The Deepening Divide: American Political Parties

You might be familiar with the term political parties. I think most people would conjure up images of a donkey and an elephant. Many people associate political parties with democrat and republican. In most countries, there is either no political parties or just one; or there are more than two. America is unique in having only two main parties. There may be some others but America is the best known. The point of this post is just to casually discuss the widening divide of the two main parties. I expect that with my own political compass to probably discuss the lack of a third-party.  Yesterday I was having a conversation with somebody who has some opposing views in terms of politics. The conversation really made me start to think about the political parties. In recent years, it seems that the democrats and republicans have gone to further extremes. Obviously if you were born in 2000 or after you probably wouldn’t notice.

You don’t have to be old to see the extremist stretch of the parties. All you have to know is a little historical context. I’m sure I have explained this before in some other post but its worth explaining again. Political parties started in America in 1776 on about the same day the declaration of independence was signed.  Typically historians will say somewhat ironically that after George Washington’s farewell address is when the parties really got going. I will get to George Washington’s farewell address too. But first lets discuss the political parties at that time. During the time before the constitution was signed, there were two sets of loosely based political beliefs. There was no actual organized parties til much later. The Federalists and the anti-Federalist. (Yes, very creative naming) The Federalists were led (loosely) by Alexander Hamilton. They believed that the constitution maintain a strong executive presence within the federal government. The anti-Federalists who led (loosely, not right away) by Thomas Jefferson. They believed that it should be the states who hold the majority of power not the federal government.

I say loosely lead because there wasn’t any organization not until after Thomas Jefferson’s presidency in 1801 to 1809. Now as for George Washington’s farewell address, this is part where its relevant to political parties: (Irony coming ahead)

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796 Yale Avalon Project

So here is the ironic thing about George Washington and his address, Washington himself was not above joining a party. Throughout his presidency, he tended to call on his secretary of treasury and in the revolutionary war, his first clerk to attend to government business. Alexander Hamilton was one of George Washington’s closest confidants. He also happens to be the de-facto leader of the Federalist party. Washington was actually pretty persuaded by Hamilton’s beliefs. He felt that Hamilton had the country going in the right direction. Washington also did try to stay above the Federalist and Anti-Federalist mudslinging.

If we fast forward to just before the Civil War, we see that political parties have evolved from Federalist and Anti-Federalist to Whigs and Republican-Democrats. The names seem to be different and very much the same even ironic. However, the Whigs represented the Federalist view in many ways. The Republican Democrats represented the Anti-Federalist view. The Whigs dominated the north and the Republican Democrats dominated the south. Abraham Lincoln was the end of the Whig party and the beginning of what many call today’s Republican party. At a contested convention in 1860, Lincoln was able to swing votes to his Republican party from the majority Whigs. From Lincoln time until Teddy Roosevelt, the Republicans and Southern Democrats dominated American politics. Even now, parties tend to be very regional and sectional in popularity. Its one way to define who votes for them. Of course up til 1919, it was only white men who owned land then women’s suffrage was passed.

Teddy Roosevelt was elected by a third-party, one of the few presidents to do so. The 20th century represents a major change in the parties. After Teddy, the political extremes begin to take off. You can contrast the parties in the alternating decades of their rule. The republican decade of roaring twenties saw relaxed government meanwhile the progressive era of 1930s to 1940s  with Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the Democrats dominate because of the Great Depression. The democrats also held power during World War 2 and afterwards with Harry Truman. The 1950s saw the rise of Republicanism in Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was actually pretty moderate by today’s standards. The 1960s saw JFK and LBJ, the latter passing the Great Society, the so-called “second New Deal”. The 1970s saw even more moderates like Nixon and Carter but leaned Democrat. The 1980s is when the extremes pushed higher than ever with Ronald Reagan. Since Reagan, the Republicans have pushed for more tax cuts every year. The 1990s stay relatively moderate with Bill Clinton as a centrist democrat.

