US voting system is rigged, just not against Trump

October 31, 2016
Like two giant corporations that form a cartel, the Republicans and Democratics have worked together to tilt the playing field against independent parties.

The Republican candidate in the November 8 presidential race is lining up his excuses for why he’s going to lose: the media is against him, Democrats are faking ballots from undocumented immigrants and dead people and on and on.

In reality, few people have ever caught as many breaks in life, and for less good reason, than Donald Trump. But like a five-year-old playing Candy Land, he has never known how to lose without crying foul, a point Hillary Clinton made in the final debate: “He lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him.

“Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering; he claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him.

“There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged against him.”

What Clinton did not say, of course, is that she and her party are, in fact, very much part of a rigged political system. Just not against Trump and the Republicans, but with them — and against anyone promoting independent alternatives to the left of both parties, an effort that in recent years has been led by the Green Party.


Like two giant corporations that form a cartel to monopolise an industry, the Republican and Democratic parties have worked together for decades to tilt the playing field of electoral politics against independent parties that aren’t swimming in billions of dollars of corporate donations.

Take the three presidential debates. Trump complains about biased media personalities serving as moderators — even after he received an estimated US$2 billion in free airtime during the primaries alone, courtesy of the supposedly biased media. But the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson were not even allowed to take part, because the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) only invites candidates averaging 15% in national polls.

This rule illustrates the Catch-22 for independent candidates: The only way to get to 15% in the polls is national exposure from appearing in a debate, which you cannot do until you get to 15%.

The CPD is an “independent” non-profit created by the Democrats and Republicans to take control of the 1988 presidential debates away from the League of Women Voters, who denounced the move in a statement that has proven to be depressingly accurate: “The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debate ... because the demands of the two campaign organisations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.

“It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organisations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades, devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions.”

As a result of this “fraud on the American voter,” viewers of the debates this year watched Trump and Clinton continue their narrow discussion about Obamacare — repeal it! improve it! — but were denied the chance to hear Jill Stein make the case for single-payer health care, which has the support of the 58% of population.

And the CPD-approved debate moderators did not even introduce crucial topics like climate change and the National Security Agency’s huge domestic spying operations.

Ballot access

Then there’s the question of ballot access. The two main parties have worked together over decades to raise the bar for new parties to get on the ballot. New York and California require 50,000 signatures, and the much less populous North Carolina requires an absurd 90,000.

In practice, Green candidates try to get twice as many signatures as the limit to fend off challenges from the lawyered-up Democratic Party machine.

In 2004, for example, the Democrats got 30,000 of Ralph Nader's 51,000 signatures in Pennsylvania overturned — based on technicalities such as signers writing “Bill” instead of “William” or because current and registered addresses did not match exactly.

As his lawyer Oliver Hall explained in the Harvard Law Record, Nader’s campaign was then forced to pay the Democratic Party’s legal costs of more than $80,000.

That’s right. Even while Democrats complain — correctly — about Republican efforts to scrub Black and Latino voters from the rolls through false accusations of voter fraud, their party uses the same type of false accusations and dirty tricks to disenfranchise a political party to its left.

There is another trick employed by Democrats against left-wing challengers. It is the most important to expose because it enlists millions of liberals and progressives into arguing in favour of a rigged system.

Wasted vote?

This is the lie that a vote for the Green Party is a wasted vote — or worse yet, a vote for the Republicans.

At the heart of this falsehood is the myth that has grown up around the 2000 election. This myth says that Ralph Nader and the Green Party “elected” George W. Bush president by “taking away” votes from Democrat Al Gore in an election so close that Bush won in the Electoral College based on an incredibly narrow 543-vote win in Florida.

The argument that Nader cost Gore the election is so widespread that it is easy to lose sight of its absurdity, given the many other factors that led to Bush being declared the winner in Florida.

To begin with, tens of thousands of Democrats, disproportionately African Americans, were wrongfully purged from Florida voting rolls. About 200,000 Florida Democrats voted for Bush and three million did not vote at all.

Oh, and one more thing: Analysis after the fact proved that Gore actually won the Florida election, but the Republican-dominated Supreme Court blocked a recount and declared Bush the winner of the state, and thus the White House.

But rather than focus on the Supreme Court, the Republicans’ racist voter fraud or Gore’s inability to inspire his own party’s supporters, Democrats — from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders and on down — have chosen to argue that Bush won in 2000 because Nader voters exercised their democratic right to choose a genuine left-wing candidate.

This is just propaganda for a permanent two-party monopoly — just as the arguments today that a vote for Stein is a wasted because she cannot win.

In fact, a vote for Stein is the most practical step to take in this election towards building a third party alternative. The Greens can win ballot status for the next election — and thus not have to spend resources getting all those signatures — if Stein wins enough votes, ranging between 0.5% and 5% in different states.

Beyond that, a vote for Stein can be the start of many thousands of people making a lasting commitment to standing in opposition to the two-party status quo.

It is ridiculous for a con artist like Trump to complain about the system being rigged against him, but only a little bit more ridiculous than Democratic and Republican leaders defending the legitimacy of a political system that forces people to choose the two most unpopular presidential candidates in modern history.

[This is an editorial from US Socialist Worker.]

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