At the moment, The USA are about a month away from electing one of the two most despised people in the country as president. That’s usually a pretty big red flag about the quality of a political system. The country is literally going to choose someone they hate to hold the highest office in America.
The big question is, how did they get there?
Considering the fact that I’m Canadian, for most of my life I didn’t care about US politics, and I didn’t try to understand how it worked. This year, probably because of Scott’s blog and the fact that even Canadian mass media couldn’t hold back from reporting on Trump’s antics, I’ve heard a lot about it, and I got curious. I’ve tried to educate myself on the topic. I have to admit that even today, I still don’t really understand everything about the process, but at least I can see how it works on some level.
First of all, we have to identify the actual problem. Maybe Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two most hated candidates to ever run for president. But it is also possible that they are not the worst, but the phenomenon described in The Fermi Groundhog Day made us hate them more than usual. Basically, maybe the progress of technology, communication, and internet echo chambers only worsened the usual polarizing.
One of the complaints I have heard the most about the American political system is the fact the two party system pretty much forces you to choose the lesser of two evils. I have literally heard both sides tell me several times that voting third-party is like a vote for [Insert their opponent here]. People won’t vote for a third-party because then the one they hate most has a better chance at victory, and the one they hate most has such a good chance of victory because people won’t vote for a third-party. There is definitely a big flaw here.
First, lets think about the obvious alternative. A bunch of people show up to be president, and people vote for the one they like the most. That’s how we did it at my school when we elected class president. What exactly will happen in that case? We have a very good way to figure this out. Just imagine the current election without a republican or democratic party.
We have lots of names on the ballot. Obviously, you have Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. You also have to option of voting for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Those four are unchanged. But next to their names, you also have a bunch of other names.
Bernie Sanders. Ted Cruz. John Kasich. Jeb Bush. Ben Carson. Chris Christie. Carly Fiorina. Marco Rubio. Jim Gilmore. Rick Santorum. Rand Paul. Martin O’Malley. Mike Huckabee. George Pataki. Lindsey Graham. Bobby Jindal. Lawrence Lessig. Lincoln Chafee. Jim Webb. Scott Walker. Rick Perry.
And that’s not even counting the dozens of other third-party that you probably haven’t heard of. That’s pretty much just the Democrats and the Republicans who dropped out.
As of today, Hillary Clinton is leading with 44.6% of the votes. Donald Trump is second with 39.1%. Then comes Johnson with 6.6% and Stein with 2.1%. If the polls are reliable and the general election was today, Clinton would get 14% more votes than Trump.
Now let’s imagine that all those guys I mentioned earlier are also on the ballot. For the sake of argument, even though Trump and Clinton obviously would have a greater percentage of the votes in their party, let’s split the votes equally between all candidates in a party. We have 5 Democrats plus Clinton. We have 16 Republicans plus Trump. This means that, on average Republicans would get 2.3% of the votes, while democrats would get 7.43%. This means that whatever “left” candidate won, he or she would win with 223% more votes than whichever “right” candidate would have come the closest to victory. This would be a landslide, definitely not representative of the people’s actual ideas.
Of course, things would play out very differently. What happens when two candidates disagree on one particular topic, while the opponent literally hates everything they both stand for? One of them drops out for the greater good. He accepts to give up that particular issue to prevent the monster on the other side from obtaining victory and crushing all of his wishes.
Then it happens several times. As long as there are two candidates who could arguably agree with each other on a significant portion of topics, like two conservatives for example, then one of them will most likely drop out for the greater “good”.
So what happens? Politics are not truly one dimensional, and it’s not always left vs right, so there will not be two candidates left. There will be three, maybe four, but not more. Basically, things would play out very similarly, but without the name “Republican” and “Democrat”.
The two-party system seems to be just the way politicians organized this easily foreseeable development. But that alone doesn’t make it good.
What truly makes it bad in my opinion is the primaries. The very idea of making a preliminary vote with just your side. This seems designed to give the nomination to a candidate that is too far-right and a candidate that is too far-left Or, to be more precise, to give the nomination to someone that will be hated by your opponents, and probably barely even respected by the people in the middle.
We are literally splitting the country in half by political leaning, and then asking both halves to come up with their ideal candidate.
So, how could we keep the “teaming up” element while getting rid of the primaries’ problem that forces us to elect a president on one of the sides of the spectrum?
What if we did exactly the opposite?
I’ve been thinking about it. No matter what we do, there will be candidates who drop out to give a better chance of victory to other candidates. The problem is, we can’t stop them from doing it, and we can’t control it. So here’s the idea. Make it official. Reverse the entire process so that the dropping out is actually the only thing that matters, instead of being the thing that ruins the process. I call it reverse democracy.
Say there are 25 candidates. 15 Republican and 10 Democrats. For a certain time before the official election day, once a month, people go and vote. But they don’t vote for the candidate they like. They vote for the candidate they hate the most. Maybe vote for the 20% they hate the most (5 in that case) in order, if you’re worried about turnout and want to reduce the number of times people have to make the effort. The candidate(s) who get the most “hate votes” are forced out of the race. The one remaining at the end becomes president.
This would certainly solve the “lesser of two evils” problem. Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton would have definitely been kicked out of this race very early. Actually, most people would give their “hate vote” to the candidate that they think is the further away from their own positions
In that situation, every single time, people would vote for whom they think is either the furthest to the right or the furthest to the left. There is no other option. Anyone left of G would try to eliminate N, then M, then L, then K. Anyone right of G would want to eliminate A first, then B and C, and so on.
In the end, I feel like this would give a way better fighting chance to anyone in the middle. I’m neither perfect nor unbiased. My favorite candidate in this situation would probably not be F G or H. I take sides, and I would vote against the other side. But I understand that, as there are people everywhere, the country would actually be a lot better off if one of the middle candidates were elected, even if I personally don’t agree with them. In the current system, if you vote for one of the middle third-party, you’re basically wasting your vote, and the primaries make sure that no nominee is in the center.
Obviously, this idea comes with its own problems. First of all, if there are more candidates on the right than the left, like there were this year, this time it gives them an unfair advantage. The idea of voting for several people at the same time definitely helps, but it’s still not perfect.
This is probably a bad idea for dozens of reasons that I don’t understand because I’m young, probably a little too idealist, and I have no experience in politics. There is no way I can see all the angles, because if I could, we would have solved most problems by now. It’s because the average person can’t understand all that stuff easily, that we disagree so much. Still, I couldn’t find any example of this type of democracy anywhere in the world, so either the idea is good but hard to put in place, or it’s terribly bad. Either way, I’d love to understand why.
Tell me what you think, and what your solution to the problem would look like!
PS: I just know that, even in a reverse democracy, no matter how much we would repeat it everywhere, some people would give their “hate-vote” to the candidate they like. I really really hope this would be an insignificant number, but somehow I doubt it. In a democracy, no number is truly insignificant.