My point is that over years it seems like Democrats and Republicans seem to farther apart than ever especially today. I believe this last election really show how deep the divide came. I think when you politicians like Bernie Sanders running, whose view is more socialist than democrat, you have a problem. America always been able to stay the course and not veer to extremes. In part thanks to our constitution and our checks and balances. You know its extreme when Donald Trump is considered an acceptable candidate and is elected. I don’t have a solution to this extreme push to fringes. However, I would propose that we allow more than two dominate parties. I’m a libertarian and I take some opinions from both sides and mold them into one view. I think that being extreme politically is like being ignorant. You can irrationally argue just about anything but you won’t make progress. In order to make progress, you have to accept that there are other ways to achieving the same goals. I think one of the bests to describe the dysfunction of our political parties is that they all have the same goal with a different way to get there.So why can’t we just compromise. The reason is simple. Democrats want big government to control every aspect of our lives except abortions. Republicans want government out of lives except when it comes to abortions. We need to make our goal to make America the best it can be by any means necessary. We need to compromise. Until we can do that then the only thing that will happen is Congressional deadlock and fighting.

Thanks for reading!

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On the Basis of Democracy: Aristotle Part 1

I am so happy to be writing again. I took nearly a month off because the election just made me really want to stay out of politics. It was so demoralizing and embarrassing. Just glad that it’s over. Now with the election over and the reaction starting to cool down, I want to swing my blog into more a history based content. My true passion is history. This specific blog post is going to analyze some of the classic political writings and philosophers. Don’t worry I won’t bore you to death with just some biographies. I want to present a logical argument for a representative democracy. My last post touched on this with Alexander Hamilton writing the 68th Federalist paper. Just to recap, Hamilton presents an argument for the Electoral college that says that a small group of people who have the ability to make a decision is better than having it rest just on the everyday person. Hamilton argues that its crops out the corruption and makes sense when trying to determine who should be elected. Hamilton’s brilliant argument became my own in my defense of the Electoral college. I want to build on the representative nature of the Electoral college that makes our democracy so unique.

I want to introduce two figures of political history. One is an ancient greek and the other an Englishmen from the 17th century. Hamilton was so well versed in all political philosophers. It shows in his Federalist paper 68. I think that its important to know about where the founding fathers got their inspiration and at times their whole concept. Many people who I know and meet, are understandably ignorant on political philosophy. Unless you are a political fanatic or you love philosophy then you probably don’t know much about these two figures. For the sake of this blog post, I want present some of the most relevant theories of Aristotle and John Locke that regard democracy.

Democracy is synonymous with America. Democracy in latin means commoner. Democracy is associated with freedom. Democracy is in the words of Thomas Jefferson: ‘We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union’. (If you didn’t know, the preamble of the constitution starts like that) The question or argument that I will be presenting is simply what is the basis for a democracy? Why is Democracy such a successful system of government? These are just some of the questions that may or may not be answered because I don’t believe there is just one answer. History is not an exact science when it comes to the ‘Why’. (Also known as the five W’s: What, When, Where, Who and Why. A simple way to remember how to think about a historical topic)

Aristotle was greek philosopher and lived from 384 to 322 BCE. He wrote on hundreds of different topics ranging from family life to science to politics. One of his political writings is on democracy. First, you have to realize that Aristotle was a student of Plato who had a more utopian view of society. Aristotle was the first realist. He thought that the political community was the top of society. The political community is responsible for the education, health and governance of the rest. In his writings on the best democracy he lays out a few main points. One of these points about political community being a guide: “that human life has a telos and that the political community should provide education and laws that will lead to people pursuing and achieving this telos. Given that this is the case, a regime that allows people to do whatever they want is in fact flawed, for it is not guiding them in the direction of the good life.”  This is just a summary but in simpler terms, Aristotle believes that everyone has a spirit of good in them. This spirit of good needs to guided by the political community aka the democratic government to reach what he calls the good life or happy life.

Similar to Plato, who also believed that there was level of happiness that could be achieved that was above anything in the human experience. However unlike Plato, Aristotle believed that the best democracy was made up of farmers. His reasoning is that farmers or herders are less likely to assemble and own less land.  They offer a democracy the least path of resistance. You might conclude that some of the success of American democracy can be credited with large farming industry starting before and going well after the revolution. Aristotle thinks that a democracy made up of farmers and ruled by “This is a reason why the authoritative offices can be in the hands of the wealthy, as long as the people retain control of auditing and adjudication: “Those who govern themselves in this way must necessarily be finely governed. The offices will always be in the hands of the best persons, the people being willing and not envious of the respectable, while the arrangement is satisfactory for the respectable and notable. These will not be ruled by others who are their inferiors, and they will rule justly by the fact that others have authority over the audits” .  For the purpose of this argument, I think that Aristotle makes an interesting point with  words that I underlined. Let me explain.

