15 July, 2016

The American Political Process


"Pick a leader who will make their citizens proud. One who will stir the hearts of the people, so that the sons and daughters of a given nation strive to emulate their leader’s greatness. Only then will a country be truly great, when a leader inspires and produces citizens worthy of becoming future leaders, honorable decision makers, and peacemakers. And in these times, a great leader must be extremely brave. Their leadership must be steered only by their conscience, not a bribe."

“When picking a leader, choose a peacemaker. One who unites, not divides. A cultured leader who supports the arts and true freedom of speech, not censorship.”

Though far from perfect, the American presidential election process has been improved since its inception. As things now stand, two distinct, but not incompatible, sets of interests are the major determining factors in the process. First, the interests of the Parties. Though they have no Constitutionally prescribed role, the Republican and Democratic Parties play a major role in both American elections and in governing America. Although candidates compete for offices, parties control and operate the levers of government. A divided Federal Government makes this especially evident. The second set of interests is those of the citizenry. There is considerable dispute about how to best address these interests, but substantially free and demonstrably fair elections play a key role in all honest attempts to do so.

The process begins with voter registration. The individual citizen is responsible for this step. In every jurisdiction, citizens can register with one or the other major party or registered as unaffiliated [or some variation thereof]. This choice often determines the level of participation a citizen may have in the first electoral phase whether that is a primary election or a party caucus. If one intends to vote in a primary or participate in a caucus, one must be responsible enough to ascertain the rules in one’s state. If the primary is a closed primary and one registers as unaffiliated or some variation thereof, then voting in the primary will be precluded by one’s considered action. Such an outcome exemplifies the application of the rules, not rigging the rules; it demonstrates a willful disregard of the rules and then, whining about the foreseeable consequence!

The rules now in place for Democratic primaries are over thirty-years-old. They have not been set to favor any current candidate. If rigging took place, it did so decades in the past. Therefore, any obsession with the rules of the process beyond knowing what they are and using them to one’s best advantage is a waste of time and effort. One does not recruit and field a Football team and then, demand field players be allowed to handle the ball despite the venerable rule prohibiting it. In this case, politics is similar to Football.

Whether done through a primary or a caucus, the first stage is where Party nominees are selected. Primaries are elections, but caucuses are not. Participants express their preferences in the open, not in secret; they last for hours in contrast to voting which typically takes less than an hour and often takes minutes. Caucuses happen during a limited time on an appointed day and almost always in the evening. In addition to every other difference, this means caucuses by their nature preclude participation by people with inflexible schedules or unchanging commitments. Due to these significant variations, the outcomes of primaries and caucuses are not directly comparable.

Primaries and caucuses operate to choose the nominees of parties. Parties are legal organizations, but they are not governmental organizations. They do not have to accord all citizens access to levers of power when it comes to setting rules and conducting their efforts. As long as parties do not engage in criminal or fraudulent actions, they are completely free to do what they think best. In the early 1980s, the Democratic Party leaders decided to set rules for their primaries and caucuses. They wanted to ensure that the party did not pick a candidate that had no reasonable prospect of winning. Roughly four decades have passed since the rules were adopted, so it is evident that they were not intended to favor any candidate in 2016. What has happened is that one candidate and campaign knew and applied the long-standing rules and the other candidate and campaign ignored and complained about those same rules.

2016 has been a tumultuous campaign year.  The turmoil is likely to get worse as the primaries end, and the general election phase begins. In the future, a greater knowledge of the two-stage American Election Process would make things go smoother. A few other changes would be helpful as well. First, modify or repeal laws and regulations that give undue advantage to the Democratic and Republican Parties. Such changes would enable the Libertarian and Green Parties to make inroads or at least gain ballot access. Second, eliminate caucuses which are not genuine elections and have no clear connection to the actual elections which take place in November. Third, close all primaries. Because primaries operate for the purpose of choosing party nominees, only party voters should have a say in choosing the nominee. Any citizen who wants to vote in a primary can register for the party of her or his choice and vote in the appropriate primary. Once the nominees of all parties are chosen, pass or repeal as necessary legislation to ensure that all citizens of age have unabridged access to the ballot box.

In the past five decades, insurgent candidates and campaigns have arisen and recurrently claimed such things as “there is not a dime’s worth of difference” between the major political parties. This line of argument gets more credence than the evidence suggests it deserved even when it at first, and it is preposterous now! In the second decade of the 21st-century, the major parties are almost diametric opposites.  The Democratic Party strives to govern and the Republican Party schemes to rule. The Democratic Party is hierarchical but consultative and consensus driven. The Republican Party is hierarchical also, but functions in a highly authoritarian manner. The Democratic Party believes proper governance is a major force for improvement in society. The Republican Party seeks to sabotage and subvert governance at the federal level and supplant it with oligarchy rule at the state level.

The clear differences between the major parties are aggravated by the emergence of Donald Drumpf as the Republican Presidential nominee. This deceitful person brings a clear and present danger to the fore which previous Republican nominees have been careful to disguise. Deceitful Donald is a committed authoritarian and thus, epitomizes the evolution of the Republican Party that began with the conservative coup under Reagan. As David Frum, a Republican of high repute makes clear a minimum of seven danger signals apply directly to this scoundrel. First, the alarming manner in which this candidate for president of the United States speak and acts.  “From the founding of the republic, Americans have looked to qualities of personal restraint as one of the first checks on the power of office.” 

