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USA - Politics

The United States has the best politicians that money can buy. The USA, which considers itself the greatest democracy in the world, has a rather dysfunctional and restricted democracy.

The idea that wealth concentration and large private funding for political campaigns are incompatible with open participation is not radical nor is it socialist. It is "common sense", as Robert Gallucci, U.S. academic, diplomat and former president of the MacArthur Foundation: "A Senate seat, on average, costs $10.5 million and a House seat $1.7 million. There are powerful incentives for politicians to pay attention to wealthy donors – electoral survival, to start with... It does not seem an intellectual stretch to conclude that, when the political and economic winners collude to dominate politics, the concerns of ordinary people will not be at the top of the agenda." Gallucci explains.

This reality worsened by the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Citizens United, which allows limitless spending by corporations and other private actors on political campaigns. The United States, which has been a staunch supporter of international observation of elections in other countries, has experienced a plethora of electoral violations. These include among many others, restrictive voter registration, long hours waiting to cast a ballot, “robocalls”, problems in electronic voting, and problems with overseas voting.

For the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the NYU Brennan Center for Justice registered 15 states imposed voting restrictions "part of a broader movement to curtail voting rights, which began after the 2010 election when state lawmakers nationwide started introducing hundreds of harsh measures making it harder to vote." Among the restrictions are the requirement of a photo ID and documented proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

Industrial capitalism, urbanization and political corruption contributed to many of the problems in American society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Organized movements, such as the Farmers’ Alliances and the Populist Party, were reactions to the effects of industrialization and created a reform agenda which contributed to the rise of Progressivism. Journalists, called muckrakers, exposed political corruption, corporate and industrial practices, social injustice and life in urban America.

Progressives introduced reforms to address the ills associated with industrial capitalism. Their efforts led to antitrust suits (e.g., Northern Securities Company), antitrust legislation (Clayton Antitrust Act), railroad regulation (Hepburn Act), and consumer protection legislation (e.g., Pure Food and Drug Act, Meat Inspection Act). The Federal Reserve Act was passed to control the nation’s money supply and regulate the banking system.

Conservation reforms included the creation of the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the passage of the Newlands Act. Progressives fought political corruption and introduced reforms to make the political process more democratic (e.g., initiative, referendum, recall, secret ballot, new types of municipal government, civil service reform, primary elections).

According to new US Census Bureau data, voter turnout increased to 65.3 percent for non-Hispanic whites, but decreased to 59.6 percent for non-Hispanic blacks in the 2016 presidential election. This compared to 2012, when more non-Hispanic blacks (66.6 percent) voted than non-Hispanic whites (64.1 percent) for the first time in this series. In addition, voters ages 18 to 29 were the only age group to show increased turnout between 2012 (45 percent) and 2016 (46.1 percent), an increase of 1.1 percen. All older age groups either reported small, yet statistically significant turnout decreases or turnout rates not statistically different from 2012.

Casual observers of the election assumed that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has the Latino vote locked down due to her competitor’s racist comments about Mexicans. Polls certainly indicate a strong dislike for Republican candidate Donald Trump among Latinos, but that does not necessarily translate into support for Clinton. Latinos did tend to lean Democratic and they seemed to favor Clinton heavily over Trump. According to one survey, some 58 percent supported Clinton compared to 19 percent for Trump.

Many elections experts tried to decipher Donald Trump's surprising presidential victory November 09, 2016 that defied most poll projections as he chalked up wins in states that had favored Democrats in past elections. Trump's strong performance in rural America was enough to offset the heavy turnout among urban voters who cast ballots for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The pulbic opinion polls in key swing states the Republican presidential candidate won — such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — were particularly inaccurate.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research, which represents polling professionals, is at a loss over how most polls miscalculated the election results. "It looks like a fairly serious miss on the part of the industry and nobody's really sure yet what happened," said association President Roger Tourangeau in an interview with VOA November 09, 2016.

Most pollsters underestimated the nationwide vote, and in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio by 2 to 4 percentage points, according to Pennsylvania State University polling expert Eric Plutzer. He said those polling results appear to be outside the traditional bounds of margin of error.

Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump was officially elected as the 45th US president December 19, 2016, his victory confirmed by the required vote in the Electoral College. With all states reporting, Trump won 304 votes while Clinton received 227. The other seven electors voted for someone other than their party's nominee.

U.S. presidential elections are contested separately in each of the 50 states with the winner in each state getting all of that state’s Electoral College votes. Those, in turn, are apportioned roughly according to the population of each state, giving the most populous states a huge say in who becomes president.

Die-hard supporters of his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, had demanded that Trump-pledged electors drop their support of him, on grounds that Clinton won nearly 2.9 million more votes than him. Trump won, sometimes narrowly, where it mattered, in 31 of the 50 state contests, to claim the Electoral College majority. It is the fifth time in U.S. history, and the second in the past 16 years, that the popular vote winner did not win the all-important Electoral College vote.

Of the more than 120 million votes cast in the 2016 election, 107,000 votes in three states effectively decided the election. Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania account for 46 electoral votes. If Clinton had won these states, she could have sealed the presidency with 274 total electoral votes. Trump won the popular vote there by the combined amount of 107,000 votes.

Many reasons were put forward for why the left should participate in Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination: he can win, his candidacy can pull the political debate to the left, it’s a chance to talk socialism with millions of Americans, it can build left organization and capacity. Sanders dropped the flawed idea of community policing and calls for addressing mass incarceration, mandatory minimum sentences, drug policy, the militarization of police, and use-of-force policy.

After 2016 Sanders did not hand over his organization with its valuable lists and apparatus to the left. Past experience — Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action — showed candidates keep control over their organization. Even Ralph Nader’s presidential bid in 2000 under the Green Party banner failed to benefit the Greens despite the 2.9 million votes he won.

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 21:50:57 ZULU