American Elections: A Deadly Destruction of Democracy

18 Sep 2016

Americans often like to bask in the glory of living in the “greatest democracy in the world”; but just how great is this democracy? From the complicated system for picking the parties’ candidates, to the Super PACs that fundraise millions of dollars from wealthy businessmen and corporations, to the actual vote for the President itself.  No matter which way you look at this - it’s just not democracy.


Before anyone can vote in the general, the parties decide who will represent them on their ticket. The parties make this decision using a series of primaries and caucuses. This is where each state is allocated a number of delegates, who will vote at the party's convention for the nominee, and this is where the problems begin.


 The two parties are private businesses that have developed ways to make the popular vote almost meaningless. In the Democratic Party, 15% of delegates are “Super Delegates” with the power in a close contest to swing the result in favour of one candidate. The Republicans however, have an even worse system. Republican rules dating back 160 years, allow delegates to refuse to vote for the candidate their state selected, if it goes against their conscience; in other words, a completely different candidate may be elected that the one with the most popular support.


Primaries and caucuses, the elections to vote for the Party's Presidential candidate, have very low voter turnout. This means that only a sliver of the population chose the candidate, and as these people are usually ideologically charged, the nominees are not truly representative of the parties view.


However primaries are only the start of America’s messed up political system. Due to the size and competitiveness of elections, campaigns require lots and lots of money. Many candidates hold special fundraisers primarily for wealthier donors. In May of 2016, a Clinton supporter called Lynn Forester de Rothschild held a fundraiser for Clinton, with the entry fee costing $100,000. Clearly, this fundraiser was not attended by the average voter but only by the mega rich, expecting to get some form of reward from their generous contributions.


This is not new to Clinton, as Secretary of State she approved a Saudi weapons deal after the foreign government paid $10 million into the Clinton foundation. Indeed, most Presidential candidates in this election have Super PACS, which can raise unlimited sums of money from anyone, including corporations,. Although PACs cannot co-ordinate with the candidates themselves, they still hold a shocking amount of influence over the election and Candidates can still find loopholes to get around the problem of no co-ordination.


Adverts are not the only way candidates get their message out as TV debates are often used to promote certain candidates. There are two important hurdles that have to be cleared for a candidate to participate in the debates, one of these, is to have a mathematical chance, of becoming President, under these rules, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian and Jill Stein, the Green candidate are both eligible to participate. The other rule is that a candidate must have at least 15% of the vote in 5 national polls. Although this may seem reasonable, the Commission on Presidential Debates is run by the Democrats and the Republicans, both with a vested interest to keep the debates between the the two parties.


Many states in America have found ways of preventing people from voting. As each state controls its own rules, it makes for some perverted rules. In 10 states, including crucial swing states like Florida, those who have served prison time are permanently banned from voting. It gets worse, like the curtailing of early voting, which mainly disenfranchises African American voters, especially in states like North Carolina and Ohio. Rules that are so blatantly selective on racial grounds, should have no place in a democratic society but many of the southern states persist with these voter restrictions. Even the requirement that voters have photo I.D. disproportionally disenfranchises African-American voters who are less likely to be able to afford the expensive Government Identification Cards compared to white voters.


It doesn’t have to be this way, Americans could fix the rotten system, but as the system is controlled by only 2 parties and these parties always win, maybe the dystopian prospect of a Trump presidency will make the political elite clear up their act - we can only hope. 


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