Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The US election result

Warning: The following blog entry may contain political comment!

It appears that Donald Trump will become the next President of the United States of America ... and – according to some observers – the de facto leader of the so-called 'Free World'.

Having watched the two main candidates go through the process of being selected as their party's candidates, and the, having followed their subsequent campaigns, it seemed to me that the American people had a difficult choice to make.

One candidate was a professional politician with lots of experience of how government works at the highest level, but seemingly little real connection with the majority of the population ... and the other was a multi-millionaire property developer and 'reality' TV star with no experience of government. One was apparently unable or unwilling to use secure modern communications technology, with the result that electronically-held confidential information was put at risk ... and the other seemed incapable of telling the truth or apologising for anything that he might have done wrong. Neither had blameless or spotless lives before they became candidates, and both have been accused of dubious - and even potentially criminal - behaviour.

Neither candidate came to the contest without considerable 'baggage' ... and it was how potential voters viewed the relevance or importance of that baggage that determined which of the two they would vote for. One thing that did become very apparent was that a significant section of the population no longer holds the professional political class in anything other than contempt ... and this is a phenomenon that is also noticeable in the UK. To people like this someone who seemed to reflect their distrust of the 'system', and who promised that he would restore prosperity and pride to their nation, must have been an attractive candidate. That candidate's personal failings could be dismissed as being of little importance in the grand scheme of things, and not that dire in contrast to the 'crimes' with which their 'crooked' opponent has been accused.

If I had been an American voter, I must admit that I would have found it difficult to decide which of the two candidates to vote for. The choice would have to come down to which candidate was the 'least worst' of the two ... and my personal choice would have been to reluctantly vote for Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump.

One interesting aspect of the US Presidential election was the fact that individual voters don't actually cast direct votes for either candidate; it is the Electoral College that actually votes for the President. Each state has a number of Electoral College votes, and the number of votes each state has is based upon its population. All that state's votes go to the candidate that the majority of the state's voters have voted for. It is therefore possible for one candidate to get the majority of the national vote and the other to win the overall contest because they get the majority of the Electoral College votes.

This apparently odd system is a result of fears on the part of the writers of the United States Constitution that a simple majority voting system would lead to what Alexis de Tocqueville called 'the tyranny of the majority'. James Madison had a solution to this problem ... the inclusion of an Electoral College in the process of electing a President. According to Alexander Hamilton in THE FEDERALIST PAPERS, the Electoral College is there to ensure that a president is chosen 'by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favourable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice' and that 'the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.'

I wonder what Madison and Hamilton would have made of this recent Presidential election campaign, the two main candidates, and the ultimate winner.

42 comments:

  1. Bob,
    You are a brave man for throwing open a post re the USA election. I was in New York and Washington earlier this year, and my straw pole, conducted in bars led me to actually call the election correctly.Sadly for the USA, government has become mired in self interest groups, corporations and anyone who could buy influence. Sense any similarities here? 'Ordinary' people I think have just felt there is a giant disconnect between what they see as good government and the realities of what is actually going on, as you say what is happening here. I was impressed however by the clever and pragmatic way the American constitution was framed, the famous checks and balances seem to allow moderation to usually win irrespective of how loud politicians shout. To be fair I was impressed by Trump's acceptance speech this morning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robbie Rodiss,

      I refrained from making any comments during the election campaign because I'm only a very interested observer rather than a voter, but now that there is a definite result, I have decided to put pen to paper ... or should that be finger to keyboard?

      I think your assessment of what a large number of 'ordinary' American voters felt about their country's political system is in line with my own; I just felt that when push came to shove, the majority would go for Hillary Clinton rather than Donal Trump.

      One can only hope that some of the more extreme campaign rhetoric used by Donald Trump will not be reflected in his actual policies, and his acceptance speech was surprisingly statesmanlike and moderate in tone.

      Only time will tell if the naysayers and doom-and-gloom analysts were right or wrong. I hope that I will be proved wrong, and that Donald Trump will be a memorably good president who manages to unite the nation behind him.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  2. As an American and a voter, I fear for the future. This will be a true test of the checks and balances built into the Constitution.

