James Dancey looks into the state of affairs in the US, and a electoral system that leaves a lot to be desired.
When talking about the US Presidential race, the name Trump or Clinton immediately springs to mind, however, the question really beckons, why only Trump and Clinton? Why is there not a larger pool of candidates to choose from?
When speaking to a disgruntled American at his apartment gathering, he seemed disappointed, yet not surprised that it once again seemed a two-party choice, between two of the most undesirable nominees in recent memory. On one hand you have the corrupt, contrived, business-minded Hillary Clinton, so prone to going back on her word there’s a 14 minute YouTube video documenting it.
Then you have Trump, who doesn’t need or deserve description. More intent on reactionary policies and attacking individuals rather than creating actual constructive solutions to genuine working class concerns, you have a choice between an extreme ‘populist’ or a moderate elitist. Why can’t a more moderate option be on the table?
There’s no law against other parties running, and often many parties do, why do the media project it as a two-horse race? Well, the financial stranglehold that both of the main parties have is the real deciding factor with many other components to be considered (which I’ll explain later), once you have that sort of margin between the two major parties and any smaller parties, it’s hard to see the electoral system as ‘Democratic’.
In the UK, that expenditure margin is low enough to allow other smaller parties to shoehorn in a presence, we are extremely lucky in that sense to have a political system that enables lesser parties to gain significant recognition, and subsequently allow them to hold a Government to a little more account than most, with the threat of taking away their voters.
The other big problem in the USA is this longing adoration of tradition; it has been Republican versus Democrat since the beginning of time, people feel comfortable with that vote, so despite being more than prepared to select someone extreme for a nomination, they wouldn’t endorse the same person if they weren’t affiliated with one of the biggest political forces of modern day, even if they had the same funds and momentum.
Which is why Donald Trump is running under the Republican name, he has no long-term attachment or commitment to the party, he was a democrat less than ten years ago, but he needs that household name behind him to lead his ego to victory.
Then we talk about these other parties, there is a Green party in the US believe it or not, a little less surprisingly, they barely harness 0.5% of the total Presidential Votes. There’s the libertarian party, the constitution party, all very reasonable minority parties, but all have no look in how politics in the US is shaped.
The Electoral College doesn’t help, running on a system where a state elects, and considering some states are the size of countries, it means that a lot of votes are deemed completely irrelevant on a much larger scale than nearly every other country in the world. This can be emphasised by the 2000 result in which Al Gore actually received more votes than George Bush, yet George Bush won on states. How on earth a result like that can be upheld almost seems absolutely irrational, someone who had less of the popular vote won the election, think about that.
We live in a progressive world where every vote should be valued the same, however, in this instance Gore’s votes clearly equalled a lesser value than Bush’s, or else Gore would’ve won. When you have voting on such a large scale, there is this huge fear that their vote won’t mean anything, which is why most people are forced to vote tactically for Republican or Democrat, even if their views may align more with another party.
Tragically, many people would vote for different parties if they believed they had a decent chance of winning, however, they are held back by their inhibition, only to realise that if nobody voted tactically then smaller parties would have a lot more competitive share. However, people don’t trust those around them to not vote tactically, and they end up voting tactically as well. It’s this self-fulfilling circle of two party politics caused by a winner-takes-all attitude. People are too conscious to vote outside their comfort zone.
Another huge flaw in certain states is that the electors don’t even have to elect what the people in a district vote for, which means that the people in an area could vote Republican and the elector, decide that they’re all wrong and they want a democrat instead. Can people trust electors in the current political climate? Of course not.
In these instances Ohio and South Carolina voted for the democratic party on majority, yet Republicans won a much larger share of seats, because of a tactic called gerrymandering, where politicians can redraw district lines once new voter information has been released, as you can see, this is regularly abused.
When parties redraw the district lines, it is done to make sure their party has a clear majority, locking out the main opposition, any other smaller parties who want to compete, and other independent candidates. Instead of voters choosing their representatives, representatives choose their voters.
Clinton and Trump aren’t the only two political figures running for President, but they are the only ones who have enough money, power and media coverage to propel them towards The White House. It’s a sad state of affairs when people have two choose the lesser of two great evils, but that’s the tragic story of political entrapment in the US.
Democracy is rigged in favour of whoever is in authority, which is why the USA can be considered to have a two-party dictatorship, and until someone comes along with enough money and enough positive vision to try and sway the electorate (nearly impossible as it may be), that’s the way it will remain.