Thursday, October 20, 2016

America’s Elections Are Rigged, But Not In The Way Trump Thinks

Trump is right to say that American elections are rigged, but they are rigged in completely different ways than he asserts. The very fact that a racist, misogynistic, lying, fascist like Trump could make it as far as he has in a supposedly democratic election lays bare the lie that there is some kind of conspiracy against him. Wall Street and the military/industrial/media complex would have no ideological problem with a Trump presidency, except for the little fact that the man is crazy enough to blow up the world.

Our elections are rigged, but the victims of this reality are not white billionaires, as abhorrent as they may be. The true victims are leftists, minorities, the poor, the middle class…well, basically 99 percent of all Americans. Elections are rigged to support the agenda of the .01 percent, the wealthiest of the wealthy. A recent study that came out of Princeton University found that policies and laws enacted by Congress overwhelming benefit the richest individuals and organizations. In the summary they conclude, “Despite seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analysis suggests that majorities of the American public have little influence over the policies our government adopts.”

Unlike the vague assertions of Trump, there is plenty of concrete evidence to show that the deck is stacked against most Americans when it comes to who gets into office and who doesn’t. Here are a few examples.

Money. Money is the lifeblood of politics in America. If you have it, you get a place at the table, if you don’t have it, you don’t exist. Feeble attempts have been made in the past to try and curb the influence of money in our elections, but they have been ignored, repealed or subverted, and the buying power of the wealthiest few remains intact. Nothing has done more to corrupt the democratic process than the power wielded by the .01 percent to buy politicians and influence policies. Of course, it is a Catch 22 situation. Politicians who have benefited from the current system feel no obligation to change the status quo, despite its disastrous ramifications for democracy.

Gerrymandering: States have been gerrymandering voting districts for a very long time to favor a particular party’s chances, but things have taken a turn for the worse over the past twenty years as ultra-conservative Tea Party members have won governorships and state houses around the country. From Rick Scott in Florida to Scott Walker in Wisconsin to John Kasich in Ohio, Republican governors and state senators have been working overtime to disenfranchise minority voters who traditionally vote Democratic. Courts are now starting to fight back, but the practice continues and serves to distort the balance of power, and will of the people, around the country.

The Two-Party System: It’s no conspiracy theory to say the Republican and Democratic parties have a stranglehold on politics in America. The problems with this are obvious and numerous. As we’ve seen, third party attempts to gain legitimacy have gone down in flames time and time again. The two major parties are elaborate, firmly established machines that no upstart party can begin to compete with financially or in any other way. The result is a field of candidates who are more closely tied to party ideology and mega-donors than the American people. New voices and new ideas are discouraged and the big winner is always the status quo. Even within the two parties, there is little room for dissent, and a candidate as popular as Bernie Sanders is quickly dismissed to the sidelines by the party’s power brokers.

Electronic voting machines. This is a controversial one, but we do know a few things for sure: It has been demonstrated more than once that it is relatively easy to hack these machines and flip votes. There is also strong evidence that this has in fact happened at polling places around the country in elections since these machines were introduced. Voters have seen their votes change before their eyes and results from electronic machines have differed wildly from exit polls, most often helping Republican candidates. What many people don’t realized is that these voting machines are privately owned by corporations that keep their proprietary software secret and away from public scrutiny, so there is no way to verify the accuracy of the vote after the fact.

So yes, Donald, you’re right, America’s elections are rigged, but you are not the victim. The American people are the big losers here.

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