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.
I support the electoral college. Without it. California and New York would dictate our political process. Without the EC, there is no “We the People.” Just how I see it.
I understand the argument, Darren, and it is a valid one. I just don’t understand why votes from California and New York should count less just because the voters there happen to live in the most populous states. In my mind that violates the notion that all votes count equally.
I’m down with pretty much everything you suggest. But a six year term seems long for a potential mistake. I have nothing other than a gut feeling to support this. Perhaps I’m bias against the present?
Would it be fair to say that the electoral college favors GOP and popular vote favors the Democratic party? I think it would appear so. It’s easy to see that Cali and NY tend to vote blue, and there’s a few more that lean that way, but those two are huge populations and could certainly swing a popular vote one way or the other, most likely the one way. However, “fly-over” states tend to vote red, obviously not all of the people in those states, there are pockets with the opposing views, just like any sample. 80% of US citizens live in Urban areas and they certainly don’t have the same interests as those living in rural communities. Since Urban communities tend to vote blue, I can’t imagine we would ever see a President that wasn’t Democrat again if we did straight popular vote. I think a segment of the population would feel they had lost their voice and that wouldn’t be good.
It seems like a lot of voters are just not educated about the issues, and maybe it just appears that way from “gotcha” journalism that personalities like Jimmy Kimmel put out there. There’s got to be people they interviewed that don’t fall for the trap, we just don’t get to see it, because it’s not funny. I think that if voters were more educated about the candidates we might see a third party come in and take a foothold. But so many people just can’t fathom something besides two polar opposites. I wanted so badly to be able to have a legitimate third party this year. Instead we got a vaccine denier and someone who couldn’t name a single foreign leader. It’s possible a third party could emerge, but we would need that campaign finance reform to take place, so yeah get the money out of it. When a candidate takes money from someone, that someone wants a return on their investment, “cough” DeVos “cough.” It can’t be run like that. Money=speech was a topic I had for Lincoln-Douglas debate in high school 15+ years ago, it’s not a new issue, why hasn’t it been fixed!? Probably because they don’t want to fix it. Unfortunately gov’t is big business and business is a’boomin, and only a select few are seeing the return.
I think you hit the nail on the head with the primary process. If anything the 17+ GOP candidates showed us what a mess that was. AND… Caucus’s oh man, show up at 7pm for a show a of hands, how is that a fair representation of the electorate? If nothing else changes about the primaries, changing the order of states would do a lot.
How’s this for an idea to change the Presidential race, go back to the winner being President and the loser being VP? I suppose that could create a problem with people getting political assassinations in their head to get the VP into power. I would certainly hope not, but some of these gov’t agencies are capable of some sick stuff. Getting off track, so with a dissenting VP the tie breaker vote in the Senate would mean a lot for situations like the confirmation votes. It would have us working harder towards common ground rather than bipartisanship. It may even get rid of some of that animosity the two sides feel against each other every four years.
Sorry for the long comment, this is just a good topic.
Agree completely with the term flawed candidate. While I supported and voted for Clinton, there was to much baggage from nearly 30 years in the limelight.
It also didn’t help that she had to shift from her moderat positions that made her husband as popular as he was. That is the only blame I can see that should be given to Sanders in the election.
Also, I don’t understand why people are complaining about 3rd party votes in this election. I haven’t researched the numbers, but at a glance I didn’t see where if you gave Clinton all non R or D votes that it would have changed the EC.
Great post as always.