As of now, there are 18 Democrats running for the primaries in the 2020 election. Furthermore, Bill Weld has announced that he will challenge Trump in 2020. Although it’s early, it appears that the big candidates for the election are Donald Trump for the Republicans and Bernie Sanders for the Democrats. Both Trump and Sanders have been labeled as “radical” and “anti-establishment” by many in the “establishment”. The establishment, which, is dying. The old politics of neoliberalism and neoconservatism are being replaced by a new generation. This generation is embracing a new ideology-populism. This is happening on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.
Jack Shields | United States
The 2016 election was a showdown between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. The fact that the leader of the free world was going to be one of these individuals, both of whom were under FBI investigation, shows that our electoral system is in need of reform. Further compounding this need is the fact that Donald Trump received 2.8 million votes fewer than the loser, Hillary Clinton. The Electoral College is clearly a disaster which does not do an adequate job in achieving any of the noble goals presented by its supporters. However, the solution of going to a popular vote, by far the most popular idea, would be even worse. The Electoral College must be repealed and replaced with a ranked choice voting system, rather than relying on the popular vote.
The Failure of the Electoral College
The Electoral College was a disaster from the start. The system went unnoticed during the first two elections as George Washington was running, so it was really more of a formality than an actual election. Its flaws, however, became apparent in the election of 1796 between Federalist John Adams and Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. At the time, the Electoral College operated under the rules prescribed in Article II Section 1 Clause 3, which gave each elector two votes for President. Whoever had the majority of votes became President, and whoever had the second most became Vice President. Adams won, becoming President, but rather than fellow Federalist, Thomas Pinckney, receiving the second most to become Vice President, Jefferson of the opposite party did. This made the Executive branch split ideologically for the only time in American history, causing tension and inefficiency. Problems continued in the election of 1800 when Democratic-Republicans Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 electoral votes and the outcome of the election went to the House of Representatives. It was a brutal political battle that took 35 deadlocked votes before Alexander Hamilton convinced a minority of Federalist Representatives to back Jefferson in the 36th vote, making him the third President of the United States (a decision that would help lead to Burr killing Hamilton in a duel). Both sides understood our electoral system was a mess, so to remedy this the Twelfth Amendment was ratified in 1804, making each elector now have only one vote for President and one for Vice President.
While certainly an improvement, ratifying Twelfth Amendment was like applying a band-aid when surgery is required. Many more problems have surfaced since regarding Presidential elections and more and more band-aids have been added.
With electoral votes being what matters and not the votes of the people, the right to vote in a Presidential election was not and is still not guaranteed. The Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth Amendments had to be ratified, along with the passage of countless laws, to at least clarify which characteristics can’t be used to prevent Americans from voting.
The Twenty-third Amendment was ratified in order to actually let American citizens in our country’s capital have any say in who would be running the nation. For 172 years they were spectators in their own country. Today, millions of Americans are unable to vote for who should be their Commander in Chief simply due to the fact they live in territories rather than states.
There have been five elections in which the winner of the popular vote was defeated. Additionally, small states are disproportionately represented in the Electoral College. Both of these are hailed by supporters of the Electoral College as its benefits. Small states should be represented and the tyranny of the majority should be kept at bay. The problem is that neither of those has really happened. When is the last time you saw a presidential candidate visit Wyoming or Vermont? Small states have not been represented, while swing states receive large amounts of media and campaign attention. Rather than a national election, the Presidential election is an election of Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. This is not how it should be. While power should be decentralized and overall, states should have more powers and influence in the lives of the American people, when we are holding an election for the head of the national executive the entire nation should be involved. The idea that we need a system that checks the tyranny of the majority is absolutely true. The Electoral College just isn’t the way to do it. Checks and balances, a small list of enumerated federal powers, decentralization of power, and state legislatures picking Senators were effective ways to check the majority. We have abandoned many of these ideas as government has grown bigger while our rights have shrunk, and the Electoral College hasn’t been able to stop any of this. The way to change course and keep small states powerful and the tyranny of the majority in check is to stick to checks and balances and decentralization of power, not have a terrible electoral system where someone can become President with only 27% of the popular vote. We should keep powers limited to protect the states. We should keep the amount of positions people get to elect limited to check the tyranny of the majority. But once we’ve decided to allow the people to vote, as we should do when deciding who gets to be the powerful man in the world, we should treat it as any other vote: winning 51% of the vote means winning the election.
