With dark clouds gathering Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton look set to be the two presidential nominations. Like the rest of the world I have been watching the race with a kind of suspended belief. Even when states began toppling into the abyss like Eisenhower’s dominoes in an effort to make “America hate/great again”, I still didn´t quite make the connection that this means that the next president will have to be picked from these two rather shaky candidates.
It seems that I’m not the only one. According to a CBS/New York Times poll, Trump and Clinton are the two most negatively viewed candidates since 1984- not because Reagan and Mondale were viewed more negatively, only because CBS began asking the question then. The average citizen in the largest “democracy” on the planet, will go to the polls on a bleak, biting November morning at the end of this year and vote for a candidate that they will most likely not want as their commander-in-chief. The veil of democratic values draped over America is begging to become frayed by the undemocratic process of selecting the next president.
While some states hold primaries to select their nominations, thirteen states still use the caucus system. Unlike the primaries where anyone can vote to choose their next president, caucuses, run by the political parties themselves, allow only party affiliates to vote and voters are required to attend hours long meetings and subject themselves to brain disintegrating propaganda, and at the end whoever´s brains haven´t dribbled out of their ears and down their cheeks are allowed to cast their vote. Of course these meetings are usually held midweek so unsurprisingly turnout from humble working folk remains low, the majority of them will only have the choice of the two nominations on the 8th of November in the general election.
Once the people make their selections- or at least the select few who were available on a Monday night at 7pm- the super-delegates are allowed to make their choice. These are distinguished unelected party leaders who are defrosted once every four years and wheeled out to choose a presidential nomination. Should they decide that the ordinary population have botched the decision and made the wrong choice, they can swing the results to give a nomination to a candidate who didn´t win a majority of the vote.
After the super-delegates have made their choices we have our nominations. The two hopefuls get their names on the ballot sheet and polls open for the public to exercise their right to the greatest freedom of them all, the right to vote. Well, the 68.66 per cent of the population who are eligible. In the land of the free 99.9 million people are not eligible, many of these current or ex felons. Originally put in place before the civil war as a measure to block the African American vote, 12 American states today still have laws banning ex felons from voting. So even if you have been to prison, served your sentence, been released and paid your debt to society, you cannot have a say in the running of the country. It is no coincidence that the most affected by this are ethnic minorities, who are disproportionately represented in the prison population. It´s not all bad though, if you live in Maine or Vermont and find yourself looking down the barrel of a long stretch inside, you will can actually still vote in prison. Maine and Vermont are also coincidentally the whitest states in America with 96.9 per cent and 96.7 per cent of the population describing themselves as white.
The laws regarding disenfranchised Americans prohibited from voting show a worrying bias towards the Republican nominations. In a comprehensive study undertaken by Uggen and Manza for the American Sociological Review they estimate that three quarters of Americans unavailable to vote due to felonies would vote for the Democrat nomination. The implications of this in the 2000 election alone would mean an Al Gore victory by over 1 million votes. It´s no surprise that Republican governed states like Florida and Virginia continue to tighten their voting restrictions for prisoners with felony restrictions- in Florida for instance, violent offenders have to wait seven years after release before they are eligible to vote.
A Trump-Clinton battle for the White House will be a contest like no other, just as the nominations have been unlike no other, not just because of zany toupées, orange glows, or nonsensical policies, but because it is an unpopularity contest and the winner will merely be the least unpopular candidate- chosen by the people who were available on Monday nights, a handful of superdelegates, and those who have unblemished police records.