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Issue #1757      November 16, 2016


Elections – democracy in action?

The USA has long been the flag bearer for the superiority of their form of bourgeois democracy over all other forms of elections, including other forms of bourgeois democracy such as Britain’s Westminster system or the multi-party system seen in Germany, France, Italy or elsewhere in Europe.

In Europe, MPs range themselves in blocs around the chamber depending on their party’s place in the political spectrum. In Britain, and Australia, the ”two-party” system is entrenched in the very layout of the parliament, with the government on one side of the House, the “loyal opposition” on the other side, and if there are any MPs from small parties (or independents) lucky enough to be in the House, they are allowed to sit on the “cross benches” at the rear of the House.

Donald Trump just won the Presidency of the USA on behalf of the Republican Party with 290 electoral college votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232 electoral college votes for the Democratic Party. A landslide you might say. But if you did, you’d be wrong.

If the candidate who received the most votes could be considered the winner, then Hillary Clinton should now be President. At last count, she had an almost 400,000-vote lead in the reported popular vote totals (60,467,245 to Trump’s 60,071,650 for a difference of 395,595, or 47.7 percent to 47.4 percent, respectively, according to CBS News, CNN and NBC News). But in the USA, the rule of “one person, one vote” doesn’t really apply.

Each state has a certain number of electoral college votes, based on population. The candidate who gains the most votes in that state gets all that state’s electoral college votes, regardless of whether they won 51% of the popular vote or 99%. Those who voted for the losing candidate are simply disenfranchised.

A proportional representation system, under which each party gets seats proportional to the number of votes it receives, is not really applicable to the winner-takes-all presidential system. And that, of course, is not accidental.

In 2000 – the most recent case of the electoral college winner being unable to garner the popular vote – Republican George W Bush lost the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore by over half a million votes. However, thanks to the electoral college system, and to blatant rorting in Florida courtesy of his cousin Jeb Bush, George “Dubya” won by 271 to Gore’s 266. The rorting was so blatant and so obvious that it instantly and justifiably became known as “the stolen election”.

However, this year’s election not only saw the boorish Donald Trump established in the White House, but it also saw the Republicans win control of both houses of the US Congress. They did this on a program of anti-immigrant rhetoric and fake concern for the plight of poor white workers. Fake, because, when has the intransigently right-wing Republican Party ever been concerned for the plight of workers, of any colour?

Trump has become President despite being endorsed by David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan, which would once have been – and should have been this time too – the kiss of death in a democracy. However, such is the fear and despair caused by the economic destruction and dislocation that is rampant across the capitalist world that extreme Right parties are now in power not only in the US but also in the Baltic States, much of Eastern Europe, Ukraine and – if the opinion polls are correct – soon will be voted into power in France.

Hitler was voted into power in Germany in 1933 by promising to get German workers back to work. And he did: they either found themselves working in the armaments industry, or conscripted into a labour battalion to build new highways for military transports to use or simply conscripted into the army. American workers in the “rust belt” states are in for a bitter disappointment.

The real worry, however, is – when Trump fails to deliver, will US workers and others who voted for him out of hope and desperation turn back toward the Left, or will they simply go further to the Right?

Next article – Trump’s election provides opportunity – IPAN Statement

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