The final supposed benefit of the Electoral College was it would protect us from the ignorance of the masses. It did this through the Electors, which are in no way constitutionally bound to vote for who the people of their state picked, although many states have laws requiring them too. But has it at all checked the people’s ignorance? The reality TV star who cheated on his wife with a porn star is President right now. President Wilson (re-segregated the federal government), President Roosevelt (put Japanese people in camps and appointed a former KKK member to the Supreme Court), and President Johnson (helped filibuster civil rights legislation) all were elected without any opposition from Electors. In fact, the only time the Electors have had any significant impact was during the election of 1872 when the Democratic nominee for President, Horace Greeley, died after the popular vote but before the electors cast their votes, causing them to split their votes between four other Democrats. Just like the tyranny of the majority, the ignorance of the majority should not be checked by the way we hold our elections. The way to check it is to limit the power of the federal government and what positions we get to vote for.
With the Electoral College being the disaster it is, many have proposed we move to a popular vote. In this system, whichever candidate receives the most votes becomes the next President. But this cure is worse than the disease. There have been eight elections in which the winner won with a plurality of votes, and this system exasperates this problem. It requires there to always only be two candidates, stifling many viewpoints and competition. The clearest example is with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992. Clinton won with an electoral landslide despite winning only 43.01% of the vote. This was because the third-party candidate, Ross Perot split President George H. W. Bush’s base. A Democrat won the election despite the fact that 56.36% of the electorate chose a conservative-leaning candidate. This is a problem that will continue to occur with a popular vote. A different solution is clearly needed.
Ranked Choice Voting
A Ranked Choice Voting System is the best way to elect the President. In this system, rather than picking just one candidate, a voter ranks his or her favorite candidate 1st, the second 2nd, and so on. If when the votes are tallied in the first round, none of the candidates received above 50% of the popular vote, then the candidate in last place is eliminated and the votes for those who voted for the now-eliminated candidate go to their highest ranked, non-eliminated choice. This process continues until one candidate has above 50% of the vote, making them the next President of the United States. President Bush would’ve been able to win in dominant fashion in the second round of the election under this system; giving the American people a President most closely aligned to the wishes of the electorate. That should be the most important goal of any electoral system, and none do it better than ranked choice voting.
While ensuring the majority of the American people actually voted for the next President is the most important goal, there are many other goals that are achieved by Ranked Choice Voting.
The candidates will be less radical. Primaries allow radical bases to select candidates not in line with mainstream America, causing most Americans to choose between the lesser of two evils as seen best by the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Under this system primaries are weakened and may even become totally irrelevant and eliminated as multiple people from each party would be able to run without destroying any chance of victory as with the elections of 1912 and 1992.
With more candidates being viable the American people will have more options and more opinions will be represented. With votes transferring, the idea of ‘wasting your vote’ will be a thing of the past. All voters will get to vote with their conscience for the candidate most representative of their values without having to pick the least worst option.
The presidential candidates will have to campaign everywhere. Democrats in Texas and Republicans in California will finally have their votes matter and the need to campaign nationwide rather than Florida-wide will be the new path to victory.
Millions of American citizens living in territories such as Puerto Rico will be able to have a say in who their President will be. All Americans will have their votes matter now that we will have a system which ensures citizens do get to vote for President and there is no Elector who can go against the will of the people.
