PHOTOS: Donald J. Trump. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons.) He’s President of the United States, you know! Below: Hillary Clinton (Wikimedia Commons), who won the vote but lost the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promised to fix Canada’s electoral system, and didn’t.
Today is the first anniversary of the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who promised to Make America Great Again.
On Monday, a single column in the New York Times, a respectable newspaper if ever there was one, and by a regular columnist no less and not some sketchy op-ed contributor, contained the following characterizations of Mr. Trump and his Administration:
You can read it for yourself here, but it’s a testament to the quotidian record of the Republican president and former TV personality’s rule, I suppose you could say, that from the vantage point of November 2017, not very much about columnist Michelle Goldberg’s assessment seems particularly over the top.
Certainly, it leaves no room for doubt about what Ms. Goldberg and the Times make of the current American president.
This outcome apparently astonished many Americans, even some of those who supported Mr. Trump, and even some of those who were paying attention in 2000 when George W. Bush pulled off the same stunt. Apparently many of our American cousins do not understand the vagaries of their own United States Electoral College!
Canadians, as the citizens of one of the few countries in the world that continues to use a pure first-past-the-post system to elect governments at the federal and regional level, have a much better grasp of how a politician can emerge the winner of an electoral contest with fewer votes than the loser.
To help us sort out that problem once and for all is presumably why we elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government in 2015. Well, we all know how that turned out. Promises, promises …
Even so, it must be conceded, the acknowledged dysfunctionality of Canadian democracy seems mild indeed compared with the state of outright derangement and disintegration apparent south of the Medicine Line.
It is fair to say that whatever he is trying to achieve, and for whatever reasons, Mr. Trump has not made America great again. And Mr. Trump wasn’t actually sworn in as No. 45 in the job to start tearing the place apart until Jan. 20 this year!
Whatever else they may think, surely even die-hard Republicans and their unexpectedly quiet Canadian supporters must privately long for the days when grownups were still in charge of “the shining city upon the hill,” as Ronald Reagan and sundry other American presidents have cribbed the Gospels to describe the United States.
Well, as Someone said, “a city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” And there’s no hiding Boss Tweet’s United States, or hiding from it. More’s the pity.
One of the most profoundly accurate lines ever by this Climenhaga blogger: ‘ …Ronald Reagan and sundry other American presidents have cribbed the Gospels to describe the United States.’
The first imperial theocracy ever armed sufficiently to the teeth, such that one man could wipe us all out.
Americans are finally waking up the Trump reality machine.
Overwhelming election wins by the Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday, clearly shows the bloom is wearing off the rose. Trump’s approval rating has plummeted from 61% when first elected to 37% now. Over 65% of Americans think Trump is not “trustworthy.” No president in American history has ever recorded such a disastrous decline in an approval rating after taking office.
With the Russia investigation now targeting and indicting Trump surrogates, it could be just a matter of time before impeachment actually moves forward in Congress. One can only hope.
Those of us who have been patiently waiting for the crazy train to go completely off the rails continue to be disappointed so far. In consolation, we have at least been highly entertained. I also continue to be amazed with all the stuff that Trump gets away with, that no other mortal politician or even an entertainment mogul could. His most steadfast supporters seem to have no shame or sense of embarrassment, perhaps much like their leader, although it seems that their numbers are declining and their enthusiasm is now waning a bit.
Of course, governing is harder than saying all kinds of crazy things while running for office. The wall is still not built, the North Koreans seem immune to Trump’s bluster and carry on with their mischief anyways, Hillary is not locked up and the steady drip drip of revelations about shady foreign ties continues to dog him and it is actually some of his former aides who are being locked up or charged.
Still the crazy train continues to lurch dangerously back and forth. We can only hope that when it does finally go off the rails, the damage will be mostly limited to Trump, his close associates, his party and the rest of the world will survive more or less intact.
Five times in Canadian history a federal political party won more seats than a rival party that won a greater portion of the popular vote, in 1979, 1962, 1957, 1926, and 1896. This according to the website
The anomalies are interesting, but I do not think Canadians have suffered unduly with First-past-the-post. In each case the popular press flagged the matter but, in the end, accepted the results.
A more significant event may have been the proroguing of Parliament by Governor General Michaëlle Jean in 2008 to prevent a majority of MP’s, who represented a majority of the popular vote, from forming the government. In that instance, the popular press stood solidly behind the, arguably, undemocratic act. Similarly, the popular press got behind George W. Bush’s election victory in 2011, though he did not win the popular vote, and got behind the demand to halt the Florida recount. By the numbers, Trump’s upset electoral victory was less controversial, but he is from the wrong side of the tracks. He continues to be challenged with hyperbolic mania a year into his mandate.
