The Presidential election is upon us, with election day on Tuesday. Both Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald J Trump are making their last pitches to voters in battleground states. If you have been anywhere near social media you can see partisans for both sides demand people vote for their candidate. This discussion includes a dollop of voter shaming for those who have chosen to make public they are voting for a third party. So first let me address this, then polls and then the only route, as unlikely as it is, that Trump could win.
Voter shaming reflects a lack of knowledge of how the political system works. No, a vote for Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson is not a vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. It is a vote for either Johnson or Stein. Functionally what both minor parties are looking for is at least 5 percent fo the popular vote. This would grant them matching federal funds, in the amount of about $10 million dollars, for the 2020 cycle. No Green or Libertarian in their right mind sees this election as something they can win. Neither of them has a viable route to 270 electoral votes. Johnson might have a chance of taking a small state, and even that, with polls tightening has evaporated.
The vote shaming has to stop. It is not helping and it is making people who already decided to vote for a third party dig their heels. People are not going to change their vote this late in the game because you try to scare them about a Clinton or Trump presidency. It is that simple.
It also betrays a certain level of insecurity from hyper partisans on both sides. Are you that desperate for somebody else’s vote, that you are trying to manipulate them emotionally and make them do something out of fear? These are fear tactics, and also tell me that this voter is not aware of the role of third parties in United States history. The country has had 6 mature political systems, where there was a level of predictability to the system. Three of them involved the replacement of a majority party by another majority party. The last time that happened was in 1852, when the Whigs started their final collapse and the Republicans started their ascent. The election of 1860 was a Republican victory. A new party went from newly formed to the Presidency in the course of two electoral cycles. The way things work these days that would be very difficult, but not impossible.
Third parties have also played critical roles in things like the 40 hour week, and anti trust laws. The Socialist played a critical role in convincing Democrats to enact the New Deal legislation when they polled at about 5 percent of the popular vote in 1932. There were other conditions on the ground that made this almost inevitable, but that played a role. It is important to understand how we got to this point, so we will offer a historical overview.
Political Evolution in the United States
The United Stares has had six distinct periods in how politics works. The first was right after the revolution, all the way to 1824.This is the time when the proto democratic party came to be. It was a period where parties came and went. The Founding Fathers did not foresee factions, and they saw them as rather toxic, but humans being what they are, they formed them.
The age of Jackson saw the expansion of the franchise, and a quickening of communications. This expansion included only white men, who did not necessarily own land. For the era it was a revolutionary change, but one that allowed more people to vote. It also opened the presidential election to more than just the scions who chose a slate to be presented to the Electoral College, which chose the president.
The civil war and it’s aftermath saw two things. The third political system, and the replacement of one party for another as a majority party. It also saw the rise of the telegraph as a dominant technology. This age would have it’s height in the gilded age, with the pressure, at times quite strong, from a third party, the Grangers. They were partly responsible for the anti trust laws passed under Theodore Roosevelt. This third party, together with a slew of workingman parties, put pressure on both Democrats and Republicans alike to allow unions. Both major parties instead, responded to the pressure of moneyed interests.
TR and his progressive ideology, that spanned both parties, was the starting of a rebellion against the strictures of the gilded age.
The New Deal was the 5th political system. This is a time where egalitarianism started to rise. Americans saw the rise of a very strong labor movement, and this was brought about partly, by again pressures from third parties. The technology that dominated and quickened politics was two fold. The first was radio, the second was the airplane.
Lyndon Baines Johnson inaugurated the 6th age, with civil rights legislation, This one is stark since it also started the road towards two parties that are very different. Democrats and Republicans started to separate ideologically, with many conservative democrats becoming republicans. The technology of the age was television.
Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were masters of the medium and were able to become great communicators. Clinton saw a challenge from Ross Perot, who started to raise the alarm about free trade agreements. He did not win, but his warnings have remained.
We are now in the seventh political system, dominated by the internet. Social media has become the means of communications of this new age. As to the stability between the two majority parties, it is not clear. Small parties are putting undue pressure on the system, since we are living through an age when both majority parties work for the money makers of their age, just like the Gilded Age. At the top level of policy making, we have become an oligarchy, like the 1880s and 90s.
We have the added element of climate change, which risks human survival and permanence on the planet. The fact that this issue did not come in the debates should raise alarms from men and women of good conscience.
This brings us back to vote shaming. The only way I can understand this is a certain level of panic or insecurity settling in among the rank and file of both majority parties. Nothing in law says that either, or both parties, have to remain as the majority parties in the United States. We are at the beginning of a different cycle in United States political history, in some ways not unlike that of the late 19th century, which mind you, led to the Great Depression of 1929 and the large changes of the mid 20th century. One of the engines of that change is back with us. This is income inequality and insecurity among the working classes.
