Bud­dan’s dis­il­lu­sion­ment with democ­racy

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -


IN HIS ar­ti­cle ‘Fail­ings of US democ­racy’, ap­pear­ing in The Gleaner of Tues­day, Novem­ber 15, 2016, Robert Bud­dan tries to ar­gue that the Elec­toral Col­lege sys­tem ought to be scrapped and be re­placed with a sys­tem whereby the pop­u­lar vote de­ter­mines who wins the pres­i­dency.

He is clearly mo­ti­vated by the fact that Don­ald Trump was re­cently elected pres­i­dent de­spite re­ceiv­ing fewer votes over­all than Hil­lary Clin­ton. Bud­dan points out that this is the fifth time that a sim­i­lar event has oc­curred. But he fails to ex­plain why the Amer­i­cans have not long since ditched the Elec­toral Col­lege. The rea­son is that they want the United States to re­main as one coun­try rather than break­ing up into at least two sep­a­rate coun­tries.

The Elec­toral Col­lege is made up of elec­tors sent by the var­i­ous states. The num­ber of elec­tors sent by each state is equal to the num­ber of sen­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives who rep­re­sent it in Con­gress. Since the num­ber of sen­a­tors is al­ways two, whereas the num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives is re­lated to the pop­u­la­tion of the state, the num­ber of elec­tors sent by States with smaller pop­u­la­tions is some­what skewed in their favour. This en­sures that the vot­ers in these states with smaller pop­u­la­tions feel that they have a real im­pact on who be­comes pres­i­dent. In con­trast, if the pres­i­dency were determined based on the pop­u­lar vote, vot­ers in states with smaller pop­u­la­tions would know that their im­pact on the de­ci­sion would be min­i­mal. If they find that they are con­stantly be­ing faced with a pres­i­dent who does not share their views and val­ues, they are likely to be­gin think­ing about break­ing away from the United States, and, per­haps with other like-minded States, cre­ate a new in­de­pen­dent coun­try. On an in­ter­na­tional level, this has hap­pened fairly re­cently in East Ti­mor, which broke away from In­done­sia, and in South Su­dan, which broke away from Su­dan. Some­what nearer home, a sit­u­a­tion de­vel­oped in Scot­land where Scot­tish lead­ers felt that their in­ter­ests were not be­ing prop­erly served in West­min­ster in Eng­land.


The UK gov­ern­ment agreed to the hold­ing of a ref­er­en­dum in 2014 in Scot­land, where the vot­ers had the op­por­tu­nity of choos­ing to ei­ther re­main in the United King­dom or leave. In fact, they chose to re­main. In Cat­alo­nia, Spain, there is a vo­cif­er­ous move­ment ad­vo­cat­ing break­ing away from Spain, although this is be­ing fiercely re­sisted by Spain, with the back­ing of the Euro­pean Union.

As a re­sult, the like­li­hood that the United States will ditch the Elec­toral Col­lege is min­i­mal.

On a lighter note, Robert Bud­dan won­ders if the Trump ma­chin­ery man­aged to rig the com­put­ers used to gen­er­ate the fi­nal re­sults. His con­cern is based on the fact that the fi­nal re­sults did not agree with the exit polls. A much sim­pler ex­pla­na­tion is that given the hys­te­ria whipped up by the me­dia, many vot­ers who had voted for Trump told the poll­sters that they had voted for Hil­lary just to avoid any con­fronta­tion. All in all, Mr Bud­dan seems dis­il­lu­sioned with democ­racy. BRIAN SALE rustler365@ya­hoo.com

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