I enjoy the irony that Trump was such an advocate of the Birther Movement to undermine former president Obama. And there’s a lot to criticize president Trump for, no doubt! But he won the election, by the rules, fair and square.
The same people who don’t ‘understand’ the American electoral college are always calling out foreign governments of enemy nations for not having ‘fair’ elections like the city on the hill. It just depends whose side you are on.
Thank you, as always, for a provocative article.
Although I generally dismiss the notional “popular vote” as a measure of electoral legitimacy, I do agree that on the few occasions where a party won government by seat count, whether they be won by pluralities or majorities, over parties than won more actual votes, and not some misleading proportion of the two different kinds of riding wins, there was no earthquaking precedent or derailment of responsible government, as much as news media like to make hay out of them. There haven’t been any rebellions or revolutions, and Canadians have accepted SMP results enough to repeatedly engage in electoral politics on those terms.
Harper’s bullying of Her Excellency Jean to get an unprecedented prorogation in order to avoid a vote on a tabled bill he probably would have lost remains a much more significant event, I agree. If the press stood behind this odious act, it did so because it might have otherwise worsened what was the edge of a constitutional crisis. The whole thing was so stinky one MP contemplated appealing directly to the Queen herself to intervene which, although she might technically have such authority, would have been totally uncool and quite embarrassing for Canada. The complaint was, however, unquestionably legitimate. The result of the offence can only be speculated. I doubt any future Governor would ever cite this episode to justify any decision, not least because it would be as lame as Harper’s case was: the Governor should have let the confidence test guide her, especially since another group of MPs committed to voting en bloc to pass bills had already made itself known to her, and of course would have been subject to the same test. Harper howled that coalitions are “illegitimate and unconstitutional,” which, of course, is totally untrue. One thing’s sure: if the issue ever arises again, future generations will be reminded of Harper’s inappropriateness, and thence to his government’s sordid history wherein he repeatedly lied to the electorate and cynically manipulated electoral rules to the point of prosecution and conviction of his party and a number of his MPs and staff. An acceptable consolation, as far as I’m concerned.
I’m not so sure the press supported Bush’s illegitimate win. The issue that time was with disenfranchisement of voters at the ballot booth, and with the cocked-up judicial method of deciding who won. Neither of these could likely be recognized as any kind of precedent in future impasses. However, another precedent is significant: for almost forty days the USA had no discernible president. When discussing the potential for another constitutional crisis, this time about what would happen if the last US election is overturned in light of the Russian interference investigation, I noted to my friend (who is authoring a political history of hippie communes in the draft-dodging 70s) that the previous Bush-Gore impasse, a precedent also called a “crisis” at the time, did not result in chaos; I would expect similar quiescence if Trump’s presidency (and Pence’s vice-presidency) is somehow upset.
Trump won by the peculiarity of the American Electoral College which, naturally, he did not invent or control. The equation of it and Canadian SMP elections is tenuous in a number of ways.
It reminds that, regardless electoral or voting systems, or the office elected, the important thing remains the quality of the successful candidate, his or her ethical scruple at campaign and in office, and not so much how that success was achieved at the voting booth.
Hello Scotty on Denam
Thank you for your comments. I agree with almost all of it. In thinking back to the Bush-Gore impasse (in 2000! my apologies for that typo), the mainstream media did split along partisan lines. There was even a group of newspapers who, after the court’s decision to halt the recount, financed a research project to actually tally the Florida ballots and publish the results. Pre 9/11, eh? Those were the days!
But the events in Canada at the end of 2008 are, I fear, precedent setting. The framework of Responsible Government is robust enough to deal with a short-lived minority government; the press did not take up Harper’s cause to avoid a deeper crisis. You have said that ‘Harper howled that coalitions are “illegitimate and unconstitutional,” which, of course, is totally untrue.’ To which I say: Yes, but in a sense that was Harper’s job as a partisan leader. That the mainstream press also took this position is far more troubling. My paranoid mind sees the whole episode as a demonstration, a lesson taught by someone, for someone else to get, about how to peacefully seize political control in Canada.
As you see (says the teacher), it was done at modest expense and there was no trouble.
JT’s Liberals did not win because he promised to implement an unworkable plan to disqualify single-member-plurality, the status quo, as an electoral system option — although some doubtlessly voted for just that; he won because Canadians wanted to get rid of Harper’s Conservatives.
It’s hard to tell, at the moment, to what extent JT calculated the derailing of his promised electoral reform committee, but he would not have failed to notice that every measure and survey of Canadians indicated 75% of them wanted at least the opportunity to weigh in on SMP. And, in any case, weather he willfully broke his promise seems not to have diminished his party’s standings very much. I’m betting he won’t be making electoral reform promises in the next election: he doesn’t have the guts — and rightly so — to promise to implement a certain system unilaterally if his party wins government again.
