Thursday, November 17, 2016

RATIONALIZING TRUMP'S VICTORY

In the words of Mr Trump himself, his election is a "disaster" and "a catastrophe," but there is not much short of an armed rebellion that can be done.  A few days ago on Facebook I read a post that defended the electoral college that allowed Trump to win the election, even though Hilary Clinton actually won the popular vote by a number approaching one million and expected to go higher.

Every voting system helps determine a political strategy.  Here in Canada we are wrestling with a new system that could be either ranked or proportional.  Both are superior to the electoral college.

Some of the arguments made on the electoral system had some sense, but the more I think on it there are serious problems with the electoral college.  Whenever the number of voters is barely over 50% the election itself lacks credibility and it would be unfair to say anyone has a mandate.  The reasons people chose not to vote are many:  suppression, inconvenience, apathy, poor choices, distrust and I would add the feeling that your vote doesn't make any difference.

A voice on the radio pointed out that the electoral college can negate two million votes.  That means a lot of upset people who made the effort to vote.  The politicians knew the rules and one of them played them better, but the losers were the voters.  The way the electoral college works many votes are wasted meaning they have no impact on the final results.  If your party gets 0.5% less than the winner, by definition in most states your vote doesn't count and the other party gets all the electoral votes.  For many that would be a reason where the odds are further apart to not bother.

One of the arguments was that politicians would ignore the small population centres and to some extent that is true, but right now they ignore the states that have a tradition of voting one party consistently.  But if each vote is equal politicians will go anywhere where they feel they can make a difference.

Another argument was that the founders, those who negotiated the original Constitution did not favour a pure majority.  That is true.  What I understand is that at the time many of the politicians were slave holders and were very concerned that they could be out voted by the industrial north.  Also bear in mind that only propertied males of a certain age were eligible to vote.  There are people who think that was a better arrangement, but most of us would disagree and have been successful in expanding the number of voters.  Many of the early presidents were slave holders including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

It is true that rural residents do have a different set of priorities that should be respected.  I have lived in a rural area at a young age, but have spent most of my life in urban centres and each has influenced my thinking.  The rural voice is much needed and it doesn't mean much if they don't have some power, but neither should they dominate the majority of the population.  An earlier blog on this issue:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/10/the-rural-urban-divide.html

Since the twentieth century only two elections have been decided by the electoral college when the popularity vote was different.  In both cases the Democrats lost.  I think most Americans would agree that George Bush was not a successful president and I would venture that most Americans (and most of the rest of the world) do not feel good about the Trump presidency.

There have been Supreme Court judges who felt that their job is to determine the original founder's intention before they rule on new laws.  It appears that more judges who think that way are apt to be appointed.

Any Constitution is prone to flaws because they are made by humans with vested interests.  One flaw that draws attention is the practice of gerrymandering.  In Canada the task of deciding voting district boundaries is formally non partisan.  In America that task is given to partisans.

In elections since 2010 with one exception the Republicans have been able to win more House of Representatives seats with fewer votes than have the Democrats   Since 2012 they have been able to obstruct which is ironic.  Many of the things they obstructed are what voters complained that the Democrats didn't do.  Ironically (or perhaps not) the Republicans did win the majority of House votes and retained the majority of seats in 2016.

Voting systems can be very complicated, but I believe an important question is why didn't more people vote.  A winning politician has more credibility when they can claim they represent all the people.  A country benefits when every voter feels their vote counted.

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