Post-election thoughts

November 9th, 2016

So… some random reflections on the US presidential election! As a Swede, I’ve been watching this spectacle from the outside. This focus of this election cycle seems to have been values and feelings, rhetoric, theatrical antics and shit-slinging rather than actual policy. It’s been a process well and truly worthy of Trump’s history as a TV personality. (You’re fired!) But here are some things to consider, explained below: 1) Don’t panic! 2) America needs to reform the Electoral College. 3) The leaked Podesta e-mails.

1) Don’t panic! Calm the fuck down. Trump was elected US president, not world dictator. Despite what you might think when you hear him (or any other presidential candidate for that matter) speak, the power of the executive branch is fairly limited. The US political system is designed to balance the power between the three branches, the executive (the President’s office), the legislative (Congress) and the judicial (Supreme Court).

Even in the event that all three are under Republican control, Congress needs to cooperate, and the Supreme Court needs cases to rule on. Trump can’t build his wall without approval from Congress. And the Supreme Court can not simply overturn the recent case on same-sex marriage unless a new, similar case floats all the way up to the Supreme Court. Far less than you might think will (or can) change in the short to medium term.

2) America needs to reform the Electoral College. For those not in the know: Each state is assigned electoral votes proportional to its population, for a total of 538. All states (except two) operate on a winner-takes-it-all basis.

For example, California the most populous state, has been assigned 55 electoral votes. Even if one candidate wins by even a 0.1% margin in California, that counts as 55 electoral votes toward the 270 required to win.

This can lead to a situation where the electoral vote doesn’t actually reflect the popular vote. This is what happened in 2000 when Dubya Bush won the electoral vote with a 271/266 split against Al Gore, whereas Gore won the popular vote with a 48.4%/47.9% split.

This is also (according to current prognosis) what happened this year where Trump won with at least 289 electoral votes whereas the popular vote favors Hillary by a 47.7%/47.5% split.

Needless to say, this means that there’s a lot of tactics involved in a presidential campaign, where you focus on key states, with many electoral votes, rather than amassing the greatest number of votes in total.

A first step toward reform of the electoral college, is something that the states can (I believe) do on their own accord, without involvement of the federal government, which is to switch from winner-takes-it-all to a proportional division of their electoral votes. However, I believe the two most populous states, California and Texas, are unlikely to do this for strategic reasons, as they are Democratic and republican strongholds, respectively. So this is a quirk of the US election system that we will likely have to live with for a long time.

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/election/results/president

3) The leaked Podesta e-mails. In particular the one “smoking gun”, the Hillary campaign memo where they outline a strategy to influence the media to promote extreme Republican candidates (so called “Pied Piper” candidates) during the primaries, and discredit centrist Republicans. The goal was to nominate an extreme Republican candidate, and subsequently secure an easy victory for Hillary.

I don’t even care that the Hillary campaign colluded with the media to produce a certain result. To be quite honest, a free press is still allowed to express a certain political leaning, as long as this is not enforced by the government. It’s still something to be potentially be criticized, but it’s not a fundamental problem.

The remarkable thing to me, is that they actually succeeded. Loud-mouth Trump got the nomination, with religious bigot Ted Cruz as a distant second. Oh what a Pyrrhic victory it was! Ironically, the monster they created to slay, swallowed them whole in the end. Perhaps you could say that the Hillary campaign got what it deserved rather than what it wanted. Maybe a Jeb Bush nomination wouldn’t have been so bad after all. Or a Bernie Sanders nomination on the Democratic side.

Source: https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/1120 (click attachments to download the PDF.)

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