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Why Do Americans Get So Riled Up Over Presidential Elections?

One of the points of interest to many is the excitement that electing the President of the United States engenders. On the surface, it seems quite obvious why everyone gets so emotionally involved with presidential elections. The President, Americans like to say, is the “leader of the free world.”

And, of course, any president can make policy recommendations. However if you look at the Constitution, the President doesn’t actually do a whole lot in terms of making policy happen.

Presidential Elections: Obama vs. RomneyThis election, between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, seems very focused on the economy. However, can a president really do a lot to jumpstart the economy? If you look at Article II of the Constitution, (Article I, the place of primacy, is devoted to the legislative branch), it’s clear that executive branch doesn’t really have a great deal of power. The president doesn’t pass laws, although the executive is supposed to enforce laws passed by Congress.

So, while any president can try to get policies put into action by taking a hand in crafting legislation, the reality is that policies can be watered down — or rejected by Congress altogether.

Why, then, do we make such a big deal over gets the so-called “top job”?

The Symbol of Where We Want to Go

Being President isn’t just about “winning.” Many people see the President as a symbol. In the current two-party system, each presidential candidate represents a vision for the country. The idea is that there are two different ways that the country can go (we’ll save the discussion about the flaws of the current two-party system — which I do not like, and which is no part of the Constitution — for another day, along with the discussion about whether or not there are sufficient differences between the two parties).

Once a candidate is elected, the assumption is that the people have made their wishes known as far as where they want the country to go. On top of that, the President is a symbol, to the rest of the world, of what the United States of America is all about.

Many citizens become personally invested in who becomes President, and identifies with that person. Or at least identifies with the ideals the candidate espouses during the election cycle. And, of course, there are others who feel equally strongly against the winner of the election, and work to oppose the President.

In some cases, the animosity against a President, or the support for a President, can become so strong that reason isn’t even in it. There are times, as in this election, that everyone seems to divide into armed camps, while accusations and counter-accusations, not to mention prevarications, fact-twisting, and out-right lies, fly back and forth.

At the end, though, it’s important to remember that, no matter what you think about the candidates, and who ends up as President, there are other elections that matter more. State and local elections are more likely to affect your day to day life than who sits in the White House. And who you send to Congress is actually going to be making laws and doing what it takes to policy ideas reality.

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