What Aristotle means by authority over the audits is that the people must retain control of the budgets of public spending and they should be liable to be persecuted if there is wrongdoing. Aristotle considers adjudication as a right to fair trial by being judged by your peers. I find it so interesting that in ancient greek times, Aristotle is basically laying some constitutional principles that our founding fathers definitely included in our democracy. I also feel that politicians being liable to persecution is not met across the board with all public officials. I think that sometimes politicians are protected for personal gain and to avoid political suicide. Politics is literally a house of cards, because politicians depend on each other more than they let on.

I think Aristotle remains one of the most amazing and interesting philosophers. These writings occurred well over 2000 years ago. It makes you think about just how smart the Greeks were. Let me be honest though, the Greeks did not make the perfect government by any means. Their democracy in Athens was a true democracy with a senate. The voting took place with only land owning men. The politics were corrupt and dirty. There were demagogues that rose up and messed up their elections. However, the greeks set the stage for the Roman Empire which lasted 8 centuries and used a form of democracy for some of that time.

One of things I love about Aristotle is that he is a realist. His perspective mirrors my own in that the most capable people should be in a position to run the government. However, their power should not go unchecked. In a very indirect way, Aristotle is advocating for checks and balances,  the part where he says: “authoritative offices can be in the hands of the wealthy, as long as the people retain control of auditing and adjudication:” . The people need to be in control of the government. I believe this is a problem in our American democracy. We don’t hold the government accountable for anything. When it comes to spending our money or making foreign policy decisions.

To wrap this post up, I want to say in Aristotle’s view of democracy he had envision a simple concept where by the political community and the wealthy educate and govern the farmers and herders. However, the farmers and other common folk hold the purse strings and judge their peers. Aristotle contemplates a fair system of democracy that I believe gave us the foundation to America. America started out as farming settlement in North America. The wealthy men of the settlement decide to wage a revolution and break free from Britain over a variety of reasons including taxes. The ruling class has always been primarily wealthy. However, the biggest change is the modernization of farming which has led to its decline. This is the challenge to our future democracy.

Stay Tuned within a week for Part 2 on John Locke. Thank you for reading! Have a great day!

Citation text: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Argument for the Electoral College

Since the election of Donald Trump, there has been an unprecedented amount of media coverage and debate surrounding the Electoral College. I have not been even slightly swayed by any of these opinions and arguments. I think as a student of history having read parts of the classics like Aristotle and Adam Smith; add to that the reading biographies of influential founding fathers. A student of history knows that the founding fathers read and studied all the classics. The prevailing ideas of the day were based on the enlightenment movement starting in Europe and spreading throughout the world. It was truly a renaissance of ideas that transformed governments. Now we are here about 227 years of democracy later and people are suddenly up in arms about the electoral college? I want to defend the Electoral college as a necessary and proper institution in the American representative democracy. I think the term ‘representative’ is the most important word that validates the Electoral College. My opening salvo can be summarized as the blame game of the system that has worked over 200 years with approximately 56 elections taking place.

My first argument is to say that why must we blame the electoral college? Why is it not the candidates that we picked? The system is merely in place to keep the election fair and offset any disadvantages that typically plague a representative democracy. The two candidates that we’re voted in the primary to run in the presidential election, were by far the most despicable candidates in history. Both of them polarizing. One candidate had 30 years of public office experience with multiple scandals, corruption, and mistakes. The other candidate is an international businessman who went through multiple bankruptcies. He was a television reality star. During the campaign became well-known for vulgar statements about different races and the opposite sex. These unlikable candidates were the only ones who had a shot to win. So why is the electoral college the fault for electing Donald Trump? That brings me to my first argument for the Electoral college.The bad candidates has to make one wonder if it’s actually the electorate that is at fault for putting up the two worst candidates in history. We must remember that the people or the citizens of the United States are in charge of voting for the candidates in the primaries. The primaries can be rigged like the DNC did, however, in an honesty primary you would think the electorate would vote out the bad candidates? Hence, my first argument is essentially this: The founding fathers installed the electoral college because they didn’t feel that the voting  populace could effectively elect the right leaders.

The original source of this argument is from the Federalist Papers. If you paid attention in history class or if you have been reading this blog you probably know about the Federalist Papers. If you don’t then please look it up. The specific number was Federalist paper 68. Federalist paper 68 was written by none other than Alexander Hamilton. In no uncertain terms, Hamilton argues that the President and Vice President should have a ‘small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations’. The translation of that old English is that Hamilton believes its necessary that a small group would choose as a surrogates to make the final decision on the election of the President and Vice President. He even goes on to say this about who the Electoral college will made up of: “No Senator, representative or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States“. Hamilton believes the electoral college can prevent corruption because of these stipulations. Hamilton keeps repeating his argument and each time it gets clearer. This line that Hamilton writes at the beginning of the 8th indentation, is exactly why the Electoral college exists today.

