The United States and the United Kingdom of Great Britain are two countries who have remained allies for the better part of two hundred years. The similarities between these free societies are often readily apparent. Many times, when an attack is perpetuated on their societies, it is considered an attack on all of western culture. However, just because their cultures seem so similar doesn’t mean we choose our leaders the same way. The values the United States and the United Kingdom hold are often most apparent when picking a new leader. The United States and the United Kingdom pick leaders in a different way and for different reasons.
The United States has three basics requirements all Presidential candidates must meet. All U.S. Presidential candidates must be natural-born U.S. citizens, be at least 35, and have lived in the United States for the last 14 years (Government, 2018.) Anyone who meets these requirements may run for President in the United States, but unfortunately it is nearly impossible to become President all on your own. The United State has always been a country rife with political parties, but it has only been the last hundred years or so, that two major parties have run the show. Currently the United States is run by the right leaning republicans and the left leaning democrats. It has been over 100 years since a someone not affiliated with those two parties was elected President. President Millard Fillmore was a member of the Whig Party and served as President from 1850-1854 (White House, 2019.) Once someone has decided to run for President, they decide which party to align themselves with, if they haven’t already done so. While the United States sees challengers from a litany of different political parties only democrats and republicans are considered to have a true shot at the Presidency.
After aligning with a political party, the candidate must win that parties’ nomination. The nomination is given to the candidate who secure the highest number of delegates. Delegates are secured by winning the votes of specific caucuses and states. Many of these elections are closed to members outside their political party, so republicans don’t have a say in the democratic nominee and vice versa. Finally, once a candidate has won the nomination of his party they will run in the general election. The general election sees all different parties running against one another, but once again it is only ever really a race between the democrat and the republican contenders. Unfortunately, the general election is not as simple as the person who gets the most votes wins. Twice in the last twenty years America has seen the winner of popular vote lose the election. A candidate wins the Presidency by getting 270 of the possible 538 electoral votes. Electoral votes are assigned to states based on population and other factors. A state like California carries 55 electoral votes, where a state like North Dakota carries only carries only 3. Therefore, a candidate can have the most votes overall, but not winning the most valuable states will result in a loss. Once a candidate reaches 270 electoral votes the other candidate concedes, and the winning candidate becomes President-Elect. The President-Elect is sworn in and becomes President the following January.
Becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is slightly different and represents some of the differences in values between our two countries. The requirements all candidates in the U.K. must meet are much different. Strictly speaking there aren’t any fully defined requirements, but it is generally accepted that you must be a member of Parliament to become Prime Minister. Members of Parliament must be 18 and citizens of the UK. They do not have to be born in the UK therefore, the UK Prime Minister could be born outside the UK, which has happened before. The leader of the party with the most members in Parliament is asked to be the Prime Minister (Fun Kids Live, 2019.) This would be akin to the process by which America picks the Speaker of the House. Elections are much shorter in the UK, but they usually happen more often. The rules say Parliament must be voted on once every 5 years, but it often happens more often because of votes on specific referendums and votes of no confidence. A vote of no confidence means 2 weeks into a Parliamentary term the members of Parliament can decide they no longer have faith in the current government. This then triggers the general election (BBC, 2019.) The general elections in the UK are more based on party. When you vote in the UK you are voting for a specific party and the leader of that party rather than the individual on their own merits. This is similar in function to the United States, but the United States candidates often run on a platform of being an individual rather than just a tool of their party. In the UK you are voting strictly for a party not a person. Many would argue you do the same in America, the UK is just more honest about it. Like America the UK has two major parties the left leaning Labour and the right leaning Conservative. These parties have controlled Parliament since David Lloyd George left office in 1922 as a member of the Liberal Party.
While America and the UK are similar in many facets, the processes by which they chose their leaders in different. Both are considered free societies, but both have a different way of deciding those freedoms. America has an election process that never seems to end and is dominated by two parties. The UK also has two prominent parties and the ability to frequently change leaders can lead to little getting accomplished. The UK doesn’t derive as much importance on where the Prime Minister is born, while the U.S. President is required to be born there. Both countries have their own intricacies, and both could learn from one another’s election process.
- U.S. government. (2018, November 9). Presidential Election Process. Retrieved from https://www.usa.gov/election
- White House. (2019). Millard Fillmore. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/millard-fillmore/
- Fun Kids Live. (2019). How to become US President vs. UK Prime Minister? Retrieved April 14, 2019, from http://www.funkidslive.com/learn/us-uk-slamdown/become-us-president-vs-uk-prime-minister/
- (2019, January 16). What is a vote of no confidence? What time is it? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-46890481