This article is written by David Smith, an American citizen living in Trondheim, Norway.
Dear fellow Norwegians,
We know you’re thinking: “Hey America, WTF?!?!”
As the most powerful nation in the world gets ready to elect a new president, it seems as though almost everyone around the globe is asking themselves the same question, “How did you get stuck with these two choices?”
Believe me, we’re all thinking the same thing. With Nov 8 just around the corner, this nightmare of an election doesn’t seem to be getting any better. So, before we learn which one of these two sub-optimal candidates will be our next commander-in-chief, I’d like to explain just a bit about a few of the major problems that we face in this election.
But first, a bit of honest background. I studied Political Science for 4 years in college. In my first Political Science class, my teacher gave us this speech “Welcome to the field of political science. There are two things you need to know. 1) All two-party systems are bound to fail because they either completely polarize and people hate each other, or because the parties come to the center to get the most votes and you end up with revolution due to lack of options. 2) America always has been and always will be a two-party system due to the electoral college, special interest groups, wealthy donors, and the way our entire federal system is set up. So, you have 4 years here to figure out how to fix it…”
Needless to say, the future of America’s leadership and foreign influence have never looked quite as questionable as they do now. So, I’d like to take a really quick peek into why that is.
1. We DO want more political parties.
According to Gallup, “A majority of Americans, 60%, say a third major political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic parties “do such a poor job” of representing the American people.” We would looooove to have more options… but due to a variety of factors, including the electoral college and funding issues, it will likely be quite a while before we have a viable third party. However, we’re keeping our fingers crossed just as much as you are. I think that right about now, most Americans would love to see a strong and viable third-party candidate. We’re just not there quite yet.
2. The electoral college is a mess.
How is it possible that someone can win an overwhelming majority of the popular vote and still not become the elected president? Well, we don’t really get it either, to be honest. This has actually happened 4 times since 1824. I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of why the electoral college exists, but here’s an article from Stanford University that will explain more about why it was originally created. The Cliff’s Notes version is that it was established to prevent tyranny but since this eliminates the concept of “one person – one vote”, it’s about time that it should be removed.
3. What the hell are Superdelegates?
The truth is, few of us really understand this concept anyway. Basically, superdelegates are “more important” members of the Democratic Party who each get their own vote for presidential nominee. As opposed to normal delegates, superdelegates can vote for whomever they like. I know, this doesn’t make much sense, but basically they’re people with a lot of voting power who get to do whatever the hell they want because the Democratic Party sees them as “extra important” and as a result, the power of their votes can sway a primary election.
4. Not enough people vote.
Due to many of the reasons above, plus that fact that most Americans just don’t understand our complicated political system, average voter turnout is just over half (54%) in the United States, as opposed to an average turnout of 78% in Norway, according to Pew Research. Many don’t understand our complex political system, many feel their vote doesn’t count anyway due to the electoral college, and many are just plain apathetic or lazy. As a result, the health of our democracy suffers, as is evident by our recent presidential candidates.
5. Hillary Clinton… Criminal?
I will not go in-depth about my personal opinions on either candidate because… well, who the hell cares? However, it’s clear that even though Clinton is the front-runner she’s under intense scrutiny. There’s the email controversy, the private server, Benghazi, pay-to-play schemes, questions about the Clinton Foundation, health issues, and plenty more. In any other election, she wouldn’t stand a chance.
However, in this one, she seems to be ahead. The majority of people who are voting for Hillary are not doing so because she’s their first choice, but rather because, well, she’s not Trump and they will do anything to keep Trump from getting elected. Hillary, even with all of her ethical problems, is seen to be the more stable and predictable of the two choices. Whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen.
6. Donald Trump… Well, he’s Trump.
Oh, where to begin with this guy? When Trump decided to run for president, everyone thought it was a joke. But, as dissent and division spread across the Republican party, Trump slowly gained momentum and to the amazement of pretty much everyone managed to grab the Republican nomination. He’s a dirty, filthy, sleazy crook who lacks respect for women, has crazy ideas like getting Mexico to pay for a wall to keep Mexicans out of the US and the list goes on and on.
The majority of folks voting for Trump are not doing so because he’s their first choice, but mostly because he’s not part of the political elite who have landed us in this quagmire of a mess that we are currently in. Voting for Trump is definitely a wild card, but as of now, about half of America to think that the wild card is the best bet.
7. We don’t actually all hate each other.
Modern media has made it so that the .05% of absolutely crazy people on the left or right now have a megaphone to spread their crazy across the interwebs, often spreading hate and negativity with it. For the huge majority of Americans, we actually do respect the choices of our fellow countrymen to exercise their right to vote for whomever they wish… because that’s what democracy and freedom are all about.
However, thanks biased “news” outlets and the rise of social media, the US sometimes appears as though it’s about to break apart at the seams. This is not true. We are all still countrymen, we still love each other and the majority of us just want the same basic goals: a strong economy, a political system that works, good foreign relations, and lots of job creation. So, regardless of how things may appear on the internet or news, we do not actually hate each other.
8. We want this all to be over just as much as you do.
Over the past year, we’ve patiently done our best to answer all of your questions about who we’re voting for and why. We’ve tried explaining American politics, defense policy, economics, history, government structure, and plenty of other topics that we’re not really experts on. We’re as lost as you are with what the hell happened this year and we just want this to be over. America is not going to collapse regardless of whether Trump or Clinton are elected. It will not be as bad as what everyone seems to think because at the end of the day, the people who drive policy behind the scenes are still strong, intelligent and capable people.
The bottom line is that regardless of who gets elected, America will remain strong. I hope this is a wake-up call to those in government that transparency and accountability are key components to any democracy and that we will begin to have a wider variety of talented and qualified candidates in the political process. I hope my professor was wrong, that all two-party systems are destined to fail, and I do believe that if we can come together again around common goals such as jobs, education, health care and economy, that we will continue to thrive as a nation. However, I am worried about what happens if the division continues to get worse.
Photo credit: Utenriksdepartementet UD