There has been much written since the election about what went wrong. The wrong was not so much electing Trump but, as Michael Moore put it, more like thrusting a giant middle finger into the face of the establishment.
The "near" election of George W. Bush in 2000 does stand out as a "black eye" in American democratic history. But the 2016 election tops perhaps all others, with the exception of one, for thrusting its middle finger into the eye of democracies past, present, and future. The only reason this election doesn't top the Compromise of 1877 is that it can be argued that the election of 1876 and the compromise 1877 was the catalyst of all our failed American elections afterward. (Watch Rachel Maddow's take on this)
Many pundits on the left immediately jumped on the Clinton campaign as inept, but this is a claim, rightly or wrongly so, for every lost campaign. A better criticism may be that it should not have ever been that close. The Clinton campaign made a play for mainstream traditional republican voters and when it was all said and done enough of them returned home to the Republican party and opted for the Trump promised tax cuts.
The election loss controversy is perhaps better described as a giant monkey throwing feces at the wall to see what sticks. It seems rather obvious there was no one factor that caused this giant mess.
Here Is What Actually Went Wrong
1. Multi-year, multi-method, voter suppression efforts.
Voter intimation and suppression is as old as elections. There are many methods of voter suppression including onerous voter ID laws, long lines, inconvenience in voting, registration and voter purging, and even parking a police car in front of a poll. Even negative campaigning causes voters to be apathetic and not register or vote or not vote in a particular race. Michigan is said to have had 87,000 "none of the above" votes for president.
If a deviant election fraudster can think it up, it's being used with different degrees of success and without repercussion since the Supreme Court ruling against the Voting Rights Act in 2013. It is hard to say how many folks were affected. 1-2 million might be a safe bet with 5-10 million more likely. Another method firmly in place and generally uncontested is "legal" loss of voting rights. Nationally 2.5% are not illegible to vote because of felony convictions. While most states have some restrictions, it is clearly in the Republican controlled states where citizens are almost permanently disenfranchised.
Florida, the third largest state, is under permanent voter suppression as it is home to 25% of people who have convicted felonies, most of them for minor nonviolent offenses. Since Florida is nowhere close to being a red state, if these 1.5 million individuals were allowed to vote, the Republican party would be in exile permanently.
2. FBI interference in the election.
Eleven days before the election the FBI reopened their investigation on Hillary Clinton's emails and definitely changed the momentum in the race as reflected in the polls. The subsequent Comey exoneration came too late to correct the damage he had already done.
Some sources have suggested that surrogates of the Trump campaign and pro-Trump operatives in the FBI's New York office forced the FBI Director's hand. Whatever the reason, the actions of the director in publicly pursuing an already closed investigation that was strictly BS to start with is inexcusable election tampering. If he acted from pressure, then the head of what is presumed to be our elite law enforcement organization should have fallen on his sword for the good of the country. And if he acted for personal partisan reasons then he joins the ranks of the despicable J. Edgar Hoover as there may be no crime greater against humanity than the thwarting of Democracy. Without democracy the common man can not truly enjoy life, liberty, and justice.
3. Media Malfeasance.
There are some estimates that the major media outlets gifted the Trump campaign with $2-3 billion in free media coverage. The best example of the imbalance: In some estimates, an empty podium got more air time than Bernie Sanders' entire campaign coverage.
The media made this election about their scripted versions of the candidates and not about issues that affect the everyday life of their viewers. The free access we the people granted them over our airwaves and legal infrastructure was simply abused. But unto the unjust, justice. Under the Trump transition process, these same media outlets appear to be receiving their karma. They very well may spend a 4 year exile in the wilderness stumbling over each other trying to trade any integrity left for access to the administration.
4. Electoral College
While George W Bush may have won the popular vote in 2004, they may have manufactured a vote switch in Ohio for the electoral college win. We may never know for sure. Two out of the last three administrations have been determined by the electoral college and not the popular vote.
The electoral college was most likely designed, by the founders, to protect the election process from the direct will of the common people who, they felt, couldn't be trusted to make proper choices. Today the electoral college causes all but the swing states to be considered by the candidates. States firmly in the party camps like California and Wyoming are generally ignored. In this election, California had low turnout which means millions more would have voted for Clinton further ballooning her popular vote victory over Trump which now exceeds 2 million and climbing.
Clinton got more popular votes. She may very well have gotten more electoral votes. Without a proper accounting of the votes we may never know who the actual victor was. As incredible as it is in importance, we don't even bother to routinely audit the vote. This process is routine and customary (and often mandatory) in the business world. Sloppiness by design is the best explanation for this oversight.
While the vote count may or may not have been hacked, Democracy sure has been. We are now not capable of running an honest national election in this country.
Frankly we are at the same place we were on government snooping when Edward Snowden dropped his giant stink bomb. We were pretty sure we knew what the spies were up to but it took one more straw on the camel's back to break it. When it comes to electioneering, we pretty much know what the anti-democratic forces are up to, we apparently just need that last trigger to break their back.
The last straw may come from the efforts of Jill Stein of the Green Party who is calling for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She made her plea to the public for small contributions on Wednesday and raised the initial $2.5 million needed in less than 24 hours.
Bernie Sanders on the election and the future.
About the Author
Robert Jennings is co-publisher of InnerSelf.com with his wife Marie T Russell. InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as InnerSelf.com. Please support our work.
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The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote (A Century Foundation Book)
- The Politics of Voter Suppression
Publisher: Cornell University Press
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