Comparing the Westminster and Congressional parliamentary systems is like comparing apples to oranges. Moreover, we do not vote for a head of state. In any case, it is as rare for a Canadian party to lose the opportunity to govern to a party with fewer votes; the adding up of more than one also-ran to make the case the plurality winner is illegitimate is pure conjuring: none of those rivals would cooperate at campaign and just as surely would not in parliament. In any case, our contests are waged in riding campaigns, not at-large like presidential elections, and the so-called “popular vote” is meaningless except as a misleading way to condemn SMP as the most viable competitor to pro-rep (pro-reppers cite this misleading statistic more often than promoters of various other systems). One of the reasons why the “popular vote” is misleading is that it is cited to incorrectly insinuate that plurality riding-wins always happen, everywhere: in fact, many ridings are won by an outright majority (anybody from Alberta should know that, most of their MPs and MLAs winning in this way). Another is that it can’t be assumed a plurality winner wouldn’t have gotten an outright majority of votes if every eligible voter in the riding actually voted — most ridings have only about 60% turnout, and some of the 40% undoubtedly do not vote because they’re happy with whomever is elected; that amount might very well add up to a majority of eligible voters, to say nothing of underage voters whom the elected Member must represent, too.
Provincial votes are stand-alone, separate contests and not regions of the federal electoral jurisdiction as the article implies. Among the “few” countries that still use SMP, almost all are the most prosperous in history. Of the countries that use pro-rep, a large proportion are former communist nations whose citizens had pro-rep foisted upon them by former communist party cadres who simply filled the secretive parties pro-rep encourages to run: citizens, most of whom had never experienced democracy before, might not be uncomfortable with the power pro-rep gives to parties — it’s what they’ve known and are familiar with.
One thing can be acknowledged, and probably will be every time we have an electoral-system referendum in one of our eleven sovereign jurisdictions: Canadian democracy functions just fine under SMP. (Pro-reppers naturally proffer lame arguments against deciding the matter by referenda — “too undemocratic,” they say.)
We Canadians have no reason to be smug about how we compare to Americans when it comes to comprehension of our respective political systems. So far, and by every measure, pro-reppers are a minority that claim they are a large majority — as in, 80%+, they say. It’s no wonder they want a system that permits minority factions to garner influence — as disproportionate to their actual democratic weights as they would be — by holding the balance of power in the perennially hung parliaments pro-rep almost always produces. How SMP elections are dysfunctional in comparison is difficult to fathom.
In BC, two parties cooperate to form government, neither one comprising a majority itself. Both included promises to tackle electoral reform if elected to government. Even if either had won a majority, it would be incorrect to claim they had won the licence to simply go ahead and implement one system or another. As it is, neither won a majority in contest against each other (which is one reason why their after-the-fact cooperation does not accurately reflect voters’ intentions), nor did either run on this issue alone, many of the votes they won being for other reasons, too. Finally, as mentioned, elected Members must represent all their constituents, no matter whom they voted for, if they availed their eligibility to vote or not, or if they’re too young to vote.
In short, a general election promise to affect reform, even to a specific system, does not licence implementation upon winning. Only a referendum can do that.
Pro-reppers condemn referenda because they’re afraid they’ll lose. And they fancy themselves so righteous! What a laugh! Anyone who says they are more democratic by being less democratic is a charlatan and a hypocrite.
Which puts them, even for different reasons, in party with The Donald himself.
Donald Trump won for two reasons: firstly, because he finally gave the tinfoil-hat brigade someone to vote for, and they turned out in droves; and because a large proportion of the American electorate has seemingly decided that the best qualification to be President … is to be totally unqualified for the post. He is the first President since Eisenhower to have never held elected office before running for the big chair, and Eisenhower had only planned and led the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis.
There is this thread in North American political thought, that seems to think governing is for amateurs and that having political experience is a bad thing; witness the constant denigration of experienced politicians as having “never had a real job”. This accusation has been leveled against politicians and candidates by opinionistas from all parts of the political spectrum, from rabid Paleolithic right-wingers to foaming at the mouth raving socialists, and does not exclude our blogger from that spectrum (sorry, David… this is said with all due respect). In what other field of human endeavour is inexperience considered an asset and not a liability?
So, the most powerful office in the world is now held by the rankest of rank amateurs. If it weren’t so dangerous, it would be
I recently had the opportunity to visit the US and talked, cautiously with some Americans about politics. What made it more interesting were revelations coming out from Donna Brazile’s new book. Perhaps Brian Jean may find a few chapters interesting, might send him a copy. The general consensus seems to be what did they expect running a candidate like Hillary? So many skeletons, so many closets.
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