By: David Sadowsky
Oh, what a unique adventure this entire election cycle has been. From Americans like me supporting an imperfect Socialist, to exposed bias in the DNC. From thorough GOP schism, to Trump as a distillate of a dozen alternative candidates, including another Bush. It’s been chaos from the start. Early on, it seemed this chaos might actually expose the many weaknesses of our political process, that we were finally going to change the rules. Young people were voting. Party loyalties were reevaluated. People were angry, but hopeful. The excitement permeated. But now the primaries are over. Hope dwindles, steadily replaced by confusion, anxiety, and panic. It’s back to nonsense vs. nonsense, more volatile than ever. And the overwhelming, seemingly endless, parade of controversies and injustices is packaged and sold more as reality TV absurdism than as symptoms of a political system in crisis. After Sanders’ withdrawal, the metaphorical bern/burn we’ve felt is starting to seem less like political growing pain, and more like the wrath of an opportunistic disease that’s thoroughly infiltrated the most basic and trusted structures of our democracy’s immune system, manifesting a serious threat to the health and function of our nation as we’ve known it. Or maybe it’s always been this nebulous, and I’m just late to the party.
In our current system, voters are forced to be strategic and utilitarian, often betraying their true desires, like in the self-fulfilling prophecy/myth of Sanders’ unelectability. But the most obviously pervasive example of political strategy is voting for the lesser of two evils. I do it, people I respect do it, and I don’t see a smart or realistic alternative in this current system. We are coerced into this by our current First-Past-the-Post voting system, in which citizens are unable to rank their choices. This, in turn, forces us to ignore third parties to avoid a repeat of Nader’s “theft” from Gore to Bush. The true culprits were the First Past the Post system turning voters’ decisions against their own best interests, and the Electoral College ignoring the popular vote, completely undermining true democracy.
Anyway, I find myself planning to vote for Clinton, whom I’m less than happy with, to avoid the nightmare of a Trump presidency, and to hopefully see a more socially progressive Supreme Court and Cabinet. I would prefer a good human being, but Clinton will have to do. Many people I talk to openly profess to be voting for the lesser of two evils, as well, but, as November 8th nears, I see more and more posts on social media of people I’ve respected professing their love for Clinton as if they actually like her as a person. I really don’t understand it. Part of me thinks they are just experiencing a sort of Stockholm syndrome, trying to cope as hostages of this demented system. Or maybe it’s the boiling frog metaphor, and they’ve just slowly had their expectations lowered to null. Or maybe they’re just desperate to get a woman into the White House, and will ignore her trespasses as a kind of reverse-sexism. All of those reasons are, at best, weak, but still somewhat relatable from the anti-Trump perspective.
But don’t you see it’s a trap? It’s the illusion of choice. A false dichotomy, or false dilemma, “involves a situation in which only limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option.” We’re given two publicly polarized options to distract us from how little control we actually have over the system they’re rigging. Especially in this cycle, it’s easy for the hate of one option to make the other seem enticing, but don’t forget you’re allowed to passionately hate both. No matter whom we pick, it’s still the same flawed system, unless we change it. Unless we pick that third, omitted option: Revolution.
So, as this cycle comes to an end, and Trump’s followers continue to recognize his insanity, I beg this of you: Don’t be satisfied. Don’t relinquish your anger. Don’t surrender your destiny to the system. Don’t be tricked into thinking we’ve won the war. Trump is just the first battle. We might be stuck with Clinton/Kaine for the next four years, but we must be vigilant. We must demand change. I hope you’ll fight with me, so we’ll never have to witness such abysmal depths again. Here are some of my targets:
With how much passion and energy goes into the results of the American Presidential Election, you might think there’d be more benevolent thought put into the process. Millions idolize and villainize presidential candidates as if that’s the only substantial, meaningful position in a democracy. Growing up, American children are taught that they are lucky to live in a country in which they can vote for their leaders. Of course that is an immensely important and enjoyable liberty, but is that enough? Is that really all a government needs to offer its citizens to be considered a satisfactory democracy? “A government of the people, by the people, for the people,” but how accurate is that description when the system and processes are not accessible to those same people? A system which is virtually permanent, functionally rigged, and only plastic to a select few is not democratic. More like, “A government of the corrupt, by the lobbyists, for the wealthy.” In order to accomplish true democracy, we need to be able to change the process. Here are just some of those processes in need of reform:
Ideally, political campaigns would be sustained independently from financial investment, as this would remove vulnerability to corruption and plutocracy. In such a massive country as America, though, funding quickly becomes a necessity in order for a candidate’s voice to be heard throughout the vast expanse. Even with that need for funding, it’s still crucial to seek a system that removes such vulnerabilities. Currently, corporations’ designation of personhood in America contributes to corporate exploitation of the political system for corporate financial prosperity at the expense of citizens’ well-being. It’s unacceptable. A potential step away from corporatocracy would be the disallowance of corporate contributions to politicians in general, and the abolition of corporate lobbies. This is one of the most dire threats to true democracy, but it’s only one of many.
