2016 U.S. Presidential Elections
Outlining why the political system in the USA is flawed, and what can be done to improve it
By: David McDonald
One can only wonder how the 2016 presidential elections have been narrowed down to two of the most publicly scrutinized, corrupt candidates seen in recent political history (we haven’t forgotten about you, Mr. Bush).
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the final representatives for the next president of the USA, but a vast majority of the US public is highly against a leadership under either of these candidates.
In fact, a grim 9% of the U.S. population that is eligible to vote chose Trump and Clinton as the presidential nominees in the primary vote. That means out of 221 million possible voters, only 60 million voted in the primary elections: about 30 million each for Republicans and Democrats.
The stark realization that a minority of the population actually believes in either of the primary candidates is one that leads me to believe the current political system in the U.S. (and many other alike nations) will continue to perpetuate.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
The United States political system not only has the power to control the overall way of life on it’s own soil, but it has far-reaching implications on the rest of the world – which is why I am so interested in what makes their system flawed, and how it affects me (in Canada), as well as how it can be improved.
The disparity between primary party support and secondary party support reflects a systematically flawed political system
A primary/secondary party is; a primary party is basically the Republican and the Democratic parties, while the secondary parties are the libertarian party, vermont progressive party, working families party, Green party, conservative/independence party of new york, and the independent party, which collectively, hold a staggering 24 state lower chamber seats, and 9 upper chamber seats.
So what does this all mean? Well, for starters, compared to the two primary parties, which hold a respective 5,387 state lower chamber seats, and 1,965 state upper chamber seats, secondary parties have minimal to no influence on any relevant policies.
This basically rules out any respective votes for the collective secondary parties, because voters know that their vote won’t count for much in senate.
Well, America has thrived (I use that word loosely) on the two-party system since its initial conception after the great depression in 1929. Emerging from the wrecks were two parties that engaged two opposite sides of the political spectrum; the Democrats became the party of the people and of the Labor Movement while the Republicans were seen as the party of the Wealthy.
This change in political ideology saw a departure from older political platforms such as the federalist movement and the anti-federalist movement, along with respective independent parties, that collectively helped birth the original Democrat party in 1828 (a reforming of the Democratic-Republican party that held office from 1800 through 1828). Comparatively, the year 1856 saw the birth of a new party: the Republicans – whom Abraham Lincoln led as the first successful candidate.
The Republican party held the White House thru 1912, with the exception of two non-consecutive democratic terms, however, the real two party system didn’t officially begin until 1864.
To sum up the history of the two-party system in America, from the beginning, the Republicans have been Northern and pro-business, the Democrats Southern and more populist.
Although the two-party system has seemingly worked thus far, an opposition that leans towards a three-tier system is one that continues to grow due to underperforming primary parties
The perception for future prosperity for the U.S. continues to dwindle in the likes of the global population – yes, this is hard to prove, but it’s equally difficult to argue that the 2016 presidential candidates propose a bright future for the nation, at least for the next four years.
Due to this, more Americans are identifying as independents rather than Democrats or Republicans.
According to Kristen Eberhard,
Independents—people who don’t identify with one of the two major parties—are the biggest and fastest-growing group of US voters. At last count, 40 percent of Americans considered themselves independent. The same is true in Cascadia: in Washington, an estimated 44 percent of registered voters identify as independent; in Oregon, one-third of registered voters are not registered Democrat or Republican. The trend is even more stark among younger Americans: nearly half of millennials consider themselves independent.
You can argue that her findings are under-representative of the U.S. population, but my findings from various sources prove otherwise.
Take this chart for example. Data collected by the Pew Research Center shows a recently increasing shift of voters that identify within the middle of the political spectrum.
To say that a two party system still fits the needs of the majority populace is quite an arbitrary proposition, and one that doesn’t seem fit to stand the test of time.
This can mean one of two things for supporters of the current two-party system in the U.S:
Stand for what they believe in; A two-party system that establishes a party on each side of the spectrum, but with stark elements of centrist ideals.
Work towards adopting a political system that offers a party solely based on centrist views – a system that on paper, would help recapture a majority of the voting-American populace.
To consider why voter participation in America (at least in the primary vote) recorded at an all-time low this year, legislative structure may be to blame.
The two-axis analysis above suggest a few points:
Culturally conservative and economically elitist Americans, the “Business Conservatives” in the upper right quadrant, feel at home in the Republican party.
Culturally conservative and economically populist voters, the “Steadfast Conservatives” in the lower right quadrant, are relatively satisfied with the Republican party’s cultural conservatism but may feel alienated from the Republican party’s elitist economic policies. It follows that many of these voters are thrilled to hear Trump trumpet a culturally conservative worldview while also expressing populist economic messages, like limiting free trade and spending taxpayer dollars solving problems at home—not playing world police. Many Trump supporters also favor increasing taxes on the wealthy.
Culturally moderate and economically populist voters, the “Young Outsiders” and the “Hard-Pressed Skeptics” in the lower middle quadrant, are dissatisfied with both parties, possibly because both parties are too focused on cultural issues rather than economic populism. Many of these voters are delighted to hear Sanders hammer on wealth inequality, financial access to college, a living wage, limiting free trade, and solving economic problems at home rather than paying to play world police.
Culturally progressive and economically moderate Americans—“Faith and Family Left,” “Next Generation Left,” and “Solid Liberals” in lower left quadrant—feel pretty happy with the Democratic party. But the Democratic establishment is uncomfortable with Sanders’ strident populism.
For the parties to maintain control of their banners and for more voters to see candidates they can get excited about, the United States needs parties that represent more of this diversity of views.
But what the United States ‘needs’ and what the United States ‘wants’ are two entirely different things that are separated by a little thing called money.
Unless corporate power within congress dwindles due to public scrutiny or various other factors, corporate entities will continue to drive a two-party system
If corporate power fails to decrease any time soon, don’t expect to see progressive activists like Bernie Sanders taking the helm in the near future – they simply don’t have the capital to run a campaign that can compete with the corporate-sponsored Republican and Democratic parties.
Along with “reducing the influence of money in politics,” Bernie’s campaign aims to create jobs, raise wages, protect the environment, provide healthcare for all, increase access to higher education, reform our immigration and criminal justice systems, reaffirm our civil rights, and promote a more sensible foreign policy – all things that resonate with younger American demographics.
The idea of ‘money in politics’ is one that resonates deeply with Bernie supporters – as they can identify with what it is like to be the underdog against a platform that misrepresents their true needs.
A three-tier system will not eradicate campaign spending, but it WILL give candidates such as Mr.Sanders a chance to compete against the GOP and Democratic party in a primary vote, which will not only inspire new people to vote, but will instinctively encourage right-side and left-side activists to at least consider more centrist platforms.
The two-tier political system in the U.S. is not a platform for the future
America is experiencing some hard times. Resilience and trust are needed more than ever on the public’s behalf if the country is to ever dig itself out it the social turmoil it has recently been engulfed in – and electing the right president is the way to inspire these emotions.
However, with only 9% of the American population identifying with the two lead candidates up to this point, you can be sure that the future of America will be one that is led under false pretences and under-representation: not quite the recipe for success.
For the country to once again reach such a domineering position in the world (yes, their global influence has and will continue to fall) perhaps a three-tier political system could be the answer.
If that isn’t the case, without a unification of the American people, and a general absence of money in the political spectrum, the U.S. will fail to remain the superpower nation that they currently are.
But in the wise words of Noah Feldman, “Empires inevitably fall, and when they do, history judges them for the legacies they leave behind.”