useless party leaders by following US model. i.e. Party leader and Nation's head should be elected directly by people as done in US

  • Alister J. Aranha, Dubai, UAE

    Tue, Nov 04 2008

    Dear Dr. D'Souza, Thank you for writing this piece. I am new to DaijiWorld and I was humbled by the knowledge and grace of your work. The information in many of your articles cater to the requisites of our readers by way of growing their intellects and arming them with the knowledge to discuss a variety of geo-political issues.

    As an aspiring writer, I also thank you for referring my work in your current piece in the hopes that its readers will enjoy my satire of the US Presidential race as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Sincerely, Alister J. Aranha

  • A.D'Cunha Shenoy, Mangaluru

    Tue, Nov 04 2008

    Certainly America is considered as a democracy but Indian democracy is much superior and world must follow our model(without being corrupt) and not American. The reason is simple. Our democracy has the representation of the masses unlike USA. We can change our government by going to the streets and force a national issue from the streets.

  • Vincent D'Souza, Mangalore/Switzerland

    Tue, Nov 04 2008

    "The democratic process in the United States can be considered as a model which could be emulated by those countries, especially India, which believes in democratic way of life. The political maturity manifested by the US politicians and citizens are the hallmark of a nation that was born out of sword and fire." Really? I do not see any difference between the Indian process and the US one in terms of the kind of negative campaigning, funds involved and negative tactics of prventing some legitimate voters to vote. At least in India you can get rid of the government mid-term through non-confidence motion. In the US you can not.

    A better model to follow is the democracy in Switzerland where every citizen has a say - when needed, thorough referendums - in crictical issues such as nationalization, building a dam somewhere or a power plant elsewhere or even a Nano factory in Singur. Politicians can not influence it through their power for their own interests.

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