Lastly, this system has the potential to make elections more civil and unifying, something badly needed in this country. Most Americans disapprove of negative campaign ads, but their use is increasing. It is much easier to prove someone else wrong than to prove yourself right. A ranked-choice system creates negative consequences for disparaging your opponent and incentives to be civil; voters aren’t just voting once, they are now ranking candidates, so every detail of a campaign matters. And while not everyone is going to make a candidate their first choice, the candidate will want them to rank him or her second. A voter is not likely to rank a candidate anywhere on their list if the candidate is in a calling the other candidate’s supporters deplorables who are racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, and xenophobic. Candidates will now have to play nice if they hope to stand a chance should the election go to round two.
With an electoral system that has failed us from the beginning, many Americans are turning away from the Electoral College and looking for alternatives. While this is a necessary first step we must be careful not to stumble upon the first alternative and end up with an even worse electoral system. Ranked Choice Voting is by far the most efficient and beneficial system, making it the obvious choice for the Presidential electoral system of the future.
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By Francis Folz | United States
38 percent. That is the percentage of the Missouri electorate Hillary Clinton garnered in her failed bid for president in 2016. You would think the Missouri GOP would be smart enough not to use a page from Ms. Clinton’s shoddy playbook, especially since Mr. Donald Trump defeated Ms. Clinton by 19 points in the Show Me State. However, this is not the case.
The Missouri GOP voted on July 3, 2018, to suspend a rule that prohibits the National Republican Party (the establishment) to spend money on a particular candidate in a contested primary. Instead of leaving the race between the candidates and the voters, the Missouri GOP thought it would be a fantastic idea to act like there is not a primary by concerting with the national party to elect Josh Hawley. Sound familiar?
Ms. Clinton colluded with the DNC to rig her primary election against Bernie Sanders only two years ago. And to add insult to injury, the DNC decided to further isolate the Sanders wing of the party by barring his supporters from the party’s convention the same year. Common sense would suggest not to repeat the same mistake of snubbing the grassroots, especially in such a close race. Polls show Mr. Hawley either trailing Claire McCaskill or narrowly leading her within the margin of error.
However, the grassroots’ liberty candidate in the race, Austin Petersen, is determined to fire Claire in November. In a matchup between Mr. Petersen and Ms. McCaskill, Austin bests Claire 56% to 40%. In light of that recent poll, it should be common knowledge not to interfere in a heated race between a weak, establishment candidate and an electrifying grassroots firebrand.
But to make matters worse, in an out-of-touch move, President Trump and Vice-President Pence have weighed in for Mitch McConnell’s Josh Hawley. This shows disdain for the vast amount of Missouri voters reluctant to support Mr. Hawley. After all, it was Mr. Hawley who aired campaign ads not even two years ago that promised not to use the Attorney General’s office to climb the political ladder. Such promises have long since vanished.
However, attempts to shut out the grassroots have not weathered Austin’s spirits, and why should they? Mr. Hawley has modeled his entire campaign after Ms. Clinton up to this point. For example, Mr. Hawley decided meeting with voters and debating his primary opponents is beneath him. So, Josh skipped the vast majority of Lincoln Days hosted by local Republicans. He was also missing the night Congresswoman Ann Wagner flew from D.C. to St. Louis to host the Republican senatorial debate. To make up for his blunders, Josh thought he could score a few political points by throwing former-governor Eric Greitens under the bus. Publicly alluding to impeachment before even filling charges, he effectively denied Mr. Greitens due process.
Furthermore, Mr. Hawley has been spotted lifting weights at the gym and buying wine during business hours (you know, while he’s supposed to be performing the duties of Attorney General). This is all part of a pattern.
Back in March, while Mr. Petersen and other primary candidates were out shaking hands with voters, Mr. Hawley chose to stay home and talk about his NCAA bracket on Twitter. And just when you thought Mr. Hawley couldn’t be more distant to voters? His official senatorial website doesn’t even have an “issues” section to let Missourians know how the Attorney General feels about crucial topics. To this day, Mr. Hawley refuses to rule out voting for Mitch McConnell for Majority/Minority Leader.
