Even in an election cycle that's featured Donald Trump bragging about his penis, there are certain aspects of elections that Americans just take for granted. Lengthy primaries, bitter arguments, colossal amounts of money ... that's just how democracy works, right? But some of those everyday oddities are completely baffling to outsiders. So Cracked asked two of our foreign writers, Finlander Pauli Poisuo and Canadian Mark Hill, to discuss their perspective on the current season of American Idol: Special Quadrennial Leader Of The Free World Edition.
#6. America Is Further To The Right Than It Realizes
Pauli: So in 2012 I took a few of those "Do you swing left or right?" tests, and the results were ... concerning.
Mark: Not to downplay your struggle, but I'd appreciate it if you kept your medical problems out of this.
Pauli: Political left and right. In 2012 social media had figured out its teething problems and went Super Saiyan on us, so I couldn't resist clicking my way through some of the 8,000 political ideology quizzes that kept popping up in the wake of everyone's election fever. In Finland I'm a moderate leaning a little to the conservative side, so I assumed I'd wind up somewhere in the center. Instead, this happened:
"You are here, hippie."
Mark: Did they then mail you a bowl of borscht?
Pauli: And a CD of 101 Somber Military Marches. Should I be reevaluating my entire political outlook?
Mark: Don't worry; you're not alone on what America considers the far left. You know who would also hover around center right in Europe? Bernie Sanders.
Pauli: Seriously? Every other word I read about the guy is "socialist." From where I'm standing, which is geographically adjacent to a certain vodka-loving country that used to be the world's leading socialist state, center right is ... very much not that.
Sanders wouldn't change America's flag to this, despite what you might have heard.
Mark: Except in America. They're slowly moving left in the wake of Obama, but they still lean more to the right than most people think. If a European-style socialist party ever gained traction there, Fox News hosts would start melting like they had opened the Ark of the Covenant.
Pauli: America hasn't even had a proper left wing in ages, just two parties that look almost identical to foreigners. That just seems so weird. I don't think they quite realize how conservative they look to us. From an American point of view, I'm apparently just a red shirt away from my computer turning into a bald eagle and screeching Lenin-based insults at me. And your country has a liberal male model for a prime minister. That's the mental toolkit we're equipped with when we try to understand Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Mark: Does the fact that there are successful parties across Europe that would make Trump look moderate change your perspective at all? I mean, at least America hasn't actually elected Donald Trump. Golden Dawn has seats in the Greek parliament, and they openly use Nazi symbolism.
They know the Nazis invaded them, right?
Pauli: Man, don't get me started on them. Golden Dawn, Front National, UKIP, True Finns ... they're a sign of the times. The European Union has struggled for a while, and whenever there's economic trouble, all these "patriots" and "friends of the common man" come crawling out of the woodwork and try to grab all the political power they can.
Mark: So they're a warning sign of what happens if you don't get your act together? Don't fall for it, America!
You don't have to know anything about Greek politics to be worried by this picture.
#5. Your Elections Are Baffling Marathons
Mark: Pauli, would you like to guess how long the American election has been running?
Pauli: I honestly have no idea. It feels like it started long before I was born and will continue until the heat death of the universe. Let's see ... between primaries, debates, and candidates kicking off their campaigns, maybe around six months? Seven?
Mark: It's already been over a year. Ted Cruz was the first to announce his campaign, on March 23 ... 2015.
Here's Bernie Sanders on the day he announced his campaign.
Pauli: Oh God. And there's seven months to go. That's over a year and a half of campaigning, and the second it's over they start speculating about the next one. No wonder U.S. elections feel like an eternal cycle.
Mark: Now guess how long Canada's 2015 election took. Hint: It was the longest since 1872, which was won by our beloved statesman John Canadaman.
Pauli: Well, we Finns have a campaign trail of around four months. So ... maybe five months? That still seems like a really long time for a country that doesn't turn its elections into a reality show.
Mark: Eleven weeks. It began after every major American candidate announced their campaigns, and ended before the first primary. And a lot of people thought it took too long!
Pauli: There should be a law that an election can't last longer than an NFL season, which already seems like an eternity to most foreigners.
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
And the Super Bowl feels like a confetti-strewn hellscape.
Mark: I think the biggest problem is the primaries, which are the electoral equivalent of foreplay.
Pauli: Bad foreplay. Foreplay that forgets it's supposed to end. The primaries are eight hours of trailers before the movie. They're that one awful person everyone dates in college: a few weeks of action stretched out over countless months of yelling and embarrassing behavior.
Mark: Right, it feels like it's been drawn out for TV ratings, not to accomplish anything substantial. Primaries are like that season of The Walking Dead where all they did was sit around a farm. They couldn't move forward to the interesting parts, but they needed to do something.
Pauli: America has eight times the population of our countries put together, so there are a lot more voters to engage and issues to talk out. I get that they need time for that. But the current system is tiring even for someone like me, who's watching a free spectacle from afar with a beer in hand. I feel sorry for the Americans immersed in it. Almost two straight years of ads, pundits, and crazy relatives ranting about how the candidates they don't like are going to destroy the country. For the first time in my life I can understand why all those YouTube commenters who argue politics are so angry. They're exhausted.
Mark: American elections are like The Simpsons. They start slow, then they get great, but then they get tedious and, while you know it still exists, you just don't care anymore.
Pauli: Martin O'Malley is America's Bleeding Gums Murphy.
Des Moines Register
Oh God; is he about to hang himself?
Mark: And it's weird because politicians spend months viciously attacking each other in the primaries, and then in the general election the losers have to turn around and stump for the winner with a big smile on their face. It feels so fake.
Pauli: Unless you're Chris Christie, who looks like he's supporting Trump because Trump has his children locked in a basement. Still, I think I'd be OK with the length of the race if it wasn't for the fact that ...
#4. Campaign Budgets And Spending Look Out Of Control
Pauli: Like, ridiculously out of control. Frankly, it seems like a huge waste of money.
Mark: I know, right? Bernie Sanders, the "underdog" candidate, has already raised $139 million. When Justin Trudeau, Canada's new walking BuzzFeed article of a prime minister, ran for his party's leadership there was a spending cap of $950,000. Mere population difference doesn't account for a gap that large, because holy shit, $139 million is way too much. Aren't there orphans to be fed or something? Does America employ all their orphans in elections, is that their secret?
Pauli: Just when you lost your parents and thought things couldn't get any worse, all of a sudden you're Hillary Clinton's new campaign manager. "Hi, kid! Here's a list of damage control you'll have to do by the end of the day!"
Mark: Meanwhile, Canadian parties were limited to spending $54 million each in our 2015 election, and most parties didn't even hit that limit. Hillary Clinton has already raised more than was spent in the entire Canadian election, and she hasn't even reached the actual election yet. So did Jeb Bush, and he dropped out two months ago.
Jeb! Jeb! Jeb!
Pauli: Well, that's the way their system is built. Most countries have strict laws limiting campaign length and the amount of ad space candidates can get. The U.S. has no limitations, so campaigns have gone the way of the blockbuster movie. They spend more and more money to make their candidate look good and get their name out there, even if the end product is excessively lengthy garbage.
Mark: So this election is the political equivalent of Batman V Superman?
Pauli: Yes. Let's hope Trump is just one of the nonsensical dream sequences.