    Also, it will be a major boon to the late night comics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will Douglas,

      One thing that I have become aware of as a result of following the election campaign is the fact that the US President is not the all-powerful office that it at first appears to be. The Constitution does seem to have been framed to ensure that the three arms of government tend to balance each other.

      Living in a country that has no written constitution does have its advantages ... and - as we have found out as a result of the Brexit referendum - its disadvantages.

      Good luck for the future,

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  3. American here! No complaints about this post save one. Nevada and one other state divide up the electoral votes proportionally. All the rest are winner takes all.
    I do wish all the states would adopt this method but I think it would give states with major cities (like my home state of New York) some headaches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Pavone,

      Thanks for the information. I thought that two states allocated their Electoral College votes proportionally, but could not find out which ones.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Mr. Pavone,

      Thanks for the additional information.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    2. Jon Yuengling,

      Thanks for your the corrected information.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    3. Oops, wish I could blame autocorrect for that.

      Delete
    4. Mr. Pavone,

      Nevada/Nebraska; confusing the two is just a minor brain 'blip'! I'm of an age when I do things like that all the time!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  5. I remember meeting a very senior political lobbyist in Washington DC about ten years ago and he told me that America would never elect a woman president in his lifetime!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Legatus Hedlius,

      I remember when Barak Obama was selected to be his party's candidate saying to my students that it said a lot about the US that they would rather select a black man than a white women to be their potential President.

      Seems that this attitude hasn't changed over the last eight years.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    2. Robert, be cautious of your inference. The outcomes of the Democratic primary in 2008 and the 2016 presidential election may have been driven by one, particular woman and not women in general.

      Delete
    3. Yes, Americans have a specific emnity towards Hillary Clinton. We might vote for just about any other woman but she rubs a lot of people the very wrong way.

      Delete
    4. Mr. Pavone,

      So it would seem.

      How do you rate Michele Obama's chances of taking part in the 2020 election process ... or will the swing away from political dynastism count against her as well?

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    5. Jonathan Freitag,

      Point taken ... and well made. I was perhaps being rather too imprecise when I made that comment back in 2008.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    6. She's never had much of a political presence, before or during her husband's tenure. I don't think she has any interest at all.

      Delete
    7. Mr. Pavone,

      I must admit that I hadn't heard of her having a political career before she ceased to be FLOTUS.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  6. Yes, brave post. I will limit myself to saying that the Democrats seemed to choose the wrong candidate to take Trump on. The claims of the role of racism and sexism and so on in the results are, I think (and hope) overstated. HRC was not a good candidate given the current climate. Even knowing that, I still didn't really expect her to lose. I guess that's what the Democrats were thinking, too.

    Best wishes,
    Aaron

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prufrock (Aaron),

      If I had been eligible to vote and Bernie Sanders had been a candidate, I would have voted for him ... and I suspect that quite a few other people would have also done so. In my opinion he would have been a much more credible candidate to put up against Donald Trump.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  7. The essential problem with the Electoral College system, which we've seen before, is that it delivers a false mandate under which the winning party governs exclusively, and the only tool of the opposition is obstruction. This exacerbates polarization and the sense of disenfranchisement among the populace.

    If the aggregate popular vote mattered, however, the governing style of any party that won a close election would, of necessity, be inclusive and collaborative.

    I think most here in the US would be fine with the latter style, regardless of which party won. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for decades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ed M,

      Thanks for explaining the drawbacks of the Electoral College system.

      It strikes me that it was adopted in order to ensure that only altruistic candidates could be eligible to fill the position of President ... and it hasn't worked out as intended,

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    2. The argument for the Electoral College is to protect the nation and government from a tyranny by the masses. When the process was started the plan was to let only a small group of electors actually vote for president. There might be a popular vote just so the electors can find out how their constituents feel but they would have the ultimate say in who they would vote for. Elections as we know them today are a fairly new development. Up until the 1950s elections were done by the electoral college. My history may be off, but that's the general idea.