The process of election affords a moral certainty, 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  would strongly encourage you read the whole Federalist Paper 68 because Hamilton is a master of his craft and gives a very persuasive argument.

My second argument is based on  previous Supreme Court cases that have been decided in favor of the Electoral College. The last time a candidate won a popular vote and lost the electoral college vote was George W. Bush vs. Albert Gore. The case happened over a just few days in early December 2000. However, it was not the first case about the Electoral College. The issue that is typically argued in the Supreme Court is over the 14th amendment. The specific clause in this case is the equal protection clause. The equal protection clause simply protects all people under the law within its jurisdiction. This means that you can’t make law that excludes a specific type of person based on sex, religion, gender, etc;etc. The equal protection clause also includes voting laws and vote counting laws. The first case on how states count their votes and tally it up for the electoral votes was McPherson vs Blacker. In this case, Michigan’s legislature wanted to change the way it calculated it votes for the electoral college. The Supreme Court ruled that the constitution gives the power of the legislatures to choose how electors are counted based on the popular vote. The constitution says the legislatures have power to decide in the second article. It was later expanded by the 14th amendment. In the Bush vs. Gore case it was over the re-count of the vote processes by county or district in Florida. If you recall the election of 2000 was too close to call because of Florida and their ‘hanging chads’. The controversy came from the fact that recount policies were different but the court didn’t find that the equal protection clause was being broken. The reason is that the Florida legislature had let the rules vary by county and district. Granted, Supreme court cases can be overturned. However, the point here is that the laws within our constitution and amendments actually do protect us from any sort corruption or problem that is purely systematic.

My last argument is one of simple logic. I have now presented two legitimizing reasons for the Electoral College. Here’s is my third one, that also doubles as a challenge to those nay-sayers. Let’s say we want to get rid of the Electoral College because it is not perfect by any means. What would you replace it with? My third argument is simply that I truly don’t think that the citizens of the United States would like the replacement. The replacement would be a similar system to almost every European and every other democracy or republic in the world. We would have to discard our two-party system. We would have to allow multiples of candidates on the ballot . The system that we would change to is called a “single vote majority” or a “plurality vote”. This means that the candidate with the largest majority of the vote would win. Straight up. In the case of this election between Clinton and Trump, neither of them would have won. We would have to have a re-vote. There was only three candidates in every state ballot for president. Clinton had 47 percent, Trump had 46, Johnson had 3 percent and Stein had 1 percent. The other 3 percent was for Harambe or Bernie I assume. Depending on the rules, the winner would either have to have 51 percent in our current system with two main candidates. If there was more than 2 candidates, then the winner would be the person who takes the most, in that case it would be a Hillary Clinton victory. It would certainly invite a wider range of candidates. I think its pretty stupid to ask for majority vote when reality is that this specific election might have had a different outcome with a majority vote. This doesn’t mean the future elections won’t also be negative outcomes with a majority vote. If another candidate similar to Trump comes along after getting rid of the Electoral College then we are at the mercy of majority. It’s odd that many of the same people who want to get rid of the Electoral College are in the minority. (Very strange to me?)

To wrap up my post and conclude my point, I want to finish my arguments by saying that the Electoral College actually levels the playing field in every election. The electoral college makes sure that every voice is heard. The states with the higher electoral votes are more populated, like California, New York, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The states with the lower electoral votes are less populated and it’s not surprising that there is more of them. I believe that if you think population shouldn’t matter then you probably don’t understand urbanization. America used to be a farming society and it has transitioned into a mostly urban society. The cities on each of the coasts and elsewhere hold nearly 50 percent of the United States populace.You can almost guarantee whoever the cities vote for will have a chance to win. If in the off-chance like this  year and in 2000, you can get a coalition of rural states and a few swing states to change color, that is when you get a President Trump. Let’s face the facts the electoral college isn’t to blame for Trump. Remember that Trump was elected in the primary. Trump was basically allowed the majority of Republican and non-Republican voters alike to run for President. If nothing else, Trump used the electoral college to his advantage better than Hillary. I could easily argue that Hillary had an easier path to victory. All she had to do was win either Ohio or Florida plus two other states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. Her coalition of Democrat states includes two of the biggest in New York and California.

