Note: The following is deliberately tongue-in-cheek. Please do not leave comments to explain to me how elections “actually” work. I know how they work.
I have a coworker who is not from the United States who was dismayed at the announcement of a particular candidate for the President of the United States. This was my response to him:
Here is how we elect the leader of the self-declared Free World:
God personally calls a candidate. Actually, God personally calls at least ten potential candidates, if you assume that no one would lie. And who would lie about being directly chosen by God?
Those candidates God chose, along with many who others will argue God did not choose, establish “independent” corporations that can take unlimited donations, known as SuperPACs. Because corporations have more rights than people, in the US, these PACs can spend unlimited amounts of money and can hide their donors, whereas when mere people donate to a campaign, their names are required to be disclosed and their contributions are limited.
The candidates go to places they believe will win them votes to declare their candidacy. For most candidates this is Iowa or New Hampshire, because due to skeletons buried deep within their ground, these locations have magical power. Or deep-fried Oreos. Whatever. Other candidates will declare at one of their chain of buildings, or somewhere in their home state. Doesn’t really matter. The press will nonetheless say they have the “momentum” until the next candidate declares.
Candidates say things. Many of those things are disproven by facts, but candidates do not believe in facts. Others of those things are statements of intention that they will not actually intend. These statements become increasingly insane. Anyone who says anything coherent and statesmanlike at this stage will be disqualified, regardless of their party or intelligence. See Jon Huntsman in 2012 (whether or not one supported him, he did say a few nice things).
In January of the election year (you thought we were in the same year as the election before? Hah! Elections in the US take at least one Congressional term to process, sometimes two), Iowa and New Hampshire will have primaries. Iowa will ignore the American tradition of secret ballots and verifiable results and have caucuses. No one knows what those are. Someone will win.
The media will anoint the person who won the frontrunner. Nice of them. They will anoint a frontrunner approximately 200 times through the next year, however, so don’t worry if you don’t like this particular one.
More primaries ensue. At this point, candidates will start to drop out of the race, which has now cost more per candidate than the GDP of any but the wealthiest 50 countries.
Eventually, we will be down to two candidates, one for each party. (What’s that you say? There are other parties? That’s some of that Freedom-Hating stuff, we don’t do that in the US.) Those parties will hold a nominating convention. No one will care.
The candidates will have a series of debates. These will be unholy unions of soundbites and sweat dripping. The media will focus on which candidate sweated less. No one will care.
The candidates will fly around the country making increasingly frantic statements. No one will care.
(Hypothesis—though this would explain a few things.) Somewhere around September, the four or five wealthiest people in the country will get together and decide who gets to be President.
In October, the so-called “October Surprise” (which comes without fail) will kneecap one candidate just as they were about to win.
On the first Tuesday after a Monday in November (so somewhere Nov 2-8), the US will go to the polls. Only four states will matter, due to the “Electoral College” which ensures that the US’ “one person, one vote” principle never applies to Presidential elections.
The losing candidate will file lawsuits in 20 states. This usually won’t work, but after 2000, when it did, it’s worth a shot.
Sometime November-December, a candidate will be declared the President-Elect. Most media sources will say he (or, theoretically, she) will destroy the country.
January 20, the new President takes the stage and promises to defend the Constitution. Given that the preceding 15 steps didn’t do much for the Constitution, one will wonder.
Some rights reserved, but not all of them, as that's rude. Design courtesy of, well, me.