Tag Archives: donald trump

A House Divided, or a House Party?

by Mikel Ham

The 2016 presidential race has reinforced the belief that America’s current political party system is flawed, at best. Two factions, often seen as polar opposites, dominate the national discussion on every issue, while smaller parties and independent voters are left disenfranchised.

To choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, in the minds of many voters, is to choose the candidate they see as the lesser of two evils. The question is, how long can voters choose the lesser evil, before there is no distinction between the two? And how can the voices of all be heard, so that, perhaps, there could candidates who aren’t evil at all?

Two Parties, and a House Divided

The biggest issue with bipartisan voting is it creates an “us or them” mentality; congress will destroy a bill, regardless of its merit, for the sole reason that it was brought forth by the opposing party.

Bringing a bill in front of Congress is almost like selling a used car. Representatives and senators will write the bill with way more in it than what they want to accomplish, in order to be “talked down” to what they actually want.

Given the kind of partisan bickering and lack of cooperation seen over the last decade, is it any wonder that most Americans say they’re independent, rather than claiming to be a Democrat or Republican?

Important Issues are Being Ignored

Consider healthcare, a major issue frequently debated by both Republicans and Democrats. Who doesn’t want affordable health care for the entire public? Who doesn’t want the sick and disabled to be cared for? By taking the desired end results into account, bills that support these issues should, in theory, be highly desired by both parties.

Instead, we see gridlock.

For a long time, the Republican right has taken a position against socialized medicine, which runs a hard line against the party’s corporate backing. From the free market perspective, if the government is going to move from subsidizing industries to actively socializing them, many large companies will lose out on existing profits and control of the market. If the government provides healthcare to its citizens, then how would the private sector compete?

There is nothing wrong with a free market—but it shouldn’t cost someone $900 just to go an emergency room.

In fact, the free market for medicine is fairly new in American history, only starting during WWII—since the country could not fund both the war effort and the population’s medical needs, the private sector emerged to fill the gap. Healthcare is a great example of a public need that has been privatized, and needs to be reigned back in by government.

Most people would probably agree that there are problems with the current healthcare system in the United States, even if they can’t always agree on how to fix them—58 percent of Americans support single-payer healthcare, for example, and public opinion of the Affordable Care Act is all over the map.

But healthcare is only one issue—what about the cost and quality of education, military spending, or paying for maintenance of roads and bridges across the country?

It seems that on every major problem facing the United States, Democrats and Republicans can’t see eye to eye. If the two dominant parties in our system can’t agree on what’s best for the country, and are in fact operating largely out of spite for each other, then how can we trust either party to choose candidates for the Presidency?

Decision 2016: Who Chooses the Choosers?

As it stands, the 2016 presidential campaign has been loud, and ugly. What started with over 23 candidates and some of the most caucus participation in history, is ending in email scandals and comparisons of hand size. Two candidates remain, each one appealing to voters as being less toxic than the other.

But has it all been sound and fury, signifying nothing?

The primary elections are already flawed systems, where the popular votes have no direct effect on the outcome. Each party has a convention, where delegates chosen at the primaries and caucuses meet and cast the final vote to choose the final nominees—and that doesn’t even consider superdelegates or contested conventions, mechanisms where parties can override the popular vote altogether.

So, what about votes in the general election, where we choose from the party nominees?

The Electoral College is set up so that the electors are private parties, and while they usually vote along the lines of the party that chose them, they have no obligation to do so. Electors who vote opposite of the party that selected them are known as faithless electors.

The most surprising and little known thing in regards to electors is that the ability of the public (or more practically, political parties formed from groups of the public) to vote on electors is a tradition, and not a rule.

The original right to choose electors belonged to the state government, and still technically resides there. It wouldn’t make sense in a logical world for the person receiving the most popular votes to not receive the delegate votes that decide candidacy or seat of office, but it has been known to happen multiple times in history.

