Elec­tion game mir­rors fail­ure of US democ­racy

The 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has made one thing clear, the US needs po­lit­i­cal re­form.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

The chaotic 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has high­lighted the de­fects in the US elec­tion sys­tem and the dys­func­tion of democ­racy. The “email-gate” un­cov­ered by the re­lease of the Demo­crat­icNa­tional Com­mit­tee emails stunned the world, and showed that the so-called fair se­lec­tion of can­di­dates was any­thing but. Mean­while, whether the out­spo­ken and reck­less real-es­tate mogul Don­ald Trump wins the race or not, he has ir­re­versibly dam­agedUS democ­racy al­ready.

The email scan­dal re­vealed the black box of how party elites ma­nip­u­late the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, as it showed the party es­tab­lish­ment and the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee vi­o­lated the neu­tral­ity prin­ci­ple by work­ing with theHil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign team to help her clinch the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. For this pur­pose, they at­tempted to at­tack her ri­val Bernie San­ders’ eth­nic iden­tity as a Jew. And they went so far as to plan cy­ber­at­tacks on the sup­port­ers of San­ders. When the scan­dal was un­cov­ered, the sup­port­ers of San­ders were fu­ri­ous but the can­di­date him­self was calm, as if un­sur­prised by the shenani­gans against him.

Mean­while, the Demo­cratic camp has made great ef­forts to de­fame Trump by high­light­ing his dis­crim­i­na­tory words against women, the dis­abled and mi­nor­ity groups, his past bank­rupt­cies, and his edgy tem­per­a­ment that the Democrats say make him un­fit to be the pres­i­dent. In­ter­est­ingly this is the very im­age he wants to present to vot­ers.

Sec­ond, the de facto two-party sys­tem and the win­ner-takes-all del­e­gates count­ing sys­tem make ex­treme can­di­dates stand out in the pri­maries. There­fore, moderate and ra­tio­nal can­di­dates are at a dis­ad­van­tage. In the pri­mary elec­tions, the two par­ties’ na­tional con­ven­tions are ac­tu­ally meant to func­tion as gate­keep­ers. To­gether with the elec­toral col­lege, the party’s na­tional con­ven­tions were de­signed to pre­vent a dem­a­gogue from hi­jack­ing pub­lic sup­port and win­ning the race. In fact, the Repub­li­canNa­tional Com­mit­tee could eas­ily have ad­justed the rules and pre­vented the con­tro­ver­sial Trump from be­ing nom­i­nated. How­ever, the RNC chose not to be­cause the anti-es­tab­lish­ment sen­ti­ment was so strong that the tra­di­tional can­di­dates such as Jeb Bush andMarco Ru­bio were con­sid­ered to have less chance of win­ning, and the GOP could not find any vi­able al­ter­na­tive to re­place Trump in such a short time. So they had to ac­cept the hard re­al­ity and stand be­hind Trump to fight again­stHil­lary Clin­ton.

Third, democ­racy had to yield to pop­ulism when the party was hi­jacked by the rad­i­cal politi­cian. The nom­i­na­tion of Trump clearly showed that GOP was not able to con­trol the elec­tion process. Nor could the GOP aban­don the rad­i­cal can­di­date, rather it had to flow with the pop­ulist trend. Thus, democ­racy has been dis­torted and does not ac­cu­rately re­flect the peo­ple’s will.

In the post-ColdWar era, glob­al­iza­tion has has­tened eco­nomic in­equal­ity. The fi­nan­cial cri­sis has caused the mid­dle class to shrink and cre­ated more dis­con­tent among those in the lower classes. Po­lit­i­cally, ever since the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Bill Clin­ton, party pol­i­tics has widened the gap be­tween the elite and the grass­roots. Politi­cians make ir­re­spon­si­ble prom­ises for the sake of votes, and break their word after they are elected. This has re­sulted in the over­whelm­ing anti-es­tab­lish­ment sen­ti­ment in the elec­tion this year. Trump has made good use of this sen­ti­ment and suc­ceeded in a hos­tile takeover of the Repub­li­can Party.

No mat­ter whether Trump wins the elec­tion or not, he has ir­re­versibly dam­agedUS democ­racy with his rhetoric. At the same time, he has high­lighted the in­con­ve­nient truth that dis­crim­i­na­tion against mi­nor­ity groups, the dis­par­ity be­tween the rich and the poor and the in­flu­ence of money in pol­i­tics ex­ist even though main­stream so­ci­ety tries to ig­nore them.

The 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has made one thing clear, theUS needs po­lit­i­cal re­form. The author is the head of Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal Stud­ies at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies, China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions. Courtesy: chin­aus­fo­cus.com

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