So please next time you want to blame the Electoral College, don’t blame the system that was put in place and has worked for 227 years. Look at the voters, look at yourself. People vote for the president. People are responsible for the candidates that are put up to run for office. Thank you for reading and I hope this helps people understand why the Electoral College is necessary and proper!

“Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,” yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 68

Citations:

Quotes From Sources in Bold or Italics.

Hamilton, Alexander. Federalist Paper 68: Mode of Electing the President, March 14th 1788. Lillian Goldman Law Library, 2008. Link Here

Denniston, Lyle. Constitution Check: Is winner take all Electoral College Voting in trouble?, Constitution Center. January 29, 2013. Link Here

Cornell University Law: Legal Information Institute: Bush vs. Gore, Supreme Court. December, 2000 Link Here

The featured picture is the electoral map of the US for the 2016 Election. The red represents where Trump won. The blue represents where Hillary won. Trump won mostly rural areas meanwhile Hillary won mostly urban. Population does matter.

Donald Trump Wins. America Reacts.

This post will be relatively short because I just want to share my thoughts that I already expressed via Facebook. In addition, I want to say that I never really guessed right but I think that the News Media Party was a big factor in Trump’s victory. I think that maybe there is a few articles to come from this Facebook post that I wrote today.

I have refrained from stating my political opinions until now. I wanted to see what everyone’s else reaction would be. Now that I have seen it, I have a few thoughts. To start off, I voted for Gary Johnson and it was a vote of conscious not against anybody but FOR Gary Johnson. I will not defend Trump nor Clinton. What I would like to share is something that it seems many people do not understand. The Electoral College seems to blamed for Trump’s nomination and Clinton’s loss. Many people think this because Clinton won the popular vote. However, I have two big problems with this type of sentiment. My first problem is America is not a populist democracy. In most Europe and some Asian countries like the Philippines, they use a plurality voting democracy. This means each candidate has their votes tallied and the one with the biggest majority is the winner. America has a representative democracy meaning that voters vote for representatives. The representatives of the government are citizens which is why its for the people and by the people. My second problem is in two parts. First, the electoral college was created for a reason. The founding fathers weren’t trying to create a Donald Trump scenario. They were trying to protect the citizens (white land owning men) from their own stupidity. I believe this is smart. It is often held that an educated voter will elect a better politician. I think we can all agree that most of America is not educated enough on politics and to some degree at all. Second, the electoral college has some fishy rules. But its concept and principle is sound. Cities often vote Democrat. Rural place often vote Republican. There are exceptions. Cities have more population than rural areas. To go even bigger, states have different populations. California has 40 million people meanwhile Wyoming has 500,000. Its would be fair to the smaller states to always the big state interests put first. The founding fathers spent more time on this issue in the constitution convention then many others…even for the Congress. How the electoral college works is that it awards electoral votes based on population. For example California has 55 electoral votes and Wyoming has 3. It fair because if California votes one way and a few smaller midwest states vote the other way, it makes a fair voice. Also to those people that are scared of Trump, Rhetoric is often used to get votes. Typically a President never lives up to their campaign promises. Also politicians lie and Trump is no different. We all need to relax and let the government do its job. Let our constitution of checks and balances maintain our liberty no matter what Trump tries to do. Last thing, 120 million or so people did not vote! Being silent is making a statement. Its probably a statement you don’t want. So next election urge everyone you can to vote. Not voting, not caring or caring about the wrong things in politics is why Donald Trump has been chosen. Stop blaming third parties. Stop blaming the electoral college. Start doing something about it, write letters, emails, protest in a peaceful way. Dissent is a beautiful thing. Thank you.

I truly believe that people need to better understand how our government was set up and how the electoral college works. I have written another on the electoral college in the past. This Facebook covers a variety of topics that I have written about on this blog. Now the reason why I haven’t made a post in awhile is because this election has gotten away from the true politics. It became a horrid mess of personality smearing and attacks. Now with the election over, I will start to write again about President-Elect Trump and his policies going forward. I will also write more about constitutional and governmental issues. I am hoping to educate so that next election, we will be equip to elect better politicians. We can do better than Trump.

