The post-election analysis by those of us who dislike Trump commonly include the line: “Elections have consequences.” This is a chastisement of people who did not vote for Hillary Clinton. You see, if you didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, this is what you get! The most horrible President in US history! (And, after George W. Bush, that’s saying something!) And as I said in a previous post, please understand the logical fallacy called single cause fallacy.
Yes, elections do have consequences. But first, generalizing that all people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton have caused us to have President Trump is just a shaming tactic that has little evidence, reason, or logic to back it up. A vote is not a vote is not a vote. Not in our “democracy.” It depends on what state you live in. But second, and much more importantly, the real root of the problem is the entire electoral system. The consequences of that are huge. And Donald Trump is just the end result of a system that should be, on the whole, completely unacceptable.
Here are some aspects of the electoral system which have consequences and which, in the case of the 2016 election, resulted in President Donald Trump.
The Money. In our system, the rich and powerful have the best chance to succeed in politics. We have few restraints on the way money has infiltrated our elections. Corporations have rights like a person, and money is considered speech. A person of less than wealthy means and power considering a run for office has a hugely intimidating factor to consider: whether enough money could be raised for a given campaign. Imagine if we had 100% publicly (and equally) funded elections. Surely, there are many, many highly qualified human beings of intelligence and integrity, who now generally avoid politics, and who, if we had 100% publicly funded elections, might consider running. Right off the bat, our choice of even who to vote for is limited in a serious and negative way.
The Binary Choice. See my entire post on this issue. We only have a choice of 2 who have any chance of winning. Just 2. Are there any other things where the choice is only 2? If one party is out of favor, there is nowhere else to turn but to the other party. That’s acceptable? Why should we not have a system with 3 to 5 choices. Is an election just a sporting event where one side defeats the other? Couldn’t there be a discussion with a number of ideas spread out on the table, all of which are given equal attention for all to see and consider? Again, the choice of who to vote for is severely limited.
What the choice of 2 is. From a progressive point of view, the choice is like this: Suppose you were given a choice of 2 things to eat. One was an ordinary, medium decent, kind of basically edible sandwich. And the other was a big stinking pile of shit. Given THAT choice, that sandwich looks pretty darn good. But, that’s what we’re faced with in the typical Democrat/Republican choice. With a few notable exceptions (and many of the exceptions are on the state and local level, not federal level), we have a watered down “progressive” (the ordinary, medium decent, kind of basically edible sandwich) against a Republican (the big stinking pile of shit). Yes, Donald Trump is horrible, but look who might have been the Republican nominee had Trump not won. Ted Cruz? Marco Rubio?Jeb Bush? Carly Fiorina? All of them had horrible ideas and each would have made a very bad President. So, let’s have our eyes wide open about this undisputed fact: About 50% of the time, in our system, the Republican is going to win. And, therefore, 50% of the time the winner will be a big stinking pile of shit. The main difference this time is that the big stinking pile of shit is also mentally deranged with an extroverted jackass personality. Very unpleasant, indeed. But it’s just another variation of the big stinking pile of shit theme.
The Electoral College and Winner-Take-All principle. What will it take for us to realize that winner-take-all is undemocratic? There are other, better ways of democratic processes that are demonstrated in other countries around the world. I live in a red state (Kentucky) which votes for the Republican presidential candidate by one of the highest margins in the country. In 2016 a vote in Kentucky for any candidate other than Trump – including a vote for Hillary Clinton – counted for nothing! There are proportional representation systems and ranked choice voting systems which are much more fair and democratic and individual voter empowering than what we have.
Elections have consequences. But stopping there is looking at the situation through the very narrow, myopic lens of not questioning the way we go about elections. The consequences of THE SYSTEM are the root of the problem. Those consequences greatly narrow and diminish the choice and quality of who we can vote for. They greatly narrow the number of ideas that can be evaluated and possibly adopted. They disempower voters all over the place with a bad and unpleasant choice and little, if any, effectiveness with our voting. And at the end of the day, we’re either going to get something somewhat decently edible or a big stinking pile of shit. Each of those results over the long haul will win 50% of the time. We’re now experiencing an unusually unpleasant version of the more smelly 50% possibility.
To change the system we’d have to have people who have succeeded in this system to be willing to change it. So, we’re fucked. And Donald Trump is merely a symptomatic tip of the iceberg.