The most recent case was in 2000, when George W. Bush was declared the winner over Al Gore, even though he had approximately 540,000 less popular votes.

Other instances include Adams in 1824, with 38,000 less votes than Jackson; Hayes over Tilden in 1876, with 250,000 less votes; and Harrison’s victory over Cleveland in 1888, with 90,000 less votes in the popular election.

Fewer Choices, Louder Voices

Another issue is that, when thinking of the primaries or the general election, only Republicans and Democrats come to mind. Where are the independent parties? Why do they have no representation? Why is it that you can only vote in the primary if you register as a Democrat or Republican?

The primary system, in and of itself, ensures that voters will get the extreme right or the extreme left candidates running for office. Rarely will voters be presented with middle-ground candidates, willing to compromise across party lines and ideals, and this further alienates voters who themselves are not far right or far left.

With no third-party candidates able to step in when the major two parties’ only mission is to shut each other down, the system can only produce legislative gridlock. With no third-party candidates to challenge the distribution of electoral votes, the system guarantees the victory of the same old tired politics over progress—you have two choices, they were the same choices four years ago, and no one is going to be happy.

People seem to vote based on party lines because, in their minds, the established parties are simply the way it’s always been. What most people don’t realize is that the modern two-party system was never meant to exist; many of the founding fathers, John Adams among them, were against such a system. In a letter from Adams to Jonathan Jackson, Adams stated:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution.”

Two parties constantly fighting leave an ideologically barren political landscape in their wake. Independent voters and third parties could help to break up the deadlock, but only if voters understand that they can challenge the system and are active in taking that challenge to the ballot box.

The Republic Remains

If we have established that there is an issue with the current two-party system, how do we, as a country, go about resolving it?

The answer is simple in theory, if difficult in practice. Americans reside in a democratic republic. Our government is of the people, by the people, for the people—in many ways, that mentality seems to have been lost.

If Americans refuse to vote based on party lines, and vote instead based on the issues, they show the party leadership that politicians can’t just campaign as polar opposites of each other, and instead will have to do more to entertain the policies and positions of the other side—work together, or be out of work.

If Americans show they are more willing to vote for a third party, instead of voting for the most extreme candidates from the far left or far right, they tell party leadership that there is an expiration date on the platform of slinging mud across the aisle—play nice, or the people will choose another player.

The people can change the kinds of candidates put in front of them during elections, and they can change the tone and course of policies, by being active and reminding politicians who they’re supposed to represent.

 

Mikel Ham is a 25-year-old writer and military veteran, working towards becoming a teacher. Contact him at mikel.ham54@gmail.com

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Intelligentsia: Berned Out

by Daniel J. Durand

Now that the Democratic and Republican nominees for president have been officially picked, and the dust has settled from the conventions, I’ve had some time to sort out my thoughts about the 2016 presidential election—or as I like to call it, “Pepsi Presents: Democracy Smackdown Royale 2016.”

TMI, Politics Edition

I feel Berned out.

My Facebook friends are probably not going to be surprised by my saying I supported Bernie Sanders during his campaign—I shared news updates pretty frequently and jumped more than a few conversations, both online and in person.

But they might be surprised to hear me say that I’m done. I’m out. I’m taking my ball and going home. I’m riding off into the sunset, the dust of the trail behind me, the wind of freedom on my cheek.

At least, for now.

See, I’ve always been pretty big into politics. I studied politics in school, and absorbed every ounce of news and information I could find. A lot of my friends come to me when they have questions about what’s going on in the world, or why things are happening, and over the years that’s made me even more diligent in finding the best information I could to share with them.

But I think it’s time to unplug for a while, and I’ll give a few reasons why.

First, take a look at this video by YouTuber Veritasium; in it, he talks about the “distraction economy,” and how the amount of information available today and how we consume it is similar to how we consume calories in a world where food is easily accessible.