      Delete
    3. Mr. Pavone,

      Thank you very much for this explanation. I had not realised that campaigns like the recent one were a fairly recent innovation. I suppose that it is the advent of radio and TV that helped the process of change.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  8. What we saw was just how much social media, and media of all kinds, can influence an election. Don't forget that for all Secretary Clinton's supposed "unpopularity", she was a very popular senator and secretary of state, widely respected even by her Republican peers. It was only when she ran for president that she suddenly became unpopular, and the target of every attack the Republicans and media could generate.

    The Bush administration "lost" 22 million emails, many directly relating to the war in Iraq and the US attorneys scandal. No investigations. 66 state department officials were killed during the Bush administration. No investigations.

    This was the primal scream of white males. We will all pay for their insecurity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott Crane,

      I agree with almost everything that you have written. Hillary Clinton's so-called 'crooked' behaviour was nothing compared with what had occurred under previous administrations.

      I suspect that Trump's main support came from that section of society that feels that it has been left behind as the rest of America has moved forward.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  9. A triumph of sorts... the Republic has been down hill since John Adams left office. Still, we are citizens and not "subjects."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jubilo,

      Ah! The father of what was probably the first American political dynasty! I was under the impression that it was John Adam's son who marked the beginning of the decline ... but I know that there are some historians who agree with you.

      Until the UK leaves the European Union we will be both citizens and subjects; citizens of the EU and subjects of the Crown. Another change to my 'rights' as a result of Brexit!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  10. I have not read your post this time. I personally do not like when Blogs such as this give their political views. For me, the blogs I visit provided an escape from an ugly election. It actually was so bad that I unfriended on Facebook my own sister to avoid her political rants (I plan to send her a friends request now that it's over). Of course, the great thing about the internet is ones' freedom of expression. However, unlike so blogs I have visited, you did give a warning at the beginning, giving me the option of reading farther. I look forward to your future wargame posting and your book on Portable Wargames.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jhnptrqn,

      Thanks for your comment. I usually try to avoid writing blog entries that contain any political comment for the very reasons that you give ... but the recent election is such an important world event that I needed to write down my thoughts. That said, out of courtesy and respect to others I added the warning so that regular readers could choose whether or not to read what I had written.

      Things have now returned to what passes for normal, and unless something really earth-shattering happens, I will be refraining from further such blog entries.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  11. I made a reasonable sum of money out of Trump's win. I have long said he would win and I wanted him to win so I placed a bet with a 4.5 return. I have been celebrating ever since. It was priceless to see those smug 'experts' and Hillary supporters faces after the outcome was clear. (Okay now I'm pretty smug).

    The polls were distorted because they were either unbalanced in preferring interviewing minorities mostly unsympathetic to Trump (Democrat collusion with the media)or the choice of 'likely voters' ignored the many white working class who had never voted or not voted for years who came out for Trump. You only had to view trump rallies compared to 'crooked Hillary's' to see the difference in enthusiasm and numbers.

    I like Donald Trump! I like his hair! I like his giving the finger to political correctness and how he could fight TWO party machines and still win. His border protection policy is no different from what it is here in Australia except we don't have to cope with a land border with a Third World country.

    The white working class voted for him but so did the well off and many educated people. The rural and small towns frequently voted for him and the cities tended not to. There was an economic element to it with the ruin of the rust belt but basically it was a cultural revolution against the new elite of the media, entertainment industry and the political class. People were sick of being told what to do and were unimpressed by Hillary bringing out the celebrity elite (who claimed they would move to Canada and America is still waiting). Trump also got more black Americans voting for him than previous Republican candidates and about 30% of Hispanics also voted for him. There were even organised groups of homosexuals supporting him who acknowledge Islam as the greatest threat to them since AIDS.

    A friend and I had a talk some time back about what a Trump presidency would look like and it is what we are seeing. Trump takes advice and moderates his policies to doable and reasonable courses of action.

    Then there was the Democrats dirty tricks campaign against him, culminating in bogus claims by women to have been groped or even kissed without permission some decades ago. One of these women re-opened her online porn site after the 'revelation that Trump 'stole' a kiss and hug from her. Get real!

