Donald Trump was right about one thing. The system really is rigged. The 2016 election proves it. But the truth of the matter has little or nothing to do with the “liberal” media or fraudulent voting schemes, among other conspiracy theories. Trump and his confederates advanced during a campaign when all the polls showed him losing.
We know now that the polls were wrong and that the winner was, in fact, the beneficiary of a rigged system. In truth, the system has been rigged for so long and in so many, uh, creative ways that what is widely viewed as perfectly normal here in the United States looks derisively undemocratic to people in other democracies.
Take the Electoral College. In the last five presidential elections since 2000, the losing candidate has received a majority of the popular votes – Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton last Tuesday. People in other democracies are left to wonder: how can a country that in theory reveres the principle of majority rule except the results of an election where the loser wins? The Electoral College is not a recent invention. It has deep roots. It was embedded in the Constitution (Article II, Section 1) by the Founding Fathers.
The original idea at a time when there were no established political parties was to create a system in which voters would choose electors who were uncommitted. The electors would meet and cast votes for various candidates. If there no candidate received a majority, the House of Representatives would choose the president. That is what the big wigs who met at Philadelphia in 1787 expected to happen most of the time.
The possibility of a tie still exists, but with a total of 538 electors in 50 states plus the District of Columbia, it is extremely unlikely. It hasn’t happened since 1824 before Florida, Michigan, and Texas, or any states west of the Mississippi were admitted to the Union, at time when Mexico still owned California.
The entrenched two-party system is itself the consequence of this rigged system. The emergence of two major parties both of which have a vested interest in keeping other political parties out of the race gave rise to new methods of rigging on a scale.
The Constitution is silent as to the precise manner in which members of Congress are to be elected, a fact that threw the door wide open to a practice otherwise known as gerrymandering. According to Article 1, Section 4, the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.
Thus, the states were given the authority to decide the particulars. They could, for example, create a single legislative district encompassing the entire state. In that case, the candidates for the House of Representatives would be elected by proportional representation. Thus, Oklahoma’s five House seats would be filled by the top 5 vote getters. States with more than 5 seats could create two or more multimember districts. Colorado currently has 7 seats. It might be divided into two congressional districts, perhaps five on the populous front range and 2 on the sparsely populated western slope. Ideally, districts would be drawn on the basis of population with square or rectangular boundary lines.
As it stands, state legislatures controlled by one or the other major party redraw district boundaries (“redistricting”) every 10 years and they do it with the intent of diluting the other party’s voting power. It’s not a rap against one party or the other: they both do it. In this manner we have legitimized election rigging for Congress as well as the Presidency.
The 14th Amendment features a provision called the Equal Protection Clause. In 1964, the Supreme Court (Reynolds v. Sims) ruled that state legislatures were required to create congressional districts designed to achieve political equality at the polls – in other words, fairness. Deliberately diluting the votes of some voters while artificially aggregating others obviously defeats that purpose.
That’s one reason why the Democratic Party’s now-discredited Old Guard turned its back on Bernie Sanders, the only Democratic candidate for president who clearly tapped into the mood of a deeply disenchanted electorate. It’s why Hillary Clinton foolishly thought she and other down-ticket Democrats could win without putting “Bernie” on the ticket.
The system isn’t fair, doesn’t reflect the will of the majority, isn’t conducive to the common good – in other words, it isn’t democratic. It’s marvelously rigged to fail in its main purpose, which is why it so often elevates candidates who disdain what most of us – the voting majority – want or value or deplore.
How else to explain turning the keys to the White House over to the likes of Donald Trump? Just think: A man whose moral character, abusive personality, lack of experience, dishonest business practices, and penchant for breaking rules, a man who declared bankruptcy and made a career of cheating investors, contractors, and the IRS, will now be the face of America to the world.