Election 2016 — Why the Hell Did We Get Here?
So, this election year the U.S. electorate has reached a fork in the road. Unfortunately, both forks lead directly off a very tall cliff with large granite boulders at the end of the long ride down. And regardless of which fork you — the individual voter — choose this year, we’re all forked. On Monday I described how we got to this Hobson’s Choice of deeply flawed candidates. Today I’ll touch upon why we got to this point.
Through 1968 candidates were chosen by party leaders in the clichéd “smoke-filled back room”. Primaries and caucuses were conducted, but they held only marginal sway on the ultimate choice of either party. Following the Chicago Riot during the 1968 Democrat Convention that began to change, with primaries and caucuses eventually taking over primary control of nominee selection in both parties. But there’s a problem with that selection concept. Party leaders are big-picture people who choose candidates moderate enough to swing independent voters to their cause, while caucus and primary voters more often tend to favor ideology over electability and, unfortunately in many cases, party allegiance over what is best for the country. This has led to increasing polarization in politics at every level over the past 40+ years. Elected officials are unwilling to compromise or offer up solutions that may run counter to the wishes of their party’s most extreme wing for fear that contributions and volunteers will dry up during reelection; or potentially worse for elected representatives, as demonstrated by the Tea Party, candidates may find themselves facing a interparty primary challenge that leads to their immediate defeat, or so weakens them that they simply cannot prevail against an opposition party candidate during the election.
Add in a devastating recession, a less-than-optimum economic recovery, growing pressures on the middle class, an ever increasing disparity in income and wealth not seen since the robber baron days of the late 19th Century, an unregulated and unaccountable financial sector that routinely and repeatedly steals from the middle class (both directly and through government bailouts) with absolute impunity, a campaign finance structure that is merely legalized bribery, and a never-ending multi-front war spanning whole swathes of the globe, and you have a recipe for scapegoating, populism, political pandering, and fear-based campaigning not seen since Germany in the 1920s and ’30s. In other words, the primary-and-caucus system of selection has removed all safeguards against ideologues and political polarization. The inevitable results? Donald Trump! Hillary Clinton!
Would these two be our upcoming choices in November if we did away with caucuses and if taxpayer-funded primaries were required to allow participation of independents and cross-voting? Highly doubtful. So, how do we fix this broken system long term? Find out Wednesday.
Wednesday: Election 2016 — Fixing This System Long Term