I try not to be political in my blog. I don’t feel it is the place to pontificate on any given opinion. But Donald Trump has inspired me. (!)
I was truly shocked at Mr Trump being elected as president given the outbursts and negative stories that we all bore witness to.
I thought I would look into this a little more. I came across three items that could explain quite a lot about what has just happened in the US, and maybe even provide a little insight into our own Brexit vote result.
It seems that the massive swing in favour of an “outsider” is nothing new and in fact, the erstwhile philosopher Plato seems to have accurately described the circumstances in which a democracy can be afflicted by a winning “unsuitable” candidate. This he wrote about in various chapters (mainly VIII and IX) in his publication around 380 BC called “The Republic”.
You will be glad to know I am not going to provide extracts but if you have the time it might be worth reading an article in the NYMAG here. It’s called “Democracies end when they are too democratic”.
2. The Electoral College.
Another thing which struck me was how is it that the popular vote, i.e. the one that we Brits take for granted in our political system and the one that apparently puts Clinton (at time of writing) ahead of Mr Trump, could this then result in the “wrong” candidate winning?
What is this system? How can it result in the winning candidate being the one with less votes? I looked into it a bit more.
It seems that the Electoral system in the States was in a bind when certain state Governors realised that their Southern states didn’t have as many eligible voters (as slaves could not vote) when compared to the Northern states so this meant that the influence their state had over elections was hampered and they may not have the political power they ‘needed’ for their own state affairs.
So the government of the day, led by some famous names such as Hamilton etc. allowed them to use 2/5ths of their slave population to count towards the state’s electorate – even though, I repeat, the slaves didn’t have the vote. This number then translated into the “College” vote for that state. So the influence of their states increased.
“One Founding-era argument for the Electoral College stemmed from the fact that ordinary Americans across a vast continent would lack sufficient information to choose directly and intelligently among leading presidential candidates.”
Ostensibly this was about the Northern states versus the Southern states in terms of who had more political clout.
This was put into law in the 12th Amendment. There is more to read on this. Two sources I’ve read: The US Constitution itself, 12th amendment (read it here if you have several hours to spare) and this one, here which is much more readable and highlights the slavery connection. This one is called “The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists”
Interestingly, Mr Trump himself tweeted in 2012 saying “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy”.
So a system that was mooted in the 1780s and made law in 1804, designed to appease slave owning states has, it seems, disregarded the votes of the actual electorate during this election. Maybe they should look at a little update?
If you fancy a laugh, ensure your speakers are on and click the image below. It will take you to a website that pokes a little fun at Mr Trump. I hope he doesn’t take it too seriously.
If you consider the first point I mentioned about Plato’s opinion on how democracy can give rise to effective anarchy under certain circumstances, then you could also argue that this is what happened with our Brexit shock vote.
Perhaps the protagonist was Nigel Farage, the leader or interim leader, of UKIP? He did extremely well to put in a good show fighting the “establishment”. Indeed, if you got below the rhetoric and scaremongering, a lot of what he had to say was fairly sensible. And then, it all went pear shaped – he won.
I have heard it said that America has just gone through their own Brexit; I do not agree. The Americans can get rid of Mr Trump in either 4 years, or at the latest, in 8 years.
We, on the other hand, have made a change that will reverberate around our nation and probably the continent for many generations to come, and there is nothing we can do about it as our politicians, fearing de-selection now state that we “have to get on with it” and “Brexit means Brexit” – whatever that means.
Whenever anyone now questions the vicissitude of the Brexit referendum result, they are shouted down. It seems that free speech is only free when you’re saying things that others like.
I cannot understand why in this enlightened age, we cannot even allow our legislature to try and ensure we get the “best deal” we can from this mess. Democracy? We are not setting a good example.
In my opinion our electoral system where we elect a representative to air our views and opinions on our behalf in a parliament that has supremacy over us, is whilst not being perfect is the best version of a bad idea. The premise that the electorate has enough awareness or even intelligence to fully understand the complex matters that govern our post industrial civilisation is and I’m sorry to say, nonsense.
I consider myself to be fairly well educated, travelled and balanced in most of my views. I am able to see both sides of the story and not just go along with the popular media placed ideas and preconceptions. But I am certainly not qualified to understand the ramifications of us leaving the EU.
Finally, and back to the US election
I read a very moving letter written to a daughter by her father.
Aaron Sorkin, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Social Network and mastermind behind The West Wing reacts to Donald Trump being elected the 45th president of the United States in a moving letter written to his 15-year-old daughter Roxy and her mother Julia Sorkin.
You need to read this to remind yourself that whilst a shouting, unpleasant and uneducated face of popularism is sweeping the western world, there are still some people who can pen a truly moving letter. Read it here.
Above all I feel sad for America, and for us. Whatever happened to balanced, considered and caring politics? Did it ever exist except in our dreams?
Perhaps I will stick to writing about the Internet after all. (phew! I hear you say)