    Best of all is that ironically, given how 'scared' people were about Trump being 'near the nuclear codes', is that Trump is making the world a safer place as he will co-operate with Russia. Don't believe me? Why was so little said about Hillary's comments about Russia and Syria in the second debate? She was seriously considering targeting Syrian military targets to relieve Aleppo. Whatever the degree of sympathy we have for those civilians trapped there has anyone thought through the implications of Hillary's proposed course of action? Syria is Russia's ally and client yet Hillary proposed a no fly zone in Syria. She also talked about using America's full might against Russian 'interference' in American domestic affairs (allegedly revealing her e-mails - sort of shooting the messenger). I was stock piling food in case Hillary won. WW3 is not a pretty prospect.

    As for political comment, I don't mind the occasional political comment, if it does not dominate the blog, although I have a separate page on my blog.

    I bought a couple of hundred dollars worth of toy soldiers with my win, not to mention my Trump stickers, mug and tank top!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A perfect example of the alternate reality Trump supporters live in.

      Trump ran the most dishonest, racist, misogynist campaign in American history. He and his supporters told a seemingly endless series of lies, abetted by the media. The biggest myth in American politics is that the media is "liberal". It is wildly conservative.

      He lost the popular vote, by a margin that continues to grow as absentee ballots are counted. Hillary Clinton will have won the vote by a larger margin than George Bush did in 2004, and he was considered to have a popular mandate. Already Trump's administration is planting false stories in the media that he won the popular vote. He did win the electoral vote, a system that was put in place to protect slave states, because even at the founding of the country it was clear that slavery was demographically doomed.

      Trump named Steve Bannon, a neo-nazi in all but name, as his top strategist. His administration will be, and I guarantee it, the most corrupt administration in US history, and will do enormous damage to the country. Most of all, to the working class whites who supported him.

      I understand you are Australian, and that you are trolling. You only know the lies you read on right wing websites and gleefully repeat them. But I do feel sorry for you.

      Delete
    2. Robert (Bob) CorderyTuesday, November 15, 2016 4:07:00 pm
      James James,

      Now that the post-election dust has begun to settle, proper analysis of events can begin.

      My feeling is that the polls were not as flawed as they at first appeared. Once the two leading contenders got within a couple of percentage points of each other, it was too close to call. Pollsters accept that there can be an up to 5% error in their predictions ... but talking head media pundits (and political strategists) tend to ignore this when they prognosticate.

      I followed several of the TV reporters who did go into the 'rust belt' and similar areas, and I saw and heard articulate working and middle class people explaining why they were voting for Donald Trump. They weren't bigots; they were people who felt that their way of life was being eroded and their opinions ignored. They obviously felt that they were effectively dispossessed, and that there was no one amongst the existing political elite who was willing or able to articulate and address their concerns.

      I don't think that Donald Trump is actually going to fulfil the electoral promises that he made, and he may well end up as a one-term President. As to 'bogus' claims of unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate behaviour, and even rape ... well such accusations are easy to make but until they are tested in court (and I understand that such a case is currently being pursued) can any real judgement be made. That said, he did rather condemn himself in the recorded comments that he made.

      I won't comment about the situation in the Midfle East other than to say it is an almighty mess that is not going to be easily solved, and it won't be solved until the international community acts together rather than separately according to their own national agendas.

      I'm now going to draw this discussion to a close, and to wait until the situation becomes clearer.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    3. Scott Crane,

      I will refrain from commenting about Donald Trump's campaign. I didn't have to live with it; I just observed it from afar in the UK.

      The electoral system in the US seems to produce the same sort of anomalies that we have seen in the UK, where a minority of the population (as opposed to a majority - or even a minority - of those who voted) actually dictate the result of an election. I know that voting is compulsory in some countries (like Australia) and that the result of our recent referendum and your Presidential election might well have been different if everyone who was eligible to vote had voted.

      To a European outsider, some of Donald Trump's team do seem to have rather extreme views on a range of subjects, and it remains to see how long they will remain in office once they are actually in power.