Mr. Hawley has even admitted in one of his few interviews that he was not interested in running for senator at first. Comparatively, Austin Petersen, Mr. Hawley’s most formidable primary opponent, has been attending countless local events and speaking with a myriad of voters on the campaign trail. It appears that the West/East Coast educated Attorney General believes the GOP establishment’s blessing will be able to carry him across the finish line in August. Judging by the Missouri GOP’s recent, unconventional actions, however, it may be harder than Mr. Hawley and company imagined.
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By John Keller | United States
Since the presidential election of 2016, many have speculated that the Libertarian vice presidential candidate Bill Weld endorsed Hillary Clinton before the election. Is this true?
In an interview with MSNBC on 30 September 2016, Bill Weld is credited with endorsing Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. He made the following statement:
“I’m not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States.” – Bill Weld
The question must be raised: Was Bill Weld wrong? Let’s take a look at the numbers. Seventeen presidents were former governors, what Gary Johnson’s job was. On the other hand, thirty-four presidents were former lawyers or secretaries, what Hillary Clinton’s career was. Even looking at the vice presidential picks, the Clinton Campaign was more “qualified”, whereas twenty-four vice presidents had been senators, as Tim Kaine was, and only sixteen vice presidents were governors, like Bill Weld.
But it is the second statement that Bill Weld makes that is forgotten by the media. He continued:
“I mean that’s not the end of the inquiry though. I mean, we were two-time governors and I think Gary is very, very solid. You know, at this point, we overlapped as governors and I thought highly of him back when we served together, but having spent the last several months with the guy, I mean I don’t even just like the guy I love the guy, I think he is very solid and deep. I think his insight that it pays to have some restraint about military incursions for the purpose of regime change before we still American blood on foreign soil and put boots in the ground in countries where we just don’t like what the government in that country is doing. I think that’s a valuable insight. I’m not sure it’s characterized the foreign policy of either Bush, the most recent Bush, or the Obama Administration and I think that might be a refreshing change. I think he and I could bring a much more tranquil approach to Government in Washington because we wouldn’t be screaming at one of the two parties about how stupid they are. We would work with them both.” – Bill Weld
Furthermore, the rest of the interview seems to be his expression in favor of Gary Johnson and himself for the national ticket. The next question that must be raised: was it wrong of Weld to speak in favor of Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump? He spoke plainly on MSNBC on the 30th of September of 2016:
“I do not view those two candidates the same way. I think very highly of Mrs. Clinton, I think she is very well qualified, I think she did a great job in the debate the other night. She kept her game face on… I thought Mr. Trump by the end of the debate was out of control…” – Bill Weld
Bill Weld was looking at it from a realist perspective in an unreal election cycle. Businessman against a career policy maker in the debates when unspoken traditions of policy discussion were broke. Mr. Trump threatening to jail his opponent was, to the common politician, very unprofessional. Threatening to lock up opponents in an election is commonplace in shame democracies that are in essence dictatorships, and it is not commonplace in a constitutional republic.
The total length of the interview with MSNBC on September 30, 2016, was seven minutes and forty seconds (7:40). Throughout the interview he made a few statements in favor of Mrs. Clinton, totaling thirty-four seconds (0:34). Thirty of those seconds was made responding to a question about the debates in which he was expressing that he thought Hillary Clinton performed better than Trump. No harm in expressing who you think won a debate the libertarians were even in, right? But the four seconds that killed him was the statement mentioned formerly in this article in which Bill Weld said, “I’m not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States.” However, the statement he followed that up his remark about Hillary Clinton was a one minute and four second (1:04) praise of Gary Johnson on how experience was the end of the inquiring and that Gary Johnson would be a better president than Hillary Clinton, although he may not necessarily be more “qualified”. Throughout the whole interview, thirty four seconds (0:34), or 7%, of the interview was expressing approval of Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump, and seven minutes and six seconds (7:06), or 93%, of the interview expressing that Gary Johnson and himself were the right choices for America.