If you have any ideas or suggestions, drop me a line: garrett_smith12@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

General Election: Political Superbowl

As we approach June, the end of the primary season is near. There are two leading candidates whose nominations are in line without any major incidents. The primaries are always different than the general election. The primaries tend to sieve out issues in both parties. These headline issues then morph into the broader fights in the general election. On the Republican side, there is a lot of turbulence because of Donald Trump’s surprising run at the nomination. In some ways, the Republicans have splinter into different groups varying in support of Trump. It has revealed the establishment republicans haven’t been able to come to a consensus about any candidate. In the process, they have made room for a candidate like Trump. In an exact opposite reality, the Democrat’s have found their candidate in Hillary Clinton. Clinton has successfully talk down her baggage as Secretary of State. The Democratic establishment is firmly behind her despite the resurgent and popular Bernie Sanders.

(Pictured Above:By Abraham Lincoln, digital reproduction by George Chriss (GChriss). With prior publication, the Emancipation Proclamation, the most famous Executive Order became effective 1-January-1863. – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1627541)

This is post is more of an introduction to general elections. I have in previous posts written about different aspects of general elections, like the Electoral College.  I enjoy minute details of elections because its an interesting statistical study of the American voter population. The way that different people vote of different socioeconomic background, origins and biological sex. There is even regional bias that show up in the voter data. The voter base has changed dramatically since beginning of America. George Washington was elected strictly by white, landowning, men. A war hero like Washington is actually an common feature among Presidents especially before the 20th century. (1900) Over the years, the voting process has changed dramatically. After the civil war, free blacks were allowed to vote, however, Jim Crow laws in the South prevent many from actually doing so. Then in 1919, women’s suffrage was achieved throughout the US. This dramatically changed the way that Americans voted. The 1920s and beyond saw women gain a voice in politics and in the workforce.

Forty some years later, Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Voting rights act which made Jim Crow laws illegal. Unfortunately, some of the Southern state courts have rejected parts of this act. Voter suppression is a real problem among black and minority voters in the south. The most common form is now through voter id. Recently, I believe in Alabama, they closed all but 4 DMV offices so that voters could not easily get IDs. This type of voter suppression and the change in population by ethnic origin creates an ever changing statistical analysis of the American people. For example, the increase of Hispanics via immigration has created a large Latino bloc of voters. This changes the dynamic of who becomes president.

In my title, I refer to the general election as the political Superbowl. The general election certainly holds the most gravity in the American political sphere. Not only does the leader of the Free World get elected, so does most of congress. I have often stressed that voting is so important as a civic duty. Part of the reason is that congress seats are just as important as the presidency if not more so! The general election may be the Superbowl because of the presidential candidates, but the playoffs would be the congressional elections. These state wide elections hold greater consequences for the American people than the president.

Let me explain why the Presidential election is overrated and why you should be concerned who your state’s senator or house of representatives are. Its actually an simple explanation because if you know how our government operates then you can see it. As you probably know, the legislative branch writes and passes the laws. The executive branch executes them and makes sure they are being imposed in every state. The Supreme Court makes sure the laws are followed correctly and thanks to Alex Hamilton and John Marshall are constitution visa via Judicial Review. The legislative branch or Congress makes everything that government does, happen. They approve the budgets, increase and decrease taxes, declare wars, confirm appointments and etc etc. The President’s job has expanded but it remains simply to sign laws, veto laws, push for new laws, and be the Commander and Chief.

So if you are worried that Hillary or Trump might be the worst President ever just remember that their presidential fortunes are tied to the ambitions of Congress. Now if you follow politics closely there has been some outrage about executive orders. I can’t say that I blame Obama because house republicans tend to block everything. However, executive orders are not like martial law or above the constitution. Executive orders can be challenged by the Supreme Court. You can rest easy knowing that no President has unlimited power. Checks and balances are a wonderful thing. Each branch of government can be checked by another. Now I realize that Trump and Clinton don’t strike many people as favorable candidates.

You can also bet that Congress will be the opposite party of the elected Presidential candidate. Its almost inevitable that if Hillary Clinton is elected that she will deal with an Republican controlled senate and house of representatives. The same is true for Trump, he will deal with a Democratic senate and house of representatives. In rare cases of overwhelming sentiment there has been a same party President and Congress. More importantly, my point is that Congress controls what laws are made and passed. So unless your like me and your voting for Gary Johnson, then remember to focus on those congresspeople.

