A failure of checks and balances

There’s quite a few Americans hoping against hope that America’s anti-fascist circuit breaker, the electoral college will trip up the Trump presidency before it even starts. There’s plenty of good reasons why it should, the latest revelations regarding how Russia assisted Trump’s campaign, his questionable cabinet picks and the clear signs of potential corruption, with him trying to use his office to further his own business interests. However its not going to happen. Yes it probably should, but it won’t.

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If there’s one thing Trump is correct about its how the US political system is broken, although he’s not going to mend it. His cabinet picks, a bunch of greasy brown envelope wielding Washington insiders and Goldman sachs bankers (quite a number of whom are close to Putin), should tell you all you need to know on that front. He could well prove to be the straw that breaks the camels back. Indeed its worth noting that the US is already one step away on the democratic Index from “flawed democracy” status….and that’s based on 2015 number prior to this election.

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Trump’s proposed secretary of state has many skills that suit him to his new job….of kissing Putin’s ass!

Firstly its worth remembering how the electoral college came about. It goes back to the founding of the US itself. The founding fathers were aware of the criticisms from the ancient Greek world regarding the dangers of democracy. They understood how a demagogue could manipulate the public into supporting him and cease power, thus ending democracy in all but name. And there was a perfectly good demagogue waiting to take over – King George, the original mad king himself. A historical fact of history that is often forgotten is that not everyone in America wanted to become independent. No, there was a sizeable number of Royalists who wanted to stay part of the UK.

So the founding fathers had good reason to be concerned. Their logic therefore, was that the people should essentially elect them to the electoral college and they would then pick the president, treading the actual vote as a sort of advisory election. Hence if the public voted for Benedict Arnold or something (make America British again), the founding fathers could just ignore that and put someone else in charge.

However, over the years this fact has been forgotte. Most of the electors these days are party insiders within the GOP and democrats. We are talking about the most odorous, party hacks you’ll ever find. The sort who both parties have to keep in back room positions out of public sight. Most of this bunch won’t get out of bed unless there was a brown envelope with a bribe waiting by the bedside from the carpet manufacturing industry. And they won’t wash unless there was another one waiting from the cleaning products lobby in the bathroom. The idea that this lot are going to rescue America from Trump is somewhat fanciful to say the least.

Now okay, I’m making an unfair generalisation. Yes there are some honest electors who take there job very seriously and have actually read the constitution. Indeed two electors are actually suing the state of Colorado as we speak to be given the chance to vote the way their conscience dictates. However they are likely to be in a minority, just take a look at the election results. The bulk of them will see Trump as an opportunity to loot the treasury as the city burns. About the only advice I’d give is to invest in the manufacturers of brown envelopes, because there will be a lot of them being used with Trump in charge.

And keep in mind there are some in the democratic camp who also aren’t happy about how Bernie Sanders was treated. Now with out going into the details of the rights and wrongs therein, my point is its just as likely that some of those in the democratic party will not support Hillary as those in the GOP will not support Trump. Indeed, recall that Colorado voted democrat. So those electors I mentioned earlier, are likely trying to avoid having to vote Hillary and might even support Trump.

So the great democratic circuit breaker is likely to fail, which begs the question, what exactly is the point of the electoral college? If there ever was a time for it to deny someone the white house now would be the time to do it. If they’re just going to be robots why have them?

Some say the electoral college is there to give smaller states more rights. Excuse me, isn’t that what the Senate is for? Rhode Island has the same number of senators as California, that’s whopping x40 over-representation for one state over another. What more do these states want?

And there’s a perfectly sensible way it could be abolished and still make Presidential elections a state by state contest. Have the election in two rounds. In the first round of voting, for a candidate to win he must carry +50% of the nationwide popular vote and +50% of the vote in at least 60% of all states. If no candidate achieves this, all but the top two candidates are eliminated and the election is repeated a few weeks later with a straight national popular vote runoff. This would ensure that whoever wins gets at least +50% of the vote in a majority of states.

Better still, let the Vice president be picked by the Senate (meaning the smaller states), with them picking from among retired governors. This is basically how Presidential candidates pick their VP’s anyway, so we’d just be making it a bit more democratically accountable. While also reminding who is ever in the White House that they can’t afford to neglect smaller states. By contrast the current system means we face the absurdity of a candidate who has not only failed to win the popular vote, but only got 46.5% of the vote (times the turn out that’s a support base of just 25% of the electorate).

And speaking of the Senate, there are others hoping that the Senate will block the basket of deplorables that Trump’s picked for his cabinet. Again, this is not going to happen. Many of Trump’s cabinet are lobbyists who have been greasing the sweaty palms of these senators with bribes campaign funds for years. Its kind of lacking in credibility for senators to get up and say “you’re a crook….and I know that because you helped to fund my re-election campaign”.

Yes there are some honest senators on both sides of the aisle. They can slow the process down, embarrass these nominee’s maybe even force one or two of them to withdraw. But they’ll be up against a corrupt majority who’ll vote them all in eventually.

America is founded on a principle of checks and balances. But all the indicators are that those checks and balances are about to fail, and likely too is America’s time as the world’s leading state. Indeed, its worth remembering how racism, populism and a push back against inequality and diversity may have helped bring down the Roman empire.

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