Artwork by Eli Canter
This year’s presidential election has revealed a lot about America. Looking at the left end of the spectrum, it has revealed that the progressive movement is stronger than ever, and that a significant amount of Americans still desire liberal ideas, like healthcare and educational reform. On the right, it has revealed a deepseated anger against the advent of so called “PC culture” and continuing illegal immigration from Latin America. These are all very different things, but one similarity between both sides of the political spectrum that this election has revealed is an anger towards politicians who people feel have failed to represent them. And politicians have failed to represent their constituents. A study by Princeton University stated that America is now a democracy dominated by the super-rich. In other words, America displays characteristics similar to an oligarchy, valuing the interests of the few over the many. The only reason this continues is because of how politicians work to ignore the will of voters in both parties.
The clearest indicator of this apathy of what voters care about in the Democratic Party is the nomination of Hillary Clinton. That isn’t to say that people don’t like Clinton, because they’ve shown they do. It’s the corrupt process by which Clinton will likely be nominated. Allegations of voter fraud by state parties during the Democratic primaries have popped up in a significant number of states. The most notable examples were in Arizona, where large numbers of voter’s party registrations were changed just before the state’s election, and in our own state of New York, where hundreds of thousands of voters were simply deleted from registration lists in Brooklyn and the Bronx. The state parties in Pennsylvania and other states sent sample ballots to party members listing Hillary Clinton as the candidate they should vote for. Clearly the Democratic Party or at least its state branches, not only favored a candidate when they should’ve been unbiased but went around the rules to get said candidate elected. By doing this the party has alienated large swathes of its own voters who support Sanders instead.
The anti-democratic practices of the Democratic Party are not a reason to vote for Trump, since the Republican Party is no better. Polls have shown that the majority of Americans have liberal beliefs that align more with Democrats than Republicans. So why do Republicans currently hold a majority in both houses of congress? The answers are gerrymandered districts and restrictive voter ID laws. Congressional districts are created by state legislatures, and Republicans take full advantage of holding more of them than Democrats by creating districts so that there is a majority of Republican voters in each district. This ensures that Republicans will win congressional seats. Democrats do this too, but since Republicans have more state houses, they benefit much more from it. Republican s also support stringent Voter ID laws; these laws require that voters have IDs to vote, or in some cases require voters to get their IDs certified to vote. This would be fine if voter fraud was a real issue and everyone had IDs, but over 11% of voting age Americans, or 21 million people, lack IDs, and voter fraud isn’t even a proven problem. Finally, Republicans have also had a undemocratic primary season, although they weren’t able to stop their populist insurgency. Multiple states in the Republican primaries, like Colorado, don’t even take primaries into account. Mathematicians also discovered irregularities in nonpresidential Republican primaries showing that elections were being artificially skewed towards establishment candidates.
In many ways, this election is a referendum. On major issues like immigration, gun control, and climate change, the results of this election will make or break the hopes of millions of Americans. But neither leading candidate for president has said much on voting issues. If America wants to continue being a true republic, where elected government officials represent the actual views of their constituents, we need significant reforms. While this isn’t necessarily a pro-Bernie article, he does happen to be the only candidate with a focus on this issue. Overturning the Citizens United court decision that allows wealthy individuals and corporations to essentially buy elections and doing away with restrictive voter id laws are two steps that Bernie champions to restore democracy. But more needs to be done.
We need a federal holiday for all state and national elections to ensure that everyone, even the most overworked, can vote. We need every voter to be automatically registered, to prevent people losing their vote because they failed to meet absurdly early registration deadlines. And finally, we need bipartisan committees to draw congressional districts, to prevent congressional races from being decided before they even begin.
Regardless of whatever other positions a voter may have, being able to vote and having your vote count is something everybody can and must get behind, if America is to remain a democracy.
By Sam Mollin