Are Clinton and Trump really the best the US can come up with?

The election process will no doubt be entertaining. Trump’s antics and Clinton’s contortions will provide much fodder for fun. But I don’t envy the choice that US electors are facing. Clinton or Trump is not exactly being spoilt for choice. It is not possible to just cry “a plague on both your houses” and abstain. One of them will be the next President. It boils down to a choice between evils.

The US population is now about 320 million.

US voters 2016 - Pew Research

US voters 2016 – Pew Research

In November this year there will be 226 million registered voters (156 million white, 27 million black, 27 million hispanic and 10 million asian). At most there will be a voter turnout of 60% and so the next US President will be declared elected with a vote of around 68 million – which is around 30% of registered voters and just 21% of the US population.

But what is really no great tribute to US democracy in particular, and party democracies in general, is that the voters will have no better choice than to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Is this really the best that 320 million people can come up with? There is increasing interest being shown in a 3rd party candidate, but it is way too little, far too late to have any bearing on the November election.

I am not a US citizen and I don’t have a vote and it shouldn’t really matter to me. But of course the choice of US President affects everybody  – somewhat. US domestic policy affects me primarily through what it means to my friends and relatives living in the US, and through the effect on my own economy (mainly indirectly). US foreign policy will have an undoubted impact on the state of the world and thus – but more tenuously – have some implications for me.

No democracy is perfect. In fact, no democracy anywhere is a “full democracy”. Party democracies really represent party members and are particularly poor at representing the electorate. Even dictators make sure that they are “elected” democratically. All democracies use processes which put in place people who can be “monarchs”, having varying powers, for a time. All ” democratic leaders” are effectively such “monarchs”, elected to exercise their powers, for a time. The closer you get to a “full democracy”, the closer you get to anarchy and the less you have leaders. In many democracies with proportional representation, you no longer have leaders – only followers. You could argue that the current UK government, which is implementing the referendum result for a Brexit, has no need for, and has no, leader. Theresa May is not then a Brexit leader but a Chief Follower.

The democratic nature of political systems, in practice, is established by their process for choosing their “leaders”to stand for election. The long-winded US process for each party choosing a nominee, is more democratic and all-encompassing than most party political processes for choosing representatives. But this process, in the way US democracy works, has thrown up Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. To the dissatisfaction of most.

While I am happy to be entertained by the US election process, I am more than a little disappointed that, no matter what happens, the world is stuck with the fact that one of these unedifying two is going to be the next President.

It is a little bit sad.



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