Dear US-Americans, cut out the middlemen, would ya?

While all the — hopefully embarrassed — pundits and other experts, including the statisticians that produced such an epic fail with their forecasts, are weaning themselves to the notion of President Trump, the press coverage fails — yet again — to make note of the actual scandal.

Trump was right. The election was rigged. Of course now that he won — by electoral votes — he wouldn’t want to stress that point to much, would he?

Let me introduce you to an Ancient Greek word: δῆμος1. It means people as well as some other things. This word forms one of the parts of the word δημοκρατία, the word which in IPA notation would be /dɛː.mo.kra.tí.aː/. I guess you see where this is going, the word that in English is democracy. It hails from Ancient Greece and Ancient Greek.

Now let me introduce you to another word, this time from Latin: populus. It means the same, people, just in another language. In fact the heritage of the word people directly traces back to it, as does the heritage of the English word popular.

So if δῆμος and populus mean the same and δῆμος is one of the defining compounds of the word democracy, one could say that the popular vote should probably play a rather important role in the self-proclaimed world’s greatest democracy.

Now, it has been repeated ad nauseam how important a concept democracy is to the US society during election coverage. Well well, then how comes that — again — just like in 2000 the popular vote and the electoral vote diverge so much?

If the idea behind democracy in the US is to represent the will of the people, it stands to reason that the votes of the electoral college should reflect the will of the people. And by that, I mean that it should proportionately represent the votes cast by the sovereign, the US citizens2. Or better yet, cut the crap, let’s cut out the middlemen altogether, shall we?

Given its background, I would have expected the so-called black3 or in US-American PC lingo African American4 community to rise up and point out the outrageous background of it. In the words of James Madison:

There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.

Don’t get me wrong. In Germany we also have the Bundestagswahl, the election of the Bundestag members. And the Bundestag is our parliament, so that makes it parliamentary elections. The Bundestag then gets to elect the Bundeskanzler. Pretty much the way your Congress gets to elect the POTUS.

Can you tell the difference? If you make it seem like the people get to vote for the president, not for a body of people that then actually get to elect the president, then the outcome shouldn’t be something like in the 2000 elections — leaving all the dirty tricks out of the discussion — when Al Gore led by more than half a million votes in the popular vote (50,999,897/50,456,002 = 48.4%/47.9%), yet lost the electoral vote with 266 to 271. But it is. Right now projections show a lead for Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, but a big margin for Donald Trump in the electoral vote. This means that a lot of people aren’t represented. Of course I hope that those don’t pay any taxes either, because: no taxation without representation.

This graphical representation of a projection (!) by the New York Times from 19:31 UTC brings home that point remarkably well:

It’s a mystery to me how in times when you can easily visit New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles in one day, you put up with this rigged system. Because Trump was right about that part. The election is rigged and it has been ever since the 18th century. Only, at least since the 1980s or so it would have been possible and practical to have a direct popular vote for the presidential election, just as is suggested all the time in media coverage.

Oh by the way. Germany has its own fucked up system, too. We have Überhangmandate, which are totally undemocratic, we have Fraktionszwang5 and we have the 5%-Hürde, a threshold which prevents parties not reaching 5% of the “overall” vote from getting seats in the parliament — regularly cutting out well over 10% of cast votes from the parliament. We call that — try not to smirk! — representative democracy. So don’t get me wrong, I do know that Germany has its own bunch of homework to do. However, Germany doesn’t generally boast about being the greatest democracy on the international stage and – without NATO – also wouldn’t generally pretend to spread democracy in the world6.

And on another note. Unlike many of my fellow Germans, I am not sure that Hillary Clinton would have been the better choice. So my argument above gives little indication about my allegiance. In fact I think that the US voters were indeed given the choice to vote for the lesser of two remarkably big evils7.

With Clinton the probability of her pushing — unilaterally — for a no-fly zone in Syria would have become a near certainty, thereby causing a standoff between NATO and Russia/Syria which could easily have spun out of control and turned into a nuclear war.

So the choice really was between a trigger-happy choleric President Trump who can’t be trusted with his Twitter account but gets the nuclear launch codes anyway, or the slightly psychopathic and very hawkish Hillary Clinton who would have been more calculating in certain affairs, but would still have risked a standoff with the “regional”8 nuclear power Russia.

The options for the voters all sucked and the elections were rigged. But the elections being rigged is just one instance of the election system being rigged and fundamentally undemocratic — at least as long as you pretend that US citizens get to elect their president. Which they currently don’t. And by the way, stop calling Trump the elected President. You can do that after his actual election. He’s the President elect, or President about to be elected, but he hasn’t been elected just yet. Because if the President were elected already, the President would be Hillary Clinton as it would mean that the popular vote had been the deciding one.

Make America (the) great(est democracy of the world) again!

// Oliver

PS: If Trump is the outsider he claims to be and if he’ll get the power he thinks he’ll wield, he might actually attempt to do away with this stupid electoral system. On the other hand how likely is that? And also, could he do it legally without Congress?

  1. dêmos, “common people”, “assembly of the people” []
  2. let’s generously ignore the problem of DC, US territories and such []
  3. so-called, because in fact the majority of Americans with African ancestry are anything but black, they’re usually simply brown in various shades []
  4. probably the number of citizens that actually hail from Africa and haven’t been US citizens for several generations among this community is rather low []
  5. a system by which members of a particular faction in the parliament are forced to vote along with their fellow faction members on certain decisions []
  6. and ignore the failures in doing so; instead we opted to ignore your failures in doing so and be a good BFF []
  7. … oh, and some others, but who votes for those mavericks anyway, eh? Libertarian party? Heck, that sounds so liberal. []
  8. Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama claimed that []
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