The Polls…and Tuesday
Democrats have a blue wall of states that have voted for them since 1994. Anybody savvy enough knows that this places the democratic floor in any election at 244 electoral votes. Secretary Clinton has led every national poll since the general election save one. This was right after the Republican convention in Cleveland, when Trump actually led for one poll. This should not have surprised any observer.
She still leads in most battleground states, where the election will be decided. It will be close though. The issue of trust has pursued her, rightly or wrongly, and has not gone away. We at Reporting San Diego can see this as close as 290+ electoral votes. She needs 270 to win. If it is this close, she will not be able to claim a mandate, though in the world of politics that does not mean she will not do so.
By the time polls close in California we expect her to have gathered the necessary 270 electoral votes and be declared the winner.
Trump: A Narrow Path to Victory
This does not mean that Trump does not have a road to victory, as narrow as it is. We wrote in December of 2015 the following:
Government is so broken that we cannot trust it to the professional politicians. This is where Donald Trump enters the picture. His campaign has been a pure exercise in a rejection of establishment politics. He is doing well in the polls, and we expect him to do well in the coming primary season. His is also the end result of this nihilist ideology that has been lapped up by many in his base.
It first made an obvious appearance in it’s modern form with the Tea Party activists, and their campaign against Obama Care. Some refrains often heard at tea Party Rallies were things like “keep the government out of my Medicare.” (Did somebody forget to point out to these people that Medicare is a government program, but I digress…)
Trump represents the end result of more than a generation of a rejection of democracy and government. Voting rates in the United States are extremely low. According to Pew they were at almost fifty four percent in 2012. For comparison Mexico was at sixty three percent and Canada at fifty four percent. While the Canadians are doing better, the top country in developed economies was Belgium, with a voting rate of eighty nine percent.
We are not prophets of seers. Trust me, I have yet to win the lottery, so don’t ask for the numbers. But the process that has brought us to this point goes straight through the rust belt and the North American Free Trade Agreement. This process is not new, and it started to be obvious to President Jimmy Carter in 1979. He spoke in a famous speech about the lack of trust in big government and democracy.
I know, of course, being president, that government actions and legislation can be very important. That’s why I’ve worked hard to put my campaign promises into law — and I have to admit, with just mixed success. But after listening to the American people I have been reminded again that all the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America. So, I want to speak to you first tonight about a subject even more serious than energy or inflation. I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy.
I do not mean our political and civil liberties. They will endure. And I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might.
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
That speech seems prophetic 40 years on. Yet, the crisis he spoke off the leading edges were visible then. They were in government statistics, and income figures. These days we know that people in the rust belt have lost jobs and life expectancy among whites is on the way down. People feel dispirited and they will vote their perceived interests.
The future prospects of children having a better life than their parents has also been shattered. So yes, there is a way for Trump to win, though it is distant even now. He needs to flip states like Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, preferably both. He has been spending a lot of time in those states, and many who will vote for Trump are not voting for him because he is a white nationalist endorsed by the Klu Klux Khan, an endorsement the campaign rejected for the record.
Nor are they voting for him because they are members of the Alt Right. They are voting for him for very rational reasons. They see him as the voice to their grievances when it comes to Washington. In some cases (more than what hyper partisan democrats will admit by the way), they are voting because quite frankly they cannot vote for her. They are not with her in any way, shape or form, and they do not remember the 1990s fondly.
There is another reason why Democrats feel some panic. Part of that firewall, in yes, places like Pennsylvania, is the black vote. In 2008 and 2012 that demographic came out in very large numbers. They are not that into her from early voting data, and we personally have to wonder if the hyper predator language of the 1990s finally filtered down? Democrats are trying to shore up Latino votes in Nevada and Arizona, two states that lean republican, or have voted republican for over a generation.
Are You Endorsing?
No. Who you vote for is your business, and it is between you and your ballot. It is none of our business to tell you who to vote for. Our business is to explain. This year we understand the choice is especially hard for many voters. We also know many voters are with her, because they cannot stand him. In other words, most voters that we have spoken with, and polls do reflect this incidentally, are not voting for a candidate, but against the other candidate. We suspect this will be a historic election, not because two women are on two different ballots (Jill Stein tops the Green Party ticket), and one will likely be elected, but because it is a threshold point in American history.
This article was originally published on reportingsandiego.com on August 16,2016. It is being republished with the permission of the writer Nadina Abbott and the publisher Reportings Sandiego.