Despite who you vote for, just remember that Congress has the power. They are the engine that makes our government go. The President is just an enforcer and voice for foreign relations. So my point is that the general election has the hype of a Superbowl because of the Presidential election but the Congressional elections are the playoffs that really count in the clutch. I want to quickly go back to foreign relations, I have not written a whole ton of foreign relations posts because usually its a general election issue. I have a quite in depth knowledge of international relations. In the future, I will definitely be looking at foreign relations and how the candidates should act as President. The wildcard will be Trump because we have not seen him in such a role. At least with Hillary her stint as Secretary of State can clue us into what her foreign relations might look like.

Stay tuned for more foreign relations and election analysis. Thanks for reading!

 

NY Primaries: The importance of your Vote.

I was very excited today at the possibility of voting for the first time in about 4 years. What I failed to realize is that primaries don’t work like regular general elections. Now I knew that you had to be registered for the party of your candidate in order to vote. However, when I went to the polling station, I found out that it was only for democratic and republican voters. I am a libertarian and registered as such under independent. I have written a few posts on being libertarian which you can find here and here. Now if Rand Paul who was running on the republican ticket hadn’t dropped out, I may have been able to change my registration in time to vote for him. More on this later. My point of this post is to encourage New Yorker’s and people from other states yet to hold primaries to vote. So instead of voting, they ironically give me a sticker that says “I Voted”. HA HA HA..the irony is killing me. (Picture above)

I came across an article about changing your party registration on my favorite site FiveThirtyEight. The article discusses how hard it is change your party registration in New York. Here is the link. Obviously, this causes problems with voter turnouts because if you’re registered as an independent you cannot vote in the election. I was mistaken in thinking that I could still vote for Gary Johnson because I was registered. I think that the fact that third party candidates are not allowed in primaries is a bad thing. More than being mad about not actually voting because I don’t like any of the Democratic or Republican candidates. I am more angry with how the system is set up. Not being able to vote in a primary for a third party candidate really shuts down their chances at an legitimate election process.

Now I know that in the general election that I will be able to vote for whoever I want even myself. However, I think point here is that we need more choices in our elections. There is no logical way that in America, a melting pot of diversity that just two points of view can be applied to all 330 million Americans. I believe elections might be much different if we at least one other candidate. Elections are usually decided by two factors, electoral college and the popular vote. The more important one is the electoral college. I’ve explained how the electoral college works and why we should get rid of it before. I believe that a third candidate would allow for better debates. A third party candidate like Gary Johnson, for example would offer an alternate platform that could be enticing to both left and right. Libertarians advocate similar fiscal responsibility as Republicans and also social equality like Democrats. Just imagine all the best qualities of Hillary Clinton and lets say Ted Cruz in one candidate. Just minus the corruption, religious tinge and overall craziness.

I think the obvious connection with more candidates, primaries and party registrations is the actual voting. If you have made the same mistake or false assumption that I did then at least you had good intentions. I’ve written before that voting is an important civic duty and everyone should exercise it. Voting gives you a voice and a say in your government. The founding fathers wrote the constitution for the people not for the government to ignore and exploit. America was set up to avoid the tyranny of a monarch. I really think that people and especially young people should start taking voting seriously. I cannot stress it enough. The links to my other posts are here and I would encourage you to read them.

Even if you are like me and cannot vote in a primary then at least you have to register to vote in the general election. I can tell you from experience in voting in general elections that its a gratifying feeling to know that you help decide who will run this country. I have vote in two general elections. Obviously when I was 18, I voted for John McCain. Granted, I know your probably saying really!?!?! Yes Really, but you must understand as high school senior in a small up state New York town that being conservative was almost standard. Even today, my parents are conservative republicans. I understand now that typically hard working middle class people in rural areas usually are conservatives.The reason is simple, they would like to keep their money. However, the downside is socially things like gay people and transgender are not as accepted. Once I went to college and discover there as many different types of people I started to realize maybe republican wasn’t my party.

In 2012, I thought about voting for Mitt Romney but decided that his business campaign wasn’t really working for me. Instead I decided to pick an libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. In that re-election year for Obama, Gary Johnson actually received 1 million votes. This is quite a milestone for a candidate whose party is suppressed by the mainstream media mostly and by the election laws. I say that mainstream media suppresses libertarians because most networks don’t cover the candidates with one exception. Fox News actually has one program that is libertarian. John Stossel is the host and the show’s namesake, Stossel.

So get out there and vote! Thanks for reading!

Third Party Void in US elections

It seems that for the past 47 years (1968-2015), there has not been a significant third party presidential contender. This is now a common theme of American politics. The Republicans and Democrats have become so powerful and extreme that third party candidates usually get drowned out over the extreme views and big money. Third party contenders tend to be either in a niche political view or libertarian. In this post, I want to show some data from the American Presidency Project and add my own knowledge about why third parties no longer contend in presidential elections. I think to start on this question we need to discover how parties came about and transition to the numbers.