Deceitful Donald exhibits no personal restraint whatsoever. Any power inherent or assumed in the office of the president would be pushed to its limits and beyond by this megalomaniac.
The second alarm is the utter absence of trustworthiness in this politician. “The dark arts of politics include dissimulation, evasion, and misdirection. Outright lying, however, happens more rarely than you think in politics, especially in high and visible offices like the presidency.  ”Deceitful Donald’s "dishonesty, however, is qualitatively different than anything before seen from a major-party nominee. The stack of lies teeters so tall that one obscures another. Lies about New Jersey Muslims celebrating 9/11, lies about his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan war, lies about his wealth, lies about the size of his crowds, lies about women he’s dated, lies about his donations to charity, lies about self-funding his campaign. Senator Cruz spoke truly for once when he said: in May 2016. "But the man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him.”

The third alarm arises due to this potential president’s deep and admitted ignorance of governance and public affairs. Deceitful Donald “is surely the most policy-ignorant major party nominee of modern times, or perhaps of any time. As with the lies, it’s almost impossible to keep track of the revelations of gaps in his knowledge. The most spectacular may have been talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt’s exposure of the fact that Drumpf lacked the most basic understanding of the structure and mission of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This appalling ignorance is made even more threatening by “the massive Republican and conservative rejection of the idea that a candidate for president should know anything substantive about governing at all.” In Deceitful Donald, an arrogant ignoramus has been enthusiastically embraced by masses of citizens who see ignorance as a positive quality.

They fourth alarm differs from the others in that often it is in itself alarming: ideology – Deceitful Donald can barely use principle in a sentence let alone articulate and abide by any principles. He is perhaps the first candidate of a major party in American history who to whom “unprincipled” applies with total accuracy. Now, the ideology of the Republican Party is increasingly discredited, but it was nonetheless a veneer that hid the power lust of so many Republican politicians, With Drumpf, the thirst for dominion is openly displayed.
The fifth alarm is Drumpf’s nonchalance concerning the primacy of national security.  Deceitful Donald “has no relevant experience, no military record, scant interest in the topic—and a long history of casual expressions of sympathy for authoritarian rulers.” He unblushingly stated his military advice comes from TV talk shows.” Drumpf slights NATO as obsolete, and says “he has plans to withdraw American protection from allies who don’t spend more” whether or not it breaks up NATO.  He’s spoken favorably of Japan and South Korea obtaining nuclear weapons, to provide for their security by, apparently unaware of the tensions between those two U.S. allies. Finally, he mused open-mindedly about Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons. There is no competent person who does not believe such developments would make both America and the world less secure and more endangered. Deceitful Donald’s “foreign policy is predicated upon an apocalyptic vision of the United States as a weak and fading country, no longer able to shoulder the costs and burdens of world leadership.” As is so often the case with Republicans, Drumpf would take actions that cause the very failure he insisted was already well underway. In this case, the failure could be of catastrophic dimensions.

The sixth alarm rings the loudest and clearest for all Americans of goodwill and genuine patriotism: Deceitful Donald turns into Despicable Donald with his flagrant abandonment of the “deep belief in tolerance and non-discrimination for Americans of all faiths, creeds, and origins” that once functioned as a barrier against viciously destructive politics. Disrespect for targeted groups—including the very biggest of them all, women— recurs regularly as a theme of the Drumpf candidacy. Deceitful Donald seeks “not to be president of all Americans, but to be the clan leader of white Americans. Those white Americans who respond to his message hear his abusive comments, not as evidence of his unfitness for office, but as proof of his commitment to their tribe.”

yThe final fire bell ringing in the gathering gloom of 2016 may be the most portentous after World War II once fierce religious rivalries blurred into the broad categories— Protestant, Catholic, Jew–which in turn discovered new affinities for each other in a common creed of “Americanism.” From this creed sprung a new and vital loyalty to the nation as a whole. Partisan identities have hardened since then. “Today, far larger proportions of Democratic and Republican voters hold strongly negative views of the opposing party than in the past,” observe Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster in their paper, “All Politics is National: The Rise of Negative Partisanship.” Negative partisanship is the argument deployed to reconcile anti-Drumpf Republicans to their party’s nominee.” People who have called Deceitful Donald everything but a good person now say they will support him over the loathsome Democratic Harpy Hillary Rodham Clinton. Disturbingly people who label themselves conservatives seem poised to aid and abet the election of a candidate that threatens the survival and success of the American Constitutional Republic and perhaps, the habitability of the planet Earth. What precisely do they believe they are conserving through such a course of action?

2016 brings all Americans to another time that tries our souls whatever we may conceive souls to be. The foundational principles and fundamental promises of America are written in completely intelligible form. We have almost to a person at one time or another sworn or pledged true faith and allegiance to these principles and promises. Now is the time to fulfill our oaths and redeem our pledges. Let us stand our country now and thereby earn the love and thanks of generations yet unborn in America and around the globe.

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