Narada News Exclusive: This election shows big changes needed in American political system
The American election has been such a nasty, rancorous affair that, like many in the United States and around the world, I thank God we’re within a day of it being over. The hate and divisiveness that the campaign has generated have shaken me to the core — and as a former military officer and war correspondent, I don’t get shaken easily. News coverage indicates that millions of Americans are as unnerved as I am about this fiasco.
That two people who are despised as much as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could end up being the candidates for president has convinced me that the American electoral system is broken, and big changes are needed and likely to come. Here are random thoughts about the surprises I’ve seen in this election, and what they may portend.
First of all, the Trumpeters:
I’ve been amazed that the uneducated whites who are Trump’s base would support him, because what he stands for is against their interests.
Trump has said he would cut taxes for the very richest Americans — the 1 per cent — but has offered no plans for helping the middle class and poor. For example, he has mentioned no job-creation programmes that could help those who are unemployed or underemployed.
He has also said that he backs the continued use of fossil fuels. That is despite the fact that renewable-energy companies are creating some of the best-paying jobs for unskilled workers, and a government that got behind renewables could spur even more of those jobs.
Trump’s anti-free-trade message has resonated with poor whites, who blame their woes partly on trade deals that shipped jobs overseas. But economists say dismantling America’s trade deals with other countries, as Trump wants to do, would hurt more than help the American economy.
You would think that, out of their own self-interest, those supporting Trump would back a candidate who wants to increase taxes on the rich so they can be decreased on the middle class and poor.
And you would think they would want a national job training program and a government commitment to job-creating renewable energy. The only thing I can conclude is that uneducated whites’ support for Trump is visceral rather than rational. Part of it is racist — seeing non-whites surging ahead of them. Part of it is anti-elite, with the main bogeymen being the political elites in Washington. And part of it is plain old misogyny — they don’t want a woman president. On the other side of the coin, many Millennials, the most politically progressive group America has ever produced, are alienated as well.
This group in their 20s and 30s think the Democratic establishment used dirty tricks in the primary-election campaign to rob them of the candidate they wanted: Bernie Sanders. The anger that I’ve heard some of them express runs deep. One Millennial friend told me he’s not voting tomorrow. Trump is too despicable to consider, he said, and a Clinton presidency would be more of the same old politics. What’s really needed, he and other Millennials believe, is someone like Sanders who can really shake up the political system.
Like many Trumpsters, a lot of Millennials have real grievances with the system. They start with huge student loans that Millennials took out to pay for university. The loan payments make it harder to make ends meet, marry, raise a family and buy a home. It’s no wonder that Sanders’ promise to make public-university tuition free resonated with Millennials.
Many Millennial are also irked that they’re finding a scarcity of good-paying jobs once they graduate.
In addition, they want the United States to stay out of war, partly so more money can be spent on Americans’ needs. They fear Mrs. Clinton will get us into additional conflicts. So there’s rancor toward the U.S. political system on both the right and left.
What to do?
The Democrats must revamp their primary-election system to offer a fair chance to popular non-establishment candidates like Sanders. If they don’t, they risk alienating Millennials, America’s largest voting-age bloc and the country’s future.
The Republicans must take whatever steps are necessary to make their party the moderate and progressive force it was under President Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. If they fail to escape the grip of the far-right Tea Party types who have the party by the throat these days, the GOP will die, as the Whig Party did in the mid-19th Century.
Finally, American leaders need to begin thinking about the radical idea of going to a parliamentary-style governing system that allows more political voices to be heard.
The deep anger on both the right and left in the current election campaign reflects the fact that many Americans feel their voices aren’t heard.
A parliamentary system — or a hybrid between the current two-party system and a parliamentary one — would accommodate those of very different political sentiments.
If American leaders fail to make major changes in the political system in the near future, an explosion will occur that will rattle the country’s foundations. The pressure is building in the steam pipe, and the pressure-release valve is broken. It needs to be fixed — and quickly.