Information has value, so when we have access to all the information all the time, we can’t help but to consume as much as possible. Binge-watching Netflix, surfing Facebook all day, or catching up on YouTube videos are a lot like reaching for an extra donut—you know one will taste good and satisfy a craving, but if you eat too many, you’ll get fat.

It’s pretty likely I would have experienced this feeling no matter what, but the 2016 campaign has brought it to a head. If you Google phrases like “political burnout” or “election burnout,” you get a sea of articles about people becoming so sick of the media cycle and politics during election years, that they tune out altogether—and these articles go back years, covering multiple elections and political offices.

More Like “Bernie Busted,” Not “Bernie or Bust”

But why am I Berned out, as opposed to just being burned out?

Well, the short answer is Bernie didn’t make it to the Democratic nomination, and I’m disappointed.

The long answer is, there were a lot of reasons I supported Bernie Sanders as a candidate and not Hillary Clinton or Scrooge McDuck… er, sorry, Donald Trump. Those reasons remain even after the nominees were picked, and what Bernie represented still resonates even though I can’t “Feel the Bern” anymore.

If you had asked me a year ago how I thought the 2016 campaign would go, I would have said without a doubt that it would be Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush squaring off in the general election, and that Hillary would win because of shifting voter demographics pushing America further to the left.

I found out about Bernie Sanders when he entered the race for the Democratic nomination, and I was incredibly skeptical that he would make an impact at all. A socialist from Vermont with crazy hair did not register very highly on my radar.

Then I heard him speak.

For years, I’ve been a believer in strong labor unions, a higher minimum wage, socialized medicine and education, stricter controls on banks, and Wall Street reform.

I remembered the Occupy Wall Street movement. I remembered SOPA, CISPA, ACTA, PIPA, and the fight for net neutrality. I remembered Citizen’s United.

I still remember, just like I remember driving my car to work with NPR on the radio, hearing Bernie speak for the first time. Here was a man who not only fought against the same things I wanted to fight, but had been consistently fighting them decades before I was born.

So, I did my homework. I donated to his campaign. I attended the Democratic Caucus in Boise, Idaho, which turned out to be the largest caucus in United States history—and I can tell you right now, it sure as hell wasn’t because of the Hillary Clinton supporters.

But why, now, after Bernie has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton, and she has won the nomination, can I not also throw my support behind her, and vote for her in the general election?

Why does a baseball fan love baseball?

Is it because of tangible properties, like the shape of a baseball diamond, the size of the ball, and the material the bat is made from? What about the systems the game runs on, such as the rulebook, or the scoring system, or the positions and types of players? Perhaps it’s more about the feelings the game inspires, memories of summer days, the smell of sweat or the taste of stadium hotdogs?

Hank Green of CrashCourse gave a good explanation of the concept of identity, asking how many features you can take away from Batman—his cape, his money, his martial arts prowess—before he is no longer Batman.

Green explains the concept of fungibility, that objects are interchangeable with objects of the same kind. Some objects, like twenty-dollar bills, are fungible with each other, whereas a pet corgi is not fungible with any other pet corgi.

Getting back to baseball, how many aspects of the game can be changed before baseball fans no longer love it? For that matter, how many aspects of a presidential campaign can you change before it is no longer worth my vote?

Bernie Sanders would not have gotten my vote because he is Bernie Sanders—I think he’s a sweet guy, and he seems like a genuine human being who I would love to meet one day—but because of the platform he built his campaign around, and for his credibility in standing for that platform over the course of his career.

Hillary Clinton would never have gotten my vote, because her platform has changed too often over her career. For example, I cannot believe her when she says she supports increasing the minimum wage, because she did very little to support wage increases during her six years on Walmart’s board of directors, a company that is well known for pushing its workers to welfare rather than paying them a livable wage.

When it took Bernie Sanders withholding his endorsement to get Clinton to move to a more progressive stance on many issues, and when all that is holding her to those positions is her word, I am left wanting.

