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laurel l. russwurm's political musings

System Change

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American flagOur American friends have an unashamedly two party system.  In spite of the fact third parties keep popping up.  The two parties relentlessly insist such parties have no chance of winning, a mantra that is repeated over and over in the media.   The main stream media helps make this a reality by excluding small parties and their presidential candidates from televised debates and news coverage, except in attack journalism.

So is it any wonder that almost half the eligible voters did not vote in the American election?

When the two parties put forth the two most reviled candidates in history, I imagine many voters had no motivation to vote for either of them.  No one has the right to order other people how to vote, and then blame them if they don’t vote as they’ve been told. Not in democracy.  And yet I saw that happen over and over on social media.   Is Trump as bad as they say?  We don’t *know* yet.   I can’t imagine anyone whose own water was being destroyed by fracking would vote Clinton. I can’t imagine people whose local economy skipped down to Mexico thanks to Free Trade voting for Mrs. Clinton either. Poor white voters (racist or not) are not the only people who voted for Mr. Trump. The status quo has not been working for much of the 99%, and I think it may be worse there than here.

Why would you vote if you are convinced you can’t vote for who you want?

If the only candidates you are allowed to vote for don’t represent you, why vote?  Especially if it meant standing in line for hours surrounded by belligerent voters.   (You know the ones I mean, the ones in either party who might end up in the streets afterwards burning the American Flag and chanting #notmypresident.)

Before the election, Democratic supporters were angry and offended by suggestions that Trump supporters wouldn’t accept the result if they lost.  But as it happened, their candidate was the one who lost, so now they are in the streets burning effigies of the President elect.

With near half the electorate abstaining, the reality is approximately 25% of voters voted for Mrs. Clinton— who lost— and approximately 25% of voters voted for Mr. Trump— who won.  In what appears to be the final tally, Mrs. Clinton — appears to have won 668,483 more votes than President-elect Trump.   When you have a winner take all system, the losers are never happy with the result.  Particularly when only a few thousand votes separated the two.  Especially if the loser failed to win the popular vote.

Incredibly, the thing isn’t actually over yet.  A few states might still challenge the vote count, and something on the order of 4 million Americans are petitioning the Electoral College to overturn the election result in December.

But this is how the American system works.

I think there are plenty of things wrong with the American system, just as I think there are plenty of things wrong with ours here in Canada.  No electoral system is perfect, but one of the worst things about winner take all politics is the polarization that is bound to occur when you divide citizens into winners and losers.

Haves and have nots.

Us and them.

Although it is hard on the candidates and parties that lose, the real tragedy of First Past The Post is that too many citizens end up without representation in government.  Without representation in government, there is no one to speak for the issues that matter to you.  I find it hard to believe in any democracy that results in so many second class citizens. Although there is no perfect system, more representative systems are better than winner-take-all systems because they provide representation to more of the population.

And the fact is, far too many voters are disfranchised as a matter of course.  Those who’ve been on the outside looking in are now on the inside looking out.

But no matter how undemocratic the system is, no matter how unfair the election result, democracy derives its authority from its citizens.  Citizens must accept the election result, even if it doesn’t go your way.  You don’t get to call “do-over” when you don’t get the result you want.

If you don’t accept the result when the other guy wins, how can you expect the other guy to respect the result when yours does?

Polarization drives people apart

Ad Hominem is the name of the logical fallacy in debate; it describes an attack on a person instead of making a valid argument.  [Almost always because there isn’t one.]   Throughout the election, Ad Hominem attacks weren’t limited to candidates, supporters levelled such attacks at each other throughout the campaign.   People were (and still are) being characterized as racist for supporting Mr. Trump; people were (and still are) characterized as corporate pawns or “cry babies” for supporting Mrs. Clinton.  But when an election is less about issues and more about personality and character, what else can you expect.

It seems the idea that citizens have the power to have a say in their government — the idea that each citizen has the inviolable right to choose for themselves how they will cast their vote — has been swallowed up in the polarizing hysteria.  When the political platforms of big tent parties cover the whole gamut of public policy, there are many reasons people vote for someone they might not like.

I read somewhere that exit polls showed a majority of voters had not actually cast a vote for someone they wanted to elect.

So is it any wonder that almost half the eligible voters did not vote in the American election?

When the two parties put forth the two most reviled candidates in history, I imagine many voters had no motivation to vote for either of them.

No one has the right to order other people how to vote, and then blame them if they don’t vote as they’ve been told. Not in democracy.  And yet I saw that happen over and over on social media.   Is Trump as bad as they say?  We don’t *know* yet.   I can’t imagine anyone whose own water was being destroyed by fracking would vote Clinton. I can’t imagine people whose local economy skipped down to Mexico thanks to Free Trade voting for Mrs. Clinton either. Poor white voters (racist or not) are not the only people who voted for Mr. Trump. The status quo has not been working for much of the 99%, and I think it may be worse there than here.

What Canadians call “strategic voting” and Americans call “lesser evilism” is what happens when most people feel they can’t vote for what they actually want.  If you are voting against instead of for something, how can they possibly achieve democratic representation?

Dissent

The freedom to dissent is an important element of any healthy democracy.

