I’ve been ignoring this topic because I know how distressing it is for many voters (understandably so). I plan to offer my honest opinion so I may offend everyone!
The 2016 candidates for the major parties were two of the most flawed candidates in American history (of course they don’t compare to Horace Greely who actually died prior to the Electoral College vote in 1872). As I’ve said previously, there are about 330 million Americans and these were the two best among us? I don’t think so.
Both the Democratic Party and the media effectively made Hillary Clinton the party nominee before the race even began. She was favored to the point that Joe Biden and other Democrats with national name recognition didn’t even enter the race, and those who did enter did not have a fighting chance. Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, probably had much to offer the Democratic Party but he lacked name recognition. Bernie Sanders made a go of it, but most Americans are still turned off by the term “socialism” even with the word “democratic” in front of it.
So the party served Hillary Clinton to the public on a silver platter in spite of her long history of scandals and questionable responses regarding her emails and other issues. Questions regarding the Clinton Foundation alone should have been a huge red flag. The veracity of her public statements on the campaign trail remained questionable throughout 2016. Still, even with her faults she won 2.9 million more votes than Donald Trump but she lost the Electoral College.
At least seventeen Republicans sought the Party’s nomination in 2016, and a dozen or so of those candidates were viable and qualified (I personally supported one of them), but the Republican primary voters unfortunately selected one of the unqualified candidates. Donald Trump had no political experience (that can be an attribute but it requires an extraordinary individual, and that he is not), his past business dealings were questionable at best, his warped views regarding women were well documented (and validated in a recorded conversation with a reporter), his views on issues seemingly changed on a whim, and he had been embroiled in as many scandals as had Hilary Clinton. Yet he won the Republican Party nomination and went on to win 306 votes in the Electoral College (270 required to win).
So we had two flawed candidates running to be the most powerful individual on the planet. We could have predicted the consequences. The campaigns were nasty and filled with fabrications and falsifications. The Toronto Star fact-checked Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and determined that he offered, on average, twenty false statements per day during a six-week period leading up to the election. Although they found that Trump offered false statements more frequently, Clinton uttered at least thirteen false statements during the debates.The candidates’ campaign ads were also over the top.
How do we keep this from continuing to happen in future elections? I’ve previously argued that we need to create an environment conducive to third-party development and success. I have also presented evidence that money has a terribly corrupting influence on American politics. No single fix will suffice, but there are certainly some things we should try:
- Simplify voter registration. Registration procedures vary from state to state and even vary by county within some states. We should also update our voting processes to make sure all votes are counted accurately and that recounts are possible. Some states allow early voting, others do not. Some allow voting via mail, others do not. Creating more uniformity is just a simple, necessary reform that would modernize our system and remove doubt regarding election outcomes. It will be difficult to accomplish, however, because the processes are determined by each state.
- Overturn Supreme Court decisions making money the equivalent of speech. I’ve argued this previously. Money must be removed from the election process to encourage qualified candidates to compete regardless of their financial status.
- Amend the Constitution to allow someone to serve only one term as president, but lengthen that term. Six or eight years seems reasonable. Stop this constant election cycle (people are already beginning to build campaign committees, or at least think about them, for 2020). I understand concerns that this might put a poor president in office for a longer period of time, but Congress has the power to impeach and should be willing to use that power to remove duds (I do live in a dream world).
- Limit campaigns to five or six months. Other countries do it. British campaigns for Parliament (and thus the Prime Minister) last thirty days. And yes, I know we have different governmental structures but there must be a way to limit our perpetual campaigns.
- Change the current primary process. It is insane that New Hampshire (the state with the first primary) has more choices than does California (one of the last) because candidates drop out during the five months between the first and last primaries. I tend to favor dividing the country in to regions, have a “primary day” in all states in a particular region on the same day, and rotate the order in which regions vote every election cycle. That way no state or region has a perpetual advantage.
- The most controversial suggestion? Eliminate the Electoral College and rely on the popular vote. The Electoral College was created at a time when mass communication was impossible so voters were largely uninformed. It was also created to ensure small states would be protected from dominance by the larger states. However, beginning about 200 years ago the states gradually started allowing their citizens to vote in the presidential elections and informally influence the Electoral College. Twice in the last seventeen years (2000 and 2016) the Electoral College has chosen a candidate who lost the popular vote, the last time by a large margin. In my mind this violates the first three words of the Constitution: We the people.
Feel free to post questions in the comment section if you want me to explain any of my weird ideas in more detail.
Until we change our process we will not get the best presidential candidates, or president, America has to offer.