Despite its repeated and resolute claims to being a thriving democracy, the US has never been truly democratic. While the Western superpower does have some features of democracy, so have many authoritarian regimes, such as Azerbaijan, Chad, Russia and Venezuela to name a few.
In my previous article, I discussed how the two domineering political parties enjoy overweening perks and privileges. This two-party duopoly over power undermines democratic ideals. In a supposedly representative democracy, people’s elected officials are supposed to consider people’s ideas, interests, concerns and welfare. Instead, US elected officials are indebted to megadoners who finance their elections. So, they serve those who pay for their election campaigns, not the people who vote for them.
In this article, I shine the light on the problems with the US presidency and why its selection process is affront to democracy. The president is not elected by the popular votes but chosen by electors whose royalties are to the two political parties and not the people.
It is clear, the presidency needs major reforms. The public agrees: in a 2020 Pew survey, two-thirds of American adults took this view.
The US president is chosen by the Electoral College (EC) whose members are chosen by the Democratic and Republican political parties. All other political parties are left out. The EC was not in the 1788 US Constitution, but the concept was ratified in the 12th Amendment under “electors” in 1804. To chiefly address the issues arising from that amendment, the 20th Amendment also known as “Lame Duck Amendment” was ratified 1933. This second amendment let the vice president-elect to rise to presidency if the president-elect dies before taking the office. In case both president and vice president are found unfit, it also gives the US Congress authority to select an acting president until a president or vice president can be selected.
Unfortunately, the 1804 election process is still continuing. The mere fact that Donald Trump became the US president-elect in 2016 despite getting substantially less popular votes than Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that getting the majority of the votes does not matter. To win, a candidate needs a majority in the ED. Trump was chosen to be the US president by the EC whose members’ first loyalty is to the two political parties, which depend on the support from the rich. What is true for Trump is also true for George W. Bush. In 2000, he became president even though Al Gore won more votes.
Given such results, you may even wonder why we have presidential elections. The pseudo-elections remain because the rich, the “deep state,” want them to legitimize the process in the eye of the voters and delude them into thinking they are participating in a democratic process. However, the rich are selective in choosing and financing candidates. To ensure high return on their investments, they seek the candidates based on their charisma and cunning to entertain and excite people. Unfortunately, they do not give much attention to the candidates’ qualifications, experience, expertise, management skills or sometimes even physical and mental health to lead the nation for a better future for all Americans. In recent years, the US has had presidents like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, none of whom had met those requirements.
Increasingly, candidates depend on money to win elections, particularly after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in favor of the rich. In the 2016 elections, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump spent a combined sum of over one billion dollars on their political campaigns. Candidates do not spend such a large sum from their personal funds. They depend on donors to back them. Few Americans donate to political campaigns and less than 1% donate over $200. Thus, the candidates are left at the mercy of the rich.
These elections have degenerated into a celebrity competition. They attract narcissistic individuals who often lack a moral compass. There is no process to filter out undesirable candidates. In fact, the process is so corrupt that political, in particular presidential, candidates feel desperate to win favor from the rich. They even forsake their countries’ interests to please the rich.
Sometimes, one wonders if the candidates are running for elections in another country. In 2007, Joe Biden declared, “I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” He did so to please the Zionist rich after Obama chose Biden as his running mate. As a presidential candidate in 2020, Biden wooed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) by declaring his loyalty to Israel. As president, Trump made Israel the foundation of his foreign policy decisions. He bent over backwards to please Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who backs Israel and Jewish causes. To both Biden and Trump, Israel came first because they needed money from Jewish donors. Like prostitutes, US presidents now serve the highest bidders.
Furthermore, the rich also do not like to see certain citizens participate in these elections. So, they have their lackeys to prevent some territories from becoming states, leaving them out of the elections. According to the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1, much of its population living in Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and other US territories are not qualified to vote in the presidential election. An example is Puerto Rico, which has a population of over 3.2 million, which is greater than any of the 21 states.
Another problem with the 20th Amendment is that it gives authority to the US Congress to elect president or vice president if either of them is found unfit for office. Rather, that election should be left to the people.
Thankfully, Americans are wising up. In 1981, 75% of Americans favored abolishing the EC system. In 1987, the American Bar Association called the EC “archaic” and “ambiguous.”
The US presidency must be democratized. Otherwise, troubles lie ahead. In the long term, such a flawed process to elect presidents will cause a loss of faith in the office and in democracy itself. I recommend three key reforms.
First, the popular ballot must decide who becomes president. The EC must go. That requires amending the 12th Amendment and the 20th Amendment.
Second, the media must provide free “equal air time” for all presidential candidates. This will take away the advantage candidates with more money have in the current process.Third,we must limit contributions from all sources to any candidate. There has to be a cap on the amount individuals can donate and the amount any candidate can raise. That will take away the disproportionate power of the wealthy in deciding US elections and hand back power to the people.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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