True or False: The 2016 Election Was an Undemocratic Process
In their attempt to remove Trump from office, his critics charge that the 2016 election process was undemocratic, the implication being that Trump is holding office illegitimately and should resign or be removed. Is this charge true or false? The question to be raised and examined here is this: Was this election any different from any other election of an American president? Was it any more or less of a democratic process than any other such election? Is this election so tainted by undemocratic offenses that it should be ruled out of order? Or does this election share with its predecessors a similar measure of peccadilloes and “noise” that commonly accompany the process? By “noise”, I mean hype, rumors, exaggerations, misinformation, inaccurate ideas, inaccurate articles and editorials, biased statements, and so on.
Merely to raise these questions explicitly helps to place in proper context the gulf that separates what Trump critics are charging from the reality of the election we have just experienced. Anyone with almost any power to observe cannot, if they can set their biases, fears and hatreds aside, help but conclude that this election has observed just as much of a democratic process as any other such American election. In fact, this one was more decisive on electoral votes than the Bush-Gore contest that involved the Florida recount, and, on that account, relied less on arbitrary Supreme Court judgment. It was more clear-cut than the Kennedy-Nixon contest in which Mayor Daley swung the election to Kennedy by voting “irregularities” in Cook County; and, on that account, did not rely on Nixon’s gesture of conceding to Kennedy for the good of the country.
A democratic process is defined on the internet as having practices that are of the people, by the people and for the people. It is explained that “The ‘for the people bit happens when the government does what is required to keep the public informed on important matters.”
Was the public informed on important matters by the two candidates? The campaigns were lengthy, 576 days for Clinton as a candidate and 512 days for Trump as a candidate. Each candidate traveled about 200,000 miles to meet the public. Each made about 300 speeches and rallies. Each candidate had about 2 dozen press conferences. Clinton hit 37 states and Trump made it to 45. Hillary Clinton was already extremely well-known. The thoughts, ideas, and plans of Donald Trump, an outspoken and blunt man, certainly were made known. The proposals of both candidates were fully aired and subjected to withering criticism from opponents of all kinds, including the media. There was an ample number of debates. Each candidate spent a lot of money campaigning. “Clinton and her super-PACs raised a total of $1.2 billion…” Trump raised and spent over $600 million.
I conclude this far from exhaustive survey by saying that, if we judge by the resources and efforts devoted to the dissemination of information, we have to say that in no significant way was this election subnormal as compared to other presidential elections in terms of information streaming to the public by these two candidates and their campaigns. Voters may be ill-informed in an absolute sense or influenced by voices we deplore, but in a relative sense compared to other elections, the two campaigns more than amply reached the electorate with their messages. They dominated the airwaves. If there was any Russian influence, it has yet to be identified much less measured as something significant such that we can say that it corrupted the election process and made it undemocratic along the dimension of “for the people”. Russian influence, if any, is completely submerged within the ample noise that permeates elections along with the signals being flashed and disseminated.
“The ‘by the people’ happens when people are allowed to elect suitable candidates.”
As Russian people do not vote in American elections unless they are registered here as voters, this election was certainly by the people. Voter turnout was at a two-decade low, but this doesn’t affect whether or not the process was democratic. The latter depends upon the opportunity to vote. The voting process is far from being ideal. There are always many criticisms of it, but the question is whether or not this election was so much worse than others in this dimension that “by the people” was undermined and a new election should be held. Well, at least 126 million votes were counted in the general election. If that is not “by the people”, then what is? One can certainly not say that Russia conspired with Trump or manipulated the election levers on its own so as to swing this election one way or another. No one can make such a foolish charge and expect to be believed. These votes are spread over 50 states. No one controls the outcome.
“The ‘of the people’ component is established when people run for a public office.” This is done within political parties. The public is presented with candidates chosen by parties. The processes that they use are up to them. They need not be democratic. There are many reports of procedures that are used that subvert the party members who vote in primaries or attend caucuses; but examining this is too far afield from our main topic. Suffice it to say that for the major parties, every state comes into play in selecting delegates to national conventions. There are candidate debates within the parties. These processes engage many people. Although individual candidates and their campaigns are known to play hard ball and use dirty tricks to knock out rivals, this is par for this aspect of the democratic process. Anyway, the allegations of a Russia-Trump axis do not conceive of the process having been undemocratic because of violations of the “of the people” strand of that process.
Where does this leave us? We can find no support for those of Trump’s critics who are saying that the election was undemocratic or any less democratic than any other election of a president. The candidates were chosen through arduous primary campaigns. The two candidates were the survivors who beat their rivals, which is not to say that they fought fairly and squarely, but only that the process was not radically different than any other and that the Russians didn’t place either Trump or Clinton at the top of their respective tickets. The people were informed as much as they ever are. The people voted for whom they pleased. The results were counted. The outcome was decisive. Of the people, by the people, and for the people were all satisfied as much as they ever are. The election was a democratic process. The Russians didn’t subvert it as a process. This particular reason for overturning the election has no merit at all. Trump is as legitimate an elected president as any other president has been.
The 2016 election was a democratic process relative to similar elections in the past. There is no other conclusion that can be reached based on what we now know.
After the election results came in, a new political process has emerged. It has roots in 2016 that are of interest; but it’s useful to separate pre-election processes from post-election processes. The new process is an attempt to discredit Trump or to weaken his power, or to get him to resign, or to impeach him, or to thwart his program. This is a slow-motion coup d’état without military force. The model for this coup is Watergate, which used existing law, institutions, and pressures to achieve its result of getting Nixon to resign. The most important instigators of the anti-Trump coup are within the government, within intelligence agencies, but with important support arising in Congress. The launching of the coup had important help from Obama.
One may ask if this post-election process is part of the democratic processes of this country? Is this process of the people, by the people and for the people? The answers in these three cases are the same: No, no and no. The people behind it are veiled in secrecy. They are hiding out. They are, as best we can tell, offering the vice-president as a replacement, and that’s as close as they come to “of the people”. However, badgering Trump to exit by leaks, innuendoes, hearings, blackmail and other forms of pressure is surely not a democratic process in which broad numbers of people exercise an equal right to participate. The “by the people” is circumvented in this attempted coup. People are not being shown alternative candidates in a new campaign, and, even if they were, the democratic process would be irrevocably harmed if the coup succeeds, because of the method used to remove someone who was just elected. The people’s will, insofar as expressed by constitutional election procedures, would be thwarted and overturned if the coup succeeds, no matter how a succession is arranged. “For the people” would be entirely preempted by a successful coup because the program advertised by the winning candidate would be mortally wounded. It would be replaced by the program favored by the NSGs.
Any process that forces Trump from office or induces him to resign or impeaches him, when there’s no valid reason for it, any such coup process is undemocratic. Even though the election was a democratic process, it has immediately been followed by an undemocratic process. The rule of law demands equality under the law, and that’s what a democratic process entails. If America overturns a legal election for no other reason than a minority is able to do it, a minority that hates the winner and his program, this violates the rule of law severely. If this happens, it will be a significant step in turning America into an unstable republic. Without rule of law, this country will go straight downhill.
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