To take my values, the values that Bernie just so happened to represent, and then replace Bernie with Hillary, does not convince me that my values will be represented in the White House.

To suggest that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are fungible is a farce.

The Illusion of Choice

Years ago, George Carlin did a stand-up routine about elections, and the “illusion” of choice between candidates who really represent the same businesses, lobbyists, and moneyed interests. Carlin referred to these interests collectively as the owners of the country—I don’t know if I would personally go that far, but he made a good point.

“You and I are not in the big club,” Carlin said. And I do agree with him there.

I knew I wasn’t going to vote for Hillary Clinton the minute she announced her candidacy. Even before Bernie stepped in, I knew it was going to be a major moral dilemma figuring out how I would cast my vote, or even if I would vote at all.

In my mind, the Democratic Party more or less represented my ideals, at least better than the Republicans would ever dream of doing—and I certainly would not be voting Republican. Democrats weren’t perfect, but I figured at the worst America would just have four more years of stagnation, the President making speeches while the Supreme Court gave a few more rights away to corporations and Congress blocked any and all legislation to come its way.

But I couldn’t think of voting for Clinton, who, based on her donor ties alone, looks no different to me than any Republican except for the “D” on her party affiliation. That analysis remains unchanged.

Bernie gave me a choice, a real choice. Now that he’s officially out of the running, the best anyone can say to convince me to support Hillary Clinton is that she isn’t Uncle Pennybags… I mean, Donald Trump. Which is funny, because my friends who support Trump are mainly telling me it’s because he isn’t Hillary Clinton.

To those standing for either candidate, Trump or Clinton, I respect their right to choose and support whomever they wish—but I think Carlin says it best here, too.

If this election is really the best we can do, the problems of this country are probably a lot bigger than who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We Now Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Deprogramming

The values I believe in have not changed.

A year ago, I decided I would vote for Mr. Potato Head. I would support his platform of delicious starchy goodness, and trust that his eyes would watch over America in a way most befitting of the Commander in Crisps—I am now more convinced than ever before that Candidate Head is the best candidate to win Pepsi Presents: Democracy Smackdown Royale 2016, and he will have my vote come November.

In the meantime, I’m going to do what Veritasium suggested, and start myself on a low-information diet. Instead of following politics so closely, I’m going to catch up on my reading, go for walks, draw more, and play more Pokémon.

I don’t really care who wins the election anymore—the secret that no one wants to tell you right now is that no matter who wins in November, no one is going to be happy. Neither Trump nor Clinton will keep all their promises if elected. Either of them would do things that are questionable, or even borderline illegal.

Even Obama, who talked of scaling back the Patriot Act and the drone program started under the Bush administration, has not only utilized those dark areas of his power, but expanded them and made them stronger than ever before.

So, I’m out. I wash my hands of this. I’m taking a vacation.

However, I do have a plan for when I’m rested and ready to come back for another bowl of media soup—a plan I think everyone, whether they supported Sanders, or Clinton, or Trump, should get on board with.

See, I wasn’t the only one with strongly-held values this election. Bernie talked about his movement nonstop during his campaign, and I’m going to follow up with that movement for as long as it exists.

When I read articles that suggest fracking companies are pleased as punch over Tim Kaine’s selection as Clinton’s VP, or that wage growth has slowed to a crawl while the rich insist they’re already paying their employees too much, it tells me that there is a lot more work to be done than just voting, whether you’re Berned out, like me, or if you’re with her, or if you want to make America great again.

Donate to worthy causes. Run for political office yourself, and campaign for good people in your local offices and at the state level. Start blogging and spreading your ideals, and engage the communities you live in. Hold those in power accountable, and be ready to remove those who stand in the way of progress.

Don’t just choose the lesser of two evils; fight for even the smallest of many goods.

 

Daniel Durand is a writer based in Boise, Idaho. He can be reached at ddurand.specialprojects@gmail.com