People usually think the USA are the epitome of democratic republic.
Two things that might be not so known in Europe:
- Election mechanism. People do not elect the president in USA, the electoral college does. The electoral college is just a bunch of people nominated by the party. You need 270 votes to become president. Each state has a number of members of the college allotted and they go to the party that wins the state.
For Italians, this is not dissimilar from our “proportional” system, but a bit more messy. Basically, a candidate can win by popular vote (number of people voting the candidate) but lose by electoral college because of how votes are quantized, and a person voting in California has not the same voting power as a person voting in Alaska.
- Turnout. In the last 40 years, the voter turnout for presidential elections in USA has always been between 50% and 60%. I repeat, it has always been less than 60%. In Italy we went from 95% in the ’70s to 80% in the last elections, and we are terribly worried about abstention. Have a look at some voter turnout statistics and be ready for a surprise.
Something to think about next time you speak about democracy.