Elections in America
Author: Robleh Wais
The American Election System
I have never voted for any candidate running for political office in my life.' I am not ashamed of this, or even mildly troubled at not having participated in elections.' Friends and acquaintances of mine have repeated to me an illogical adage so many times during election seasons, I want to examine the process. The adage is this: If you don't vote in an election then once a candidate not to your liking is put into office, you don't have the right to complain. I consider this a classic non-sequitur fallacy. But, it is not the fallacy that motivates me to write about the process of electing politicians in this country, it's the system itself. Let us go through the process and roots in European political philosophy in brief, and then take a look at the real system in action today.
Elections in America are defined to be a part of the democratic process whereby the populace through voting elects a representative or representatives that can exercise political powers that no individual in the electorate can. This process has some elements of a contest in which candidates compete to win the right to govern the populace. It is envisioned as democratic because the candidate with the majority of votes gains the right to govern. Embedded in this idea, is the Rationalist philosophers of 18th century Europe's notion of consent to govern.That is, the voters by participating in this process hand over to the winner or winners of the election the right to rule them in many aspects of their lives. In contradistinction to the monarchical view of the a royal family or body that imposes its right to rule (absolute monarchy) or imposes its right to rule with the consent of the people (limited monarchy), voting acclaims the right of the people to rule themselves by proxy through voting. We are all familiar with this idea, perhaps not formally, but in a common sense manner, we know voters elect leaders. The modern evolution of this philosophy has some interesting additions worthy of noting. In America, to vote you have to be registered with an agency of the government that empowers it to authorize you to vote.You have to be a citizen of the U.S. of a certain age. You can't be coerced to vote, and you can't make others vote. The need to qualify to vote is designed to prevent corruption of the process by fraudulent voters. For instance, the imprisoned lose the right to vote. Likewise, a candidate for political office can't be an alien or a felon. And there is a laundry list of other enhancements to this electoral system we won't enumerate. There is a great detail of political history that we could consider about how it evolved and was changed over time. My intent is to show how it has been corrupted in America, not write a long tract about all the twists and turns in the electoral system in this country.
This system prima facie, seems to be an idealistic embodiment of the idea of let the people rule. No more sovereigns and royal families lauding it over the lowly common people. But it is not, at least here and now in America. It was and is a system that from its start was ripe for corruption and robbing the people of the right to rule themselves.
The Corruption of the System
Consider this: to run for office in the U.S. today on any level it takes money and a lot of it too. If you want to be elected, you have to raise money to advertise, to attract support, to campaign before the public, to administer various phases of your bid for election and put in place your administration if elected. It is true that some public funds are available to candidates that run for office, but this money is woefully small compared to those with commercial sponsors. It is obvious to anyone that has watched an election process in the U.S. the likely candidates to be elected have substantial money from wealthy sources behind them. With this said isn't it clear the process is not fair?But worse than that, the public is given a group of possible rulers-to-be all of whom are in some way tainted by their association with interested parties that have their own agenda.They are called lobbyists in Washington. They can be as large as a multinational corporation or as small the rich realtor in your hometown. Whoever runs for office is constrained by whoever backs the candidate. The stronger word is controlled. The candidate once in office is controlled by his/her financiers and does their bidding not the voters. This in turn means that the electorate is not choosing from men and women that are free to represent them in the political arena where laws, economic decisions, social services, scientific research, drug patenting, and other aspects of life are concerned.They are voting for a cast of characters all of whom have a hidden agenda based on who their monetary masters might be. Let's backtrack to the notion outlined previously.The public gives up its right to rule itself, by handing it over to qualified candidates for political office, right?If these rulers-to-be are themselves controlled by a faceless, hidden group of rich conspirators, then the public is handing over its right to rule itself to another group of men and women.
This is happening continuously in America. Private persons are running the country through the election process and the public remains relatively unaware of it. And it gets worse. Once in office, the new political leader has powers that go way beyond what he or she had while vying for office. A President, for instance can appoint un-elected persons to control the economy, like the head of the Federal Reserve. Or the President can appoint legal authorities to the Supreme Court that can affect the public in untold harmful ways. Where is the consent to govern in that? This is much more like a King/Queen designating his/her disciples to administer to the public.
The Reason to Not Vote
Ill make a simple analogy though, I usually don't like oversimplification.If you are given a cast of characters to choose from as in an election, and you know they all have monetary strings attached, would you consider this a free and fair election? Going further, if you knew that some candidates had to drop out due to lack of funds or never got in the race because he/she didn't have enough money would you still think of this as free and fair process? Most telling of all: Would think: Well, I still have to cast my vote because to not participate would be agreeing to rule without my consent? The last statement is the most absurd of all. To vote just because you're given the right to vote for a group of corrupt candidates is the same as saying I want to be ruled by criminals. In that case, abstaining from voting is expressing your dissent. If the choices you are given to rule you and your community are vitiated then DON'T vote is the rational conclusion.
But, the voting public in America never seems to see this conclusion. And the reasons for this are many. In the main, it is the conditioning propaganda of the media in this country. The electorate is duped into believing that the American electoral system is clean. It has not been tampered with, manipulated and corrupted. God no, not in this nation of progressive, free-thinking, generous and forward-looking people? Can you taste my scorn? And a bit of theater is added by the press. The press rails about autocratic regimes around the world. Some anchorman on TV explains the public is given a choice of dictatorial leaders to elect and deplores these nations for their lack of democracy. Yet, here in the land of the free and brave, a much larger travesty of equanimity is on display.
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