George Washington in his farewell address warned against the formation of political parties. The warning last through Washington’s two terms, which became the precedent. In election race between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, parties started to form. The party lines were drawn by the beliefs of about the strength and role of the federal government. This is a simple explanation but it serves as the basis for the parties as we know and understand them now. John Adams was a federalist who believed the federal government should play more of a role in running the country. Federalist also supported a strong constitution before its signing. Meanwhile, on the other side Thomas Jefferson who lost this election but won the next election was on the side of the Anti-Federalists. They opposed the signing of a constitution and were strong believers of state rights. The differences in organization gave the federalist a slight advantage and resulted in the signing of the constitution and election of John Adams as second President of USA.

The two parties further evolved as time went on. The two main parties were basically the same until the civil war in 1860. It was because of a third party that Abraham Lincoln was able to run and be elected as the first true Republican party president. Its quite confusing because some of the whigs and the democrats pre-civil war became today’s Republican party. The split of the Whig party created modern Republicanism. The 1860 election featured two third party candidates. It was first true third party election. It did not happen again for another 30 years or so in 1892 when Populist candidate James B. Weaver ran against an democratic candidate Grover Cleveland and an Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison. (Grover Cleveland won, fun fact: only president to serve two separate terms)

There was only 4 third party elections since 1892 going back to the latest impactful third party election. However, let me clarify that what I mean by impactful is a third party candidate won a state or states.  The last time a third party candidate won a state was in 1968. American Independent George Wallace won three states from the race. President Richard Nixon won that election. The next election to effected by a third party was in 1992 and 1996 This is the most modern example of an election being impacted by a third party candidate. H. Ross Perot had just enough votes to help Bill Clinton edge out George H. Bush and in 1996 Robert Dole. Then in 2000, Ralph Nader made a considerable run stealing some votes from Al Gore. Helping George W. Bush win. This is pretty much full run down of what the data can tell us. The numbers show us the results only.

The interesting question that I really want to answer is why are third party candidates not getting any traction? The problem is that data can only give us so much. I believe that American values are changing and becoming more extreme. This is evidenced by Congress’ inability to pass anything. A lack of bipartisan work tells me that extreme views are becoming the norm. This unfortunate for American voters of all kinds. Third party candidates can appeal to people who just don’t buy into the two mainstream parties. Another interesting fact is that many voters are independent. According to this April 2015 Pew article at least 48 percent of voters are registered as independent.  Of course, there is many other factors that cannot be overlooked like gender, age and race origin when looking at party affiliations. The question still remains unanswered though because none of these facts explain the strange void.

One factor that might be the most heavy influence on third party candidates is voter turnout. Voters have been turning out in historic lows. According to this article, approximately 36.4 percent of voters showed up at the polls. This might be the cause of a third party void. I have said this in previous articles that young people are the primary reason why voter turnout is low. I know and have met many people who say they don’t like politics or they can’t stand either party. As it happens, I am a person who can’t stand either party. However, I still vote. Civic duty is an important right to exercise. With the two party system, I think over time you tend to get more extreme because with no third party contenders the parties only have to be the opposite of each other. For example, if one party wants a higher minimum wage then the other will want a lower minimum wage. Its human nature to go more extreme to get your point across especially if you just have one opponent.

So you’re probably thinking all that explanation and history just to say voter turnout is the problem. Unfortunately that is where it seems to be creating the third party void. To put into perspective our two party system with rare third party candidates, we must look at Europe. In Europe, many countries have democracies with multi party elections. There is even countries with as many as 20 candidates in an election. I also feel like its healthy for a democracy to have many options. If there are many options for elections then it creates a fair playing field. In our two party system, there is usually 2 or 3 legitimate contenders sometimes all within the same party. The problem of a third party void is that it leaves out many voters who don’t like either of the two party candidates.

My recommendation to anyone else out there who ends up reading this and finds themselves not being able to pick a candidate like Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. I would strongly encourage you to look at third party candidates. Listen, I know they won’t win but if you vote and share then maybe one day we can change our two party system. Its not all about winning. Its about exercising your right to vote. Just my opinion here, but I believe that Rand Paul should switch to a third party. I think he could do some damage next election.

I hope you found this to be educational. Thanks for reading!