Ah, election season! It’s here again. Or maybe, it’s here still. It’s the time of year when our mailboxes are stuffed with campaign propaganda, our doorbells are ringing with canvassers, our phones are ringing with pollsters, and every commercial on the television that’s not hawking a prescription drug is an ad hominem attack by some politician on another. What could be better?
Here in the U.S., we hold federal elections every two years, although lately, they seem perpetual. In case you were wondering, the U.S. federal government consists of three branches, the Executive branch (the Presidency, et al), the Congressional branch (the House and the Senate), and the Judicial branch (the federal courts, including The Supremes, but without Diana Ross).
The United States Congress is composed of two “chambers”, or legislative bodies, called the House of Representatives, or the House, and the Senate, or the, uh, Senate. Congress is responsible for, among other shenanigans, drafting and passing legislation, and for providing an endless supply of fodder for political pundits and Fox News.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, called (cleverly) Representatives, serve two-year terms. Representation in the House is proportional to State population, so California and New York each have a kazillion Representatives, while North Dakota gets by on just two Representatives, in case one takes ill. The U.S. House of Representatives is the “lower” chamber of Congress. Some days that description is quite accurate.
Members of the United States Senate, called (again, cleverly) Senators, serve six-year terms. Representation in the Senate is not proportional. Each State has two senators. For some States, that’s two too many. The Senate is considered the “upper” chamber, but the origins of this designation remain shrouded in mystery, considering their behavior.
Collectively, Representatives and Senators are referred to as Congress-Critters.
The President of the United States (POTUS) and Vice President of the United States (VPOTUS) serve four-year terms (or two to six, if they get caught). Collectively, the POTUS and VPOTUS and their posse are called The Administration, or sometimes, The White House. Or sometimes, much worse. A POTUS can serve no more than two consecutive terms ever since that FDR guy got in there and fouled up the wonderful job that Herbert Hoover had done. Those were the days.
Since we last elected a President (of sorts) in 2016, the election of 2018 is considered a mid-term election, halfway through the presidential term. Mid-term elections are traditionally the elections that the U.S. voting public uses to punish the political party of the current Administration, in this case, the Republican party, for having the temerity to win the Presidential election.
Mid-term elections help to ensure a new and inexperienced class of Representatives and Senators will be seated next January to continue the tradition of rancorous, partisan bickering and all-around misbehavior that we’ve come to expect here in the U.S. Just like the Founding Fathers intended!
So kick back, put a stop on the mail, unhook the doorbell, unplug the phone, and start streaming that Downton Abbey season you’ve been meaning to binge watch. It’s going to be a long election.
-Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.