Many of us think of the constitutionally protected right to dissent as the right to speak our minds and write and publish what we think. But free speech is only one of three related rights protected by the First Amendment. Not only is Congress prohibited from passing a law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” the amendment also protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” and their right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Taken together, the right to free speech, the right of assembly, and the explicit right to express grievances to the government add up to an expansive right to “dissent” enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Beyond written or spoken words, the right to dissent is the right of citizens to organize themselves, to associate, to make themselves heard in order to achieve political and social change and oppose government policies without fear of impediment or reprisal.

The Meaning and Importance of Dissent

But what is happening in the United States is less dissent than the rejection of an unpopular election result.   As odious as many people may think Mr. Trump has shown himself to be, at this time he is still only the President-Elect.  He has not actually done anything yet.  Mr. Trump has made no policy, so this doesn’t constitute opposing government policies.  So far his only presidential crime has been winning a contentious and polarizing election.

History has shown over and over that when government is overthrown by force the result is rarely (never?) effective democracy.  Even in the best of democracies, the duly constituted authorities are not going to look kindly on mobs of citizens rioting in the streets against the Government.

Even if what is happening now is just masses of citizens letting off steam after two years of never ending messaging as potent as any war time propaganda, it would behoove them to be careful in a world without privacy.  Security cameras record much that happens on the streets, and Americans would do to remember they (like we) are living in a surveillance state where eveything done online is monitored and recorded.  Facial recognition and lip reading software is not only out there, it is being used.

Privacy and Personal Security

All the folks who didn’t mind such erosions of privacy and civil rights on Mr. Obama’s watch might want to reconsider their complacency.  In the weeks leading up to the election, the NODAPL water protestors went largely ignored by the mainstream media.  Even when journalists and documentarians started getting arrested for the crime of committing journalism there was barely a whimper.  If Mr. Trump proves to the the autocrat many of his opponents predict, it should be recalled that previous administrations have amply provisioned the American government with the tools to suppress dissent.  I can’t speak to the quality of the commercial services recommended in The Intercept’s handy guide to SURVEILLANCE SELF-DEFENSE AGAINST THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION.  What I can recommend is sticking with Free Software wherever possible. Distributed networks aren’t owned (and controlled by 3rd parties, Free Software has open source code which makes it harder to hide malware, and if you can manage to self host, no one has the keys to your data

Free Software.

Friendica can replace Facebook http://friendica.com/

Quitter can replace Twitter https://quitter.se/main/public

as does GNU Social if you want to host your own https://www.gnu.org/software/social/

Encrypting your email is a really good idea: How to encrypt your email

As is using TOR (The Onion Router) when using the Internet https://www.torproject.org/

Michael Nabert writes:

The most complex surveillance net in history, and its most expensive military, are only two of the tools that will soon be in the hands of Donald Trump, but perhaps the most troubling is the way that America’s last two presidents have persistently stripped away the rights of citizens to the extent that the U.S. claims the power to disappear people without charge or trial. Dissidents, here it comes.

Under the National Defence Authorization Act of 2012, the U.S. government claimed the power to snatch you off the street, hurl you into a military prison, and throw away the key. In 2014 the supreme court refused to hear a lawsuit brought by citizens including Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges that tried to challenge the idea that a government can simply decide that it’s perfectly okay to disappear their own citizens illegally without habeas corpus rights or due process of law merely by claiming you’ll be safer if they do it without any oversight.

https://www.rt.com/usa/156172-scotus-ndaa-hedges-obama/

This was, of course, only a part of the complete dismantling of protections and rights for US citizens which began under George W Bush after 9/11, although this particular indignity was heaped on by Barack Obama, who also pursued whistleblowers far more aggressively than any president before him while continuing down the same path.

http://truthinmedia.com/obama-has-sentenced-whistleblowers-to-10x-the-jail-time-of-all-prior-u-s-presidents-combined/

American citizens are already the most monitored, photographed, and eavesdropped on population in all of human history. The fact that the U.S. government has provided itself with all of the personal data, militarized police, and illegal powers necessary to create the largest most domineering police state in human history on a whole new level seems likely to make the next few years particularly challenging.

http://www.theglobalist.com/trump-inherits-the-surveillance-state/

Let’s remember as well that it has become normal for America to hurl death from above fairly indiscriminately using drone bombings under Obama as well. In targeting 41 different individuals, drones killed 1,147 people.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/nov/24/-sp-us-drone-strikes-kill-1147

Weaponized drones are already being used on U.S. soil as well.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregoryferenstein/2015/08/26/weaponized-drones-now-legal-inside-the-u-s-lawmaker-says-crimefighting-will-become-a-video-game/

So I ask you, America, after spending $574 per taxpayer to take away your own privacy,

http://www.dailydot.com/layer8/nsa-cost-spying-taxpayer/

Do you feel safer?

Right now, it may be that the problem the United States of America faces has less to do with government and more to do with a polarized population unable to look past the rhetoric and set aside the hatred.   Glenn Beck wrote:  Don’t Move to Canada. Talk to the Other Side. but neither side seems to be listening.   There is no quick fix, but reforming the political system to one less divisive, something more democratic and accountable for all Americans all the time would certainly be a big help.

I very much hope our American friends can put aside their team allegiances and decide to work together for the good of all the people.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

November 14, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Posted in International, Politics

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