Alberta Politics
Symbols of U.S. democracy – they look great, but their foundations are increasingly rickety (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The morning after the night before: Meet America’s Alexander Lukashenko, Donald J. Trump

Posted on November 04, 2020, 1:05 pm
7 mins

If what is happening in the United States were taking place in another country, the American foreign policy and media establishment would now be denouncing the behaviour of President Donald Trump as that of a tyrant.

As is well known, Mr. Trump did better than the polls had suggested he would in yesterday’s U.S. presidential election. As a result, he is now proclaiming himself to be the winner on flimsy evidence and demanding that something like 100 million ballots legally cast before election day be left uncounted.

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

This is, of course, because Mr. Trump understands most of those ballots were cast by Democrats unprepared to chance voting on Tuesday in the country’s shambolic, inconsistent and often intentