Vox recently published a mealy mouthed article on voting reform that explains why election day is on Tuesday. It is interesting to hear some reasons why election day is on a certain day, but the actual problem is that the U.S. continues to have electoral and voting systems that are clearly substandard on purpose. In short, this is not a technocratic problem whereby the U.S. is stuck with an artifact from a previous era for archaic reasons; it’s that there are dedicated and pervasive efforts to prop up the current inadequate and inequitable system because its failings benefit the rich and powerful.
I wrote this article in April (the headline was not my choice), which gave examples as to why there is little support from rich and powerful people to make voting easier. I also made the point that the same people surround notions of “democracy” with grandiose terms in order to give the U.S.’s real, undemocratic institutions cover. I noted that voting — a rather inconsequential act, especially considering the way the system is set up — is often described as an important duty (or even the most important duty, as President Obama has said) that a citizen has. This sentiment and the political cover therefrom are essential to legitimizing not only the general election but also the primary and caucus process (which Vox neglects to mention at all, and which is a huge part of the problem too). It’s also a small part of a large apparatus that works to instill these ideas into people year-round but which kicks into high gear every four years.
Evidence of these sentiments are found in the Vote to Count campaign, which contends that “[o]nly one label counts,” i.e. it only matters that you vote, not who or what you vote for, nor if you express yourself politically in other ways (or by not voting at all). This is doubly ironic in the context of the 2016 presidential election: liberals work themselves up into a frenzy advocating opposition to Donald Trump and what he represents but they also encourage everyone to vote, even racists or xenophobes that support Donald Trump and who liberals find unconscionable.
The U.S. is not the only place where voting and electoral systems are purposefully made (or remain) undemocratic. There are a few noteworthy additions to be made to those listed in my original article. In Canada, liberal darling Justin Trudeau has backed away from a pledge to pursue electoral reform ostensibly because his party is the beneficiary of the current system, for now. Around the world, imperialism, often under the guise of democracy or human rights but still quite blatantly, is used to rig elections or topple democratically elected governments. For example, recently unearthed audio recordings from 2006 show then aspiring-Senator Clinton lamenting that the U.S. did not rig Palestinian elections in order to guarantee a more favorable outcome. (The main takeaway from this revelation should be that when in a position of power, Clinton is able to act on her odious beliefs.)
Pertinent to the 2016 election, Democrats (and especially Clinton) have little firm ground to stand on when fighting back against Trump’s “rigged” rhetoric. He is right that these elections are rigged, although for the wrong reasons. And the apparatus that ensures that the electoral and voting systems stay rigged should demonstrate the bankruptcy of liberalism and neoliberalism; instead, they shore up the institutional structures and ideas that allow candidates like Hillary Clinton to succeed, at least for now.
Image via starmonkeybrass on flickr.