Clearly biased news coverage by corporations with well known vested interests and ulterior motives? Those controlling the media have a disproportionately titanic impact on the information that reaches the public. Let’s make it illegal for private news corporations to purposefully mislead the public to act against their own self-interests. Instead, fund a completely objective news source with government money, and require those aforementioned entities to broadcast rectifications at prime-time as the alternative to heavy fines and suspensions. Freedom of speech and the press were not intended to allow malicious propagation of lies. If they want to express their opinions, as opposed to facts, they should be required to clearly state those opinions’ inherent subjective nature, and/or publicly disclose their stakeholders’ potential conflicts of interest. Dishonest commercials and misleading statements, good or bad, about, and by, politicians? Legally require the paying party to gain fact-checked certification, on an ad hoc basis, at the benefiting party’s expense, and punish those who fail to do so.
Presidents that didn’t get the majority vote? People forgoing their actual vote to be used by delegates and superdelegates? Gerrymandering? Forget the current primary system, and forget the electoral college. When the majority vote is ignored, true democracy is abandoned. Superdelegates and gerrymandering are vessels of corrupt, systematic manipulation, disguised as political strategy, and have no place in a modern society. Caucuses? Seriously? People have to drive to high school gyms, and stand in a group to be counted by hardly-vetted randoms with their own subjectivities? And that wins delegates? No, thanks. I think this is one of those situations where it’s safe to abandon tradition.
Dual-party system? Nah, we don’t need parties, we don’t need majority whips, and we don’t need politicians deciding to vote differently than their pre-election promises. Not only do the values of each party change over time, but no candidate fits perfectly into a party, nor should they. It’s a dangerous form of insurance for building loyalty to a group, because it unavoidably comes with conformist pressure on the individual. When one pledges allegiance to a party that doesn’t fully represent one’s own beliefs, one often ends up sacrificing more and more of their values to remain a part of this unnaturally-adopted group identity. It encourages politicians’ loyalty towards other politicians, instead of towards their own constituents.
How many people have you heard say their fiscal and social preferences don’t fit into one party? That’s because there’s no reason they should. Why don’t we vote for a leader for each? Maybe instead of just voting for President and Vice, we should also/instead vote for each Cabinet member. This way you could dig one candidate’s stance on defense, and another’s stance on education, but not sacrifice one for the other. Do you avoid voting for an independent or third-party candidate, with whom you most passionately side, because your vote is likely to be “wasted?” That’s not fair. Evolve past our current First-Past-the-Post system. There are alternative systems that better represent the populous, and maximize the happiness of the group. CGP Grey has a great series of videos about FPTP’s shortcomings and alternative models(Alternative, MMP, Single Transferable).
Elections held for less than 48 hours, on workdays, with required pre-registration? Is any of this nonsense necessary for a contemporary, technologically advanced society? No. Voting via Internet is possible, and potentially more secure than the antiquated physical voting machines, which have systematically been hacked. And televised reporting of projected outcomes by state, before they’re fully processed, not only affects other states’ outcomes, but can even affect the outcome of the state being reported.
Tri-branch checks and balances? Yeah, that’s cool, except when it ends up being an easy way for a Congressional majority to impede progress. If our elected officials have such a hard time doing their jobs, and representing their constituents, maybe they should let us vote on issues that are constipating them, or maybe they should just be fired. They’ve infamously had time to vote to raise their own salaries. Congressional elections are equally important for this reason, and others, but significantly fewer people vote in them compared to the main event. Furthermore, how can honest, responsible adults seriously try to stall the appointment of the ninth Justice for months, until their homie is possibly the new person to decide? They’re not doing their jobs. And how are Justices chosen by one person who serves 4-8 years, when they get to serve their entire remaining life? Before Scalia died, the average age of our Supreme Court Justices was 70 years old, and the median American age was about half that at 37, but, at least Clinton and Trump average to a vital, representative 69.
Minimum voting age, minimum presidential/justice age? Why not also maximum voting age/maximum presidential/justice age? Is a specific age group, sex, or income bracket disproportionately represented based on voting participation? Why don’t we have each age group, sex, and income bracket’s votes re-calibrated to actually represent the amount of those people living, and paying taxes, in this country? Just because more retired people can make time to get to the polls, doesn’t mean they should also have more power over our country.
You’re a Congressman, and you vote for a war? You’re now automatically enlisted, and it has to be on the front lines. That vote shouldn’t be up to Congress, especially while Selective Service is still in use. Not only should Selective Service not single out men 18-25, but it shouldn’t exist. The last confirmation of declaration of war should belong to those who will have to fight in it. Those who have to kill and be killed should only be put in those situations voluntarily.
And the Constitution and its Amendments are pretty dope, but they’re not the infallible word of God, y’all. If your only defense for something is that it’s allowed by the Constitution, that it’s legal, or that it’s traditional, you don’t have a substantial defense, and that’s a strong sign that you should reevaluate your stance.