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The State Of The (Divided) Union

Posted in Business and Law, and World Affairs

Abe is raising his eyebrows, Teddy is frowning, Alexander Hamilton is shouting out, “This isn’t what I intended the Electoral College to do!” and Mr. Franklin is saying, “I knew this would happen eventually.” In fact most of the Founding Fathers I imagine, join the nation in mourning, after all this is not what they had fought for as the ancient tombstones and headstones tremor in disapproval. The system was never intended to be foolproof, but was a process of compromises at the time when they declared independence back in 1776, and set about forming what is now known as the Constitution. They fought for a Union, and now that Union is failing as a nation is divided and living in fear of what the Founding Fathers feared—a tyrant and dictator at the helm. If anything, this reminds us that the USA is a Republic and not a Democracy.

A week ago, the flaws in the voting system were fully realized when Donald Trump won more Electoral College votes than Hilary Clinton. How was that possible? Did the experts get it all wrong? What this has done is divided a nation, but surely one must say that is the will of the people? Not necessarily so, as Clinton did win the popular vote, but due to the mechanics of the Electoral College the voting system has come under criticism again. Maybe they needed to teach all voters how the Electoral College works (as not all fully understand it) before an election, as we are now seeing more media stories on why it failed the majority of the people.

Currently, while Clinton accepts defeat, there are those are looking for loopholes to overturn the result, and this has been done in history. There are several factors that are in play; Trump has several pending criminal investigations against him (today one was settled out of court for over 25 million dollars on allegations of fraud, surely that is an admission of guilt?), the suspicious reopening of the closed case on Clinton’s emails that maybe a violation of the Hatch Act, and a petition to persuade the Electoral College on 19 December to vote for Clinton.

The Electoral College

Unlike most systems, the electors are essentially free to choose whomever they wish to vote for, and do not have to vote for their own party. Some however may fear reprisals, but don’t need to give a reason, or have to vote for whom they had pledged to vote for originally. Indeed this has happened in history before, and given how the turbulent things are, anything could happen. Those in the Senate and House of Representatives are accountable to their electorate, and for them, politics is a career (if they oppose their constituents they won’t be re-elected). They don’t need to back Trump because they have their seats now, but will they have the courage of their convictions? Experts say it’s possible but unlikely, and the majority says a Trump government would be dangerous, so why didn’t the public listen to the experts?

There are 538 votes and 270 are needed to win. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska (who use the ‘congressional district method’ which can lead to split electoral votes), the majority of states uses a ‘winner takes all’ system, but is that fair? In history there have been what is termed ‘faithless electors’ who do not vote for the candidate they pledged for. In this instance under the Twelfth Amendment, it allows the House of Representatives to choose if there is no majority vote:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.”

The Electoral College is a process and one that is far from over. On 6 January 2017, the official votes will be counted in Congress and the procedure will be as follows:

“If no Presidential candidate wins 270 or more electoral votes, a majority, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution provides for the House of Representatives to decide the Presidential election. If necessary the House would elect the President by majority vote, choosing from the three candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. The vote would be taken by state, with each state having one vote.”

“If no Vice Presidential candidate wins 270 or more electoral votes, a majority, the 12th Amendment provides for the Senate to elect the Vice President. If necessary, the Senate would elect the Vice President by majority vote, choosing from the two candidates who received the greatest number of electoral votes. The vote would be taken by state, with each Senator having one vote.”

This has happened in the past in 1824 where there was no majority, and John Quincy Adams won the votes in Congress, even though Andrew Jackson won both the electoral votes and popular votes. Jackson expected the House to vote for him, but they didn’t. History could repeat itself again, and is an example of how the Electoral College doesn’t always seem fair. This is to ensure that the right person is in the Executive Branch in case of corruption, or that Congress has someone who has the same ideals as the majority. In 1836, Richard Mentor Johnson failed to win enough votes to be the Vice-President due those who opposed his relationship with a slave. Not the best reason not to vote for someone, but it wasn’t illegal. However, the vote went to the Senate and he won that way. Clearly in those days, people voted based on whether they were liked, and isn’t that different today although the stakes are higher.

 While people maybe campaigning for changes in the how the Electoral College works, one must remember why it was created. It was during an era where there was a fear of a single person assuming too much power, but also was when electors could be influenced with promises of positions and jobs, and this was created to prevent this. However, prejudice and bribery exists regardless in human nature, and especially politics. It is not inconceivable that this still exists today, even though there are more laws on transparency that still get hidden.

The Electoral College Was Created to Stop Demagogues Like Trump

A Dirty And Unfair Election?

There can be different perspectives and analysis as to why Clinton didn’t win, but the voters that chose not to vote for either candidate in protest effectively handed Trump his win. I have heard many voters would not vote for Trump, and did not like Clinton and so either did not vote, or voted for an independent candidate. These are the people that handed Trump his win whether they wish to believe or accept that or not. If you take a philosophical approach and break it down, you can see how and why:

  • The two main contenders were Clinton and Trump, the other players were in it to say they ran, but had little chance of winning.
  • Voters have a duty to cast a vote that will help determine which one will win.
  • If a voter decides on conscience they cannot vote for either, and do not vote at all, they empower the Trump votes.
  • If a voter decides on conscience to vote for an independent candidate to ease their conscience (because they have no chance of actually winning) to say they have voted, they enable a Trump win.
  • In the above two cases, by deliberately choosing not to vote for Clinton, the voter fails to make their votes count to choose the winner, therefore, those who fell into those categories and who are shocked at Trump’s win have only themselves to blame.
  • The end result is that the voter had an opportunity to vote to decide the best person for the job, and they failed to use it either by opting not to vote, or by using an empty vote.
  • Therefore, the people who chose not to vote and who opted for an independent vote, were effectively voting for Trump by not supporting Clinton.

From what I have seen, Trump voters are ashamed to say they voted for him; families have been split, relationships and friendships have ended, and I have seen celebrities delete their social media profiles after being attacked, unfollowed, and judged for their political beliefs. It’s disturbing to say the least, and it reveals the true character of some Americans, but isn’t the image that would attract people to visit the USA. Is this what a typical American is like, because if so, the world is shaking their heads at you. Those who voted for Trump say they are not racist, but when you vote for someone who is, that defines your standards and morals. Any sane person knows that. If you hang out with a gang of drug dealers or thieves, then people assume you approve of their actions or are one of them. You are what company you choose to keep, and whom you endorse. The rest of the world is looking down on the USA and Americans in bewilderment. They may not care, but when tourists fail to visit, companies choose not to invest, then what? Have the citizens forgotten they are a nation of immigrants? It does matter.

A Dark, Deluded, and Dim Future?

People want jobs, and they think Trump will open up factories and industries for them. They are deluded in an age where mass production and machines are responsible for the loss of jobs, and companies who exploit employment regulations. You only have to watch a few episodes of ‘Undercover Boss’ to see that most employers have no idea that cutting hours and pay means people have to have several jobs. The problem lies in the laws that allow workers to be exploited. Rather than a lack of jobs, it’s a lack of jobs that provide a living wage. Several states have no minimum wage laws, and are open to exploitation. Illegal immigration has always existed, but building a wall won’t stop people trying to find their way across a border. First, people need to stop employing illegal immigrants by means of a financial deterrent. If they cannot work, they have no motive to remain or to attempt to come over. I have heard that some businesses will only employ illegals because they are cheap, and because there is no paperwork there is more profit for them. They are equally responsible for the situation.

Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Does Trump represent Americans in how they think and what they believe in terms of racism, religion, and gender equality? If so, then the world is horrified— it’s not politically correct, which is another term for being a socially acceptable and behaving as a decent human being in society.
  • How can Billy Bush (I wonder who he voted for?) be fired from his job on NBC for agreeing with Trump on the Access Hollywood tape due to a public backlash, and Trump the instigator and one who made rude and sexist comments get elected as the President? It’s one rule for one, and another for Trump? People who defend him and say people make mistakes are deluded. You make mistakes and learn from them, and don’t carry on until you get caught. For heavens sake, he was a father, and a 60-year-old man when he made the comments; there is no excuse.
  • Do people think Trump can create jobs all of a sudden, when many other Presidents have failed or have been held back? It’s not as if he is going to use his own money, as it would be a conflict of interest.
  • Was James Comey, the F.B.I. Director coerced into reopening a case that had no evidence to support its claim, except to put doubt into the minds of the electorate? Is this an action that violates the Hatch Act, in addition to being prejudiced and unprofessional? As expected it amounted to nothing and was withdrawn less than two weeks later, just before the election day to prevent any accusations that it could have influenced the election. However, that is not how the mind works, but proving what was in the minds of millions of Americans is not physically possible.
  • Why didn’t any media outlet or even the Clinton campaign explain in laymans terms the email controversy? The use of external servers was allowed (as long as copies of emails were officially archived) and the guidelines were still being developed at the time, and even Collin Powell admitted he used his AOL email account when he was Secretary of State. The end result would not have resulted in any criminal charges because there was no intent, (an administrative error) and proving there was would have been very difficult.
  • The Benghazi attack has been blown out of proportion, and in countries where there is war, there will always be casualties. The role of being a US Ambassador in a country such as Libya always carried risks, and death by terrorism is one of those risks. No one should be blamed except for the actual group who carried out the attack. Clinton was representing the government in her job, just as all her predecessors did.

There is still a way to go before 20 January 2017, when the next President will be inaugurated. In the meantime, Trump struggles to find people willing to be in his Cabinet, a couple have been fired, and Americans and the world watches on, while a man who has never held any public office job, or had any political experience has been voted to run the biggest country in the world. Many say they are ashamed to be American, as the world looks upon Americans as foolish, even stupid. Americans had a choice to vote for someone who had experience, versus someone who has money and the ability to tell people what they wanted to hear. Perhaps Clinton failed because she was too honest and didn’t make claims she knew she couldn’t fulfill? The outcome of the vote defines how the world perceives Americans, and at present that is ignorant, racist, and some would say dumb. That doesn’t mean all Americans are perceived that way, but the majority are in light of the outcome of the vote.

As a historian, the idea of studying history is to make sure we don’t repeat mistakes, and this is a historical event that should have been avoided. Historically, when people vote for change, they don’t always get what they want. Russians wanted change; Stalin gave them that and millions died in the process, and then there was Hitler, and we all know that didn’t turn out so well for Germany and the rest of the world. Are we watching another dictator in action? While Congress holds power, one must remember that world of politics is corrupt, and people can be bought as the recent court case that miraculously got settled today after five years of stalling. Those checks and balances that the Founding Fathers created can fail too.

If people could vote again, would those who didn’t bother get out and vote, or would those who chose an independent vote for Clinton? I have two friends who admitted they voted for Trump; both are sane and intelligent. There is no logical explanation they could give me that would convince me as to why that was a good choice; both cited Clinton’s actions that occurred whilst she was in office. That isn’t to me a reason, but for the sake of friendship I respect their freedom to vote, but that doesn’t mean I agree with their choice. It was a case of better the devil you know, or the one that understands how Capitol Hill works, rather than the one who has dodged deals and avoided paying tax.

As the country moves towards a far right style of governance, that is what the Founding Fathers fought against—they wanted a Union, where the Federal system would unite the states. The far right opposes federalism and prefers to allow individual states power, regardless of whether it takes advantage of the citizens. This was the very purpose federalism thrived, because states were abusing their powers, and citizens needed some kind of protection. Who will protect those citizens now? Will there be more protests and riots? Never in the history of American politics has a result been so angrily met with, and I fear time will not heal this wounds speedily. Today, there is still racial tension in the South where Blacks have fought and gained rights as citizens; the wounds of slavery still exist and it was abolished over a century ago. Obama has been trying to close Guantanamo Bay (illegal in the eyes of many countries), and Trump has announced he wishes to keep it open. There is little hope when progress made is then lost.

Have Americans really voted for someone who has no idea how the welfare system works, who hasn’t financially contributed to the system, who mocks disabled people, verbally abuses women, and who has never served his country? We all learn from mistakes, but this is a huge one, and maybe one day voters will understand voting carries with it great responsibility, and isn’t just to ease the conscience. Millions have died over the years to enable the everyday citizen to have a say; think of the men who weren’t property owners who had no say when they arrived as immigrants, women who had no vote, and black people who didn’t even have their freedom. I imagine many are shaking their heads in disbelief now as the freedoms they were denied the Americans of today failed to use. Having the right to vote, and knowing how to use that vote are two very different things, and it appears many Americans do not know the latter.

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