I don’t normally touch on politics here. It’s not usually the place. But the US elections are nearly as big as the Olympics now and if you live in a country with electricity, then you can’t ignore the vote that’s happening in the US, starting later today.
I don’t want to get into the whole Red vs Blue thing here (so don’t!) but the polls are said to be very, very close. In fact, we could end up with another 2000 scenario where the guy who gets the most votes doesn’t win the prize.
Rather than talk about the candidates, I thought I’d ask about the system.
The system, in this case, means the electoral college system. Those unfamiliar with that system should check out the link but in basic terms, it gives states a say in who gets elected based on a proportional allocation of votes. States with a small population get a small say. Big states get a big say.
Coverage here in Australia has included some history on the electoral college system. I don’t know if they got it right, but they say the founding fathers in the US set it up that way because they didn’t really trust the people to make a sound decision directly. So they set up the college system so that representatives of the people would cast their state’s votes according to the people’s wishes.
In my mind, the guy who wins the most votes should win the job.
The college model seems to make it easy for candidates to forget about certain states and only spend time in ‘swing states’ trying to win votes. It’s an insult to both swing and non-swing states to have these guys either paying them extra-special attention or no attention at all.
Here in Australia, things are different (and not in a good way).
We don’t have a President. We’re still tied to the empire’s apron strings and can’t trust ourselves to have an Australian head of state. (Our last referendum on the issue was in 1999 and was soundly defeated).
Instead, we have a Prime Minister but we don’t get to vote directly for that person. At least in the USA you get to vote for the leadership candidates through the primary system. In Australia, we vote for our local member to represent us in the parliament, a person who is usually aligned to a party. The party with the most seats in the lower house gets to form government. Before all this happens, however, the party elects the leader, who’ll be the public face of the party machine both during the election and, of course, in either government or opposition.
One of the elements of this system that’s caused a lot of frustration here in Australia is that the parties are allowed to change leaders at any time. In 2007, Australians voted in huge numbers for the Labor Party under the leadership of a guy named Kevin Rudd. Mr Rudd’s Labor colleagues got sick of him, his abrasive manner and tireless work ethic, and after a few years and they ousted him and installed our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. To have a sitting Prime Minister with a huge mandate cut off at the knees didn’t go down well and Labor has been struggling ever since, currently presiding over a venomous hung parliament.
I don’t know if there’ll be an appetite for another referendum here in Australia about becoming a republic. If there was, and if it was successful, then I’d like to be able to vote directly for the person who’s going to be leading the country.
On the eve of a US election where the popular winner might be the presidential loser, would such a system serve the US better as well?
Wouldn’t it be better to make these people work for every vote, not just votes in the swing states? Wouldn’t it be better if a republican vote in New York was worth the same as a democrat vote there? If a democrat vote in Texas carried the same weight as a republican vote in California? Isn’t that the way it should be – earn every vote.
If I were the almighty, I’d also put a complete ban on political advertising on television. There are enough ways to communicate with people in 2012 that you can leave one medium alone.
But that’s another matter.
Feel free to discuss.
But remember, we’re talking about the system, not the candidates here. I have friends on both sides of the political fence and I don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable or agitated discussing this. I don’t care what side of the fence people are on.
I’m just interested in whether the system is broken and whether there’s a better way.