      As to what will happen to Donald Trump's supporters ... well I suspect that many of them will become disillusioned with him once he is in power and he does not fulfil the promises he made.

      What does the future hold? We don't know; I am hopeful that the reality of being in power will temper the incoming President's views and policies ... but I'm not that hopeful.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  12. You made a balanced assessment Bob although our conclusions are not identical. Some other points to consider are that 5 million voters voted for independent conservative candidates so the total 'liberal' vote was in a minority.

    Having followed the campaign closely on radio, TV and in newspapers and social media what is obvious is the bias in mainstream media against Trump. newspapers in America have even made clear that they were CAMPAIGNING for Hillary. In one case with the New York Times they advised her in advance as to the contents of an article. So, I say thankyou, social and on-line media for some balance. Even there Ben Shapiro disliked Trump but disliked Hillary more. He was among those forecasting a Trump loss.

    Rarely did I hear in Australian media any mention of the Clintons foibles and corruption, let alone Hillary's mistreatment of other women and her swearing at those sent to guard and support her.

    What is remarkable is the intolerance of the Left. We saw it in the post election rioting; they were not objecting to any impropriety in the election but just that they did not like the outcome. And we see it in our own 18c and the persecution of anyone daring to speak against the political correctness of the Left. Labelling such as incorrectly calling Trump and Bannon racists or Scott calling me a 'troll' (although I do like orks)are examples of trying to shut down debate. Bannon, by the way is labelled anti-Semitic on the flimsiest of evidence - a single sentence from his estranged ex-wife. Trump never labelled all Mexicans criminals but only a sub-set of a subset - criminals among illegals.

    As for Trump's calling things as he sees them, I prefer that to hearing the ranting of femnazis.

    In any case Trump has been the most inclusive president elect, even finding something good about Hillary Clinton and her rioting supporters.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James James,

      Luckily we have cable TV, and this enabled us to see perceptions of the candidates and their campaigns from a whole raft of different TV news media, including BBC, ITV, Sky News, RT (formerly Russia Today) and Al Jazeera. Whilst they all had their own particular 'take' on events, by seeing such a divergent coverage made it possible to get a fairly balanced view.

      I am of the belief that if Bernie Sanders had been selected in place of Hillary Clinton, the election would have been very different ... and I suspect that he might well have won.

      I think that we have an interesting few months ahead of us, and one wonders how long it will be before the reality of being President makes Donald Trump change some of his views and proposals.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
    2. Yes. I often say the same about our sources of information - it is what makes us different to China, Russia and so on. However, most people just avail themselves of one or two media sources. I was amazed at how biased the mainstream media was against Trump. This swung me the other way, on his side.

      It's hard to say about Bernie. He would have kept many Democrats who went over to trump. then again he would be painted as a communist and many conservatives who switched to Hillary would have stayed Republican.

      Delete
    3. James James,

      In the UK the print media is particularly poor at presenting a balanced view of events. The tabloid press seems to be full of non-stories about so-called celebrities, indignant rants about various issues, and sport ... mainly football. The language used is so simple and simplistic that the average issue can be read by someone with a reading age of eight (an adult should have a reading age of fourteen).

      The main TV news channels are somewhat better, but are still subject to bias and sloppy reporting at times. Even news programmes that have a reputation for balanced reporting can fall short at times. For example, last night I watched NEWSNIGHT, the BBC's flagship nighttime news programme, and the presenter was particularly poor. He conducted two 'interviews' where he barely gave the interviewees time to begin to answer complex questions before interrupting with his point of view. As a result all we got to hear was his opinions and not those of the interviewees. Not the BBC at its best!

      I suspect that the effect on the result of the election had Bernie Sanders being selected to be his party's candidate will be one of those 'What ifs ...' much beloved by historians.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  13. Another point is that five million votes went to independent conservative candidates and a million to the green candidate which means the total conservative vote was higher than the 'liberal' vote. (I have to remind myself that 'liberal' means something different to hat it does here in Australia with our liberal party.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James James,

      I suspect that the political term 'liberal' means a whole lot of different things across the world!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete