Presidential elections are where the ordinary and extraordinary meet.
Serious and silly, unifying and polarizing, presidential elections have become events that Americans love and hate. Today’s elections cost billions of dollars and consume the nation’s attention for months, filling television airwaves and online media with endless advertising and political punditry, often heated, vitriolic, and petty. Yet presidential elections also provoke and inspire mass engagement of ordinary citizens in the political system. No matter how frustrated or disinterested voters might be about politics and government, every four years the attention of the nation—and the world—focuses on the candidates, the contest, and the issues. The partisan election process has been a way for a messy, jumbled, raucous nation to come together as a slightly-more-perfect union.