What the President of the United States ate most

United States

Prof. Dr. Karl-Rudolf Korte

Prof. Dr. Karl-Rudolf Korte

To person

Karl-Rudolf Korte is Professor of Political Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen and Director of the NRW School of Governance. Since 2000 he has headed the "Research Group on Government". Visiting professorships and lectureships have already taken him to the USA, Switzerland and China.

The US electoral and party system

In hardly any other country in the world is the race for the presidency so elaborately staged and publicly celebrated as in the United States. The electoral and party system also differs significantly from that of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Limited choice? Neighbors are promoting the presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. (& copy AP)

The United States Constitution is one of the oldest democratic constitutions in the world. It has been in force since 1787 - with a few changes - to this day. It defines the USA as a presidential and federal republic in which voters indirectly elect the president for a four-year term. In contrast to parliamentary systems, the president is not elected from among the members of parliament and cannot be voted out of office by it. An exception is the so-called "impeachment procedure", which can only be initiated if the president violates the constitution. The president has no right to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

He is both head of state and head of government and thus combines the formally similar but not comparable offices of the German Federal Chancellor and the Federal President. Unlike in Germany, the US president can only be re-elected once. The separation of the executive branch (president / government) from the legislative branch (congress) is a core element of the US understanding of democracy and the basic premise of the constitution.

Similar to the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States is also federally organized. Accordingly, not all political decisions are made at the federal level, but some political areas are also regulated in the individual states. This is important insofar as the president has to assert himself not only against the deputies from the individual constituencies, but also against the senators, since they represent the interests of the federal states. The US parliament, also known as Congress, consists of two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate, to which each state sends two senators.

Public election productions in the USA

The analogies to the German electoral and party system are, however, obvious: Chancellor candidates are chosen in Germany as well as presidential candidates in the USA. The nomination of the candidates for office in the USA is, however, a public and intra-party mobilization festival. It was preceded by official and partisan primaries. In parliamentary democracies, such processes take place quite differently. In party democracies, the selection processes for top candidates follow a different rationality. The parties in Germany also favor public stagings. But the previous selection processes for the staff are much less public than in presidential democracies like the USA.

The party chairman and candidate for chancellor are particularly visible to the voters. Ideally, one party combines both positions, but this need by no means be the rule. Erich Ollenhauer was the party leader of the SPD, to whom one had to be the first to be made clear after two lost elections against Konrad Adenauer that they did not want to send him a third time as a top candidate in the federal election campaign.

Candidacy marathon already in the primaries

Chancellor candidates are high honorary posts. This office does not exist in the Basic Law. In 1961, Willy Brandt was the first chancellor candidate of a party to be dubbed as such - in analogy to the US presidential candidates. In the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, however, there is no second office that was so without a chance. The assumed attractiveness of this top honorary office had mobilization potential in election campaigns, but had a very limited effect. Since the candidacy for chancellor is not a formal office, the parties are not familiar with any formalized procedure for elections. In most cases, the decision is made, depending on the situation, in the power constellation between the party chairmanship and the parliamentary group in a very small circle. The only thing that is certain is that this decision will be made behind closed doors before it is then staged in public. In the USA, on the other hand, you have to face the vote in public primaries. The public and the parties shape the selection process.

Two parties determine the race

Many provisions on the election of the president and the congressman cannot be found in the short American constitution. Only minimum requirements are regulated: Anyone who wants to be elected to the House of Representatives must be at least 25 years old, have been a citizen of the United States for seven years and be resident in the state in which they are elected. This applies accordingly to senators. However, they must be at least 30 years old. The president must be a Native American and be at least 35 years old.

With the exception of the primaries, the citizens of the USA vote according to the relative majority voting system. In this procedure, the person who received the most votes is elected. The other voices expire. This is important because this system has also resulted in only two relevant parties currently in existence: the Democrats and the Republicans. Other parties are still active, such as the Greens. However, due to the right to vote, they have so far been denied success at the federal or state level.