The other moment in which many thought Bill Weld endorsed Hillary Clinton was on 1 November 2016 in an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Many think that Bill Weld gave up on the campaign, but after failing to get into the debates it was clear the campaign strategy had to be re-examined. That is why Bill Weld made the realistic statement:
“I think in the real world that’s [aiming for 5% of the vote] probably correct… we thought for the longest time we might have a chance to run the table because we’re such nice guys and centrist party and etc etc, but not getting into the debates really sort of foreclosed that option. So now it is the 5%, your right.” – Bill Weld
Bill Weld was looking realistically at the coming election. The Republicans and Democrats had just spent millions of dollars to keep Gary Johnson out of the presidential debates and himself out of the vice presidential debate, keeping them at 12% national and then pushing them back down towards 2%. In order to have a successful ticket in the future, the Libertarian ticket knew they had to reach 5% to get matched federal funds, guaranteed ballot access, and more of being recognized as a major party. Although the goal changed, the message did not. In the same interview he gave the following statement:
“Well, we are making our case that we are fiscally responsible and socially inclusive and welcoming and we think we got, on the merits, the best ticket of the three parties if you will and so we would like to get there. Having said that, as I think you’re aware, I see a big difference in the R candidate and the D candidate, and I’ve can in some pains to say that I fear for the country should Mr. Trump be elected. I think it’s a candidacy without any parallel that I can recall. It’s content-free and very much given up to stirring up envy and resentment and even hatred and I think it would be a threat to the conduct of our foreign policy and our position in the world at large.”
It is clear the message had not changed, but the goal of the campaign had. He wanted to see a Libertarian presidency but the current, realistic climate made it impossible, and so he expressed when asked about referring to Trump as “unstable” during the interview:
“Oh yeah, yeah I mean that psychologically.” – Bill Weld
In the research done in this article, I am of the opinion that Bill Weld did not endorse Hillary Clinton and that a study of what was actually said proves he supported the Libertarian message to the end of the campaign. Although the goal of the campaign may have changed in the end weeks, and he may have preferred one candidate over the other in terms of the duopoly, he stood by the libertarian message through the end of the campaign and even continues to fight for libertarian principles today.
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However, first and foremost a party is a tribe that candidates can count on. This benefit has become even more salient as society has polarized and hostility toward partisans identifying with the opposition has hardened into a norm. A candidate can now expect an even higher level of support than they used to just for receiving their party’s nomination. As Roy Moore’s US Senate bid demonstrated, in a state that heavily favors your party from the start it takes an awful lot of scandal to yank defeat from the jaws of victory.
Donald Trump also recognized the power of tribal loyalty when he stated that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone without jeopardizing the support of his voters. That he paid no political price for this public insult regarding his supporters’ apparently low moral standards only served to prove his point. Trump intuitively understood that those rallying behind him had coalesced into an army of committed warriors that had already put their personal reputations on the line by supporting him. For these voters there was no turning back.
This phenomena is hardly exclusive to Republicans. Research shows that members of both political parties are likely to be wearing blinders, or at least pretend to have blinders on, when it comes to expressing approval for their particular team and denigrating the other side. The difference between the two groups isn’t that one is biased and the other isn’t. The difference lies in what they are likely to be biased about.
In a 2013 paper entitled Partisan Bias in Factual Beliefs about Politics, researchers found that when Democrats were asked whether inflation and unemployment had risen under Reagan and Republicans were asked whether deficits had risen under Clinton, both sides gave the wrong answer by overwhelming margins. The answer is no in both cases.
However, when partisans were asked questions that provided an opportunity to portray the opposing party in a negative light but were given a financial incentive if they gave the correct answer, “The payments reduced observed partisan gaps by about 55%.” In other words, the vast majority of respondents know the right answer. When the incentive is expanded to also include a reward for a respondent if they admit they don’t know the right answer, the partisan gap was “80% smaller than those that we observed in the absence of incentives.”
