I gave a talk today to a very charming group of visiting journalists from all over Europe who were invited by the US State Department to observe the US primary election process. And they're starting here in Miami.
I promised I would post a link to my slide presentation. Because I wasn't sure that all of our visitors were necessarily traveling with powerpoint, as an experiment I've converted the file to a flash presentation. Please let me know if this doesn't work for you.
Cross-cultural conversations always reveal surprising assumptions. My biggest surprise was when, after I'd explained how we register to vote, someone asked whether party preferences were a public record or were covered by privacy law. I said this wasn't private — and half the room looked startled and shocked. It seems that in many European countries, where primaries are rare to non-existent and thus there is no need to make party affiliation public, the very idea that one might be forced to disclose it feels like an assault on the secret ballot.
Questioners also asked about the danger of retaliation: can you be fired for belonging to the wrong party? Since party affiliation isn't a protected class statutorily or constitutionally, I had to say that in private employment you could be fired for being a Democrat, a Republican or whatever. (Of course in public employment there are a number of statutory and constitutional protections that, other than in top policy making jobs, tend to protect civil servants.) But, I explained, I thought that such cases were very rare. This clearly didn't go over as very convincing.
The bit of cross-cultural difference yo’re missing is that in Europe, political parties are very wide-ranging and meaningful. You’re using the same word for something quite different.