The researchers concluded the problem here isn’t that Democrats and Republicans are ignorant of the truth. What they’re doing when they give pollsters the wrong answer is taking the opportunity to cheer for their team either by exaggerating their party’s success or minimizing/denying the accomplishments of the opposition. In other words, partisans are little more than cheerleaders who are willing to wave distracting pompoms and do intellectual flips no matter what the scoreboard says. Anyone who has had to listen to a Trump voter explain away his lies and misogyny as “authenticity” or endure a diehard Hillary supporter insist in spite of all evidence to the contrary that she really ran a good campaign knows what I’m talking about.
As Steven Pinker puts it in his most recent book, Enlightenment Now, “Reason tells us that political deliberation would be most fruitful if it treated governance more like scientific experimentation and less like an extreme-sports competition.” Pinker goes on to ask if we can “imagine a day in which the most famous columnists and talking heads have no predictable political orientation but try to work out defensible conclusions on an issue-by-issue basis?” I can imagine it, but is such a dream realistic?
No country has so far avoided the “extreme sports competition” of party politics without resorting to authoritarian rule to do it. Perhaps in some cases elections are more like gentile games of cricket and less like professional wrestling. In those instances the discourse is definitely more civil, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into more reason. The same biases probably just tend to get expressed more politely.
Perhaps it isn’t important. The psychologist Paul Bloom doesn’t seem to think it is. In Against Empathy: The Case For Rational Compassion, Bloom contends that “Political views share [another] interesting property with views about sports teams — they don’t really matter.” What Bloom is arguing is that “they don’t really matter” at the individual level. “This is certainly true as well for my views about the flat tax, global warming, and evolution,” Bloom explains. “They don’t have to be grounded in truth, because the truth value doesn’t have any effect on my daily life.”
Bloom is right. At least he is up to a point. What one person, or maybe even a few dozen or a few hundred people think about these issues doesn’t really matter. But at some point enough people thinking the same thing, or just acting as though they think it because certain ideas are what fans of their political team are supposed to cheer for, does begin to have an impact. If the outcome of all this cheerleading means putting one person in the White House or a significant number of people into the House and Senate that vote accordingly, even Bloom would have to agree that’s significant. Whether we do or don’t think global warming is a Chinese hoax doesn’t really matter in our daily life. But what the person occupying the Oval Office thinks on the subject can change the course of history.
That said, Paul Bloom’s argument does force us to confront the relevancy of political parties head on. If political views held by the average voter don’t matter any more than sports teams do in a person’s daily life, and voters tend to treat political parties like a favorite sports team, what’s the point of political parties? If we don’t want our politics to be like an “extreme sports competition,” wouldn’t getting rid of the teams be the first step? Our political views wouldn’t matter anymore or less than they do now, but at least we wouldn’t feel compelled to lie to pollsters or vote against our own interests just to win. Encouraging a more rational approach to politics seems more likely to have a positive cumulative impact than mindless acclaim for our side and disparagement of the other.
Our right to freely associate with the individuals and institutions of our choice takes precedence over any benefits that may come society’s way in an idealized post-partisan world. I would be the first to call a constitutional foul on the state if it banned political parties.
However, as individuals we can make a more conscious effort to give all candidates appearing on our local ballot more scrutiny instead of simply going with the one with a D or R after their name, or a G or an L for that matter. The media can also do a far better job of including all the candidates in their coverage so voters know what the people running to represent them are thinking. While the focus on the top two candidates is understandable, the notion that there’s a duopoly on ideas is patently absurd. A minimum of one live prime time debate between all the candidates, or at least all those not polling above 10% or so, should be a condition of any license given out for use of our public airwaves.
Politics shouldn’t be just another game. Ideas really do matter and America desperately needs to begin thinking seriously about them again. For that to happen we’ll each need to stop being fans eager to show off our clever protest signs and funny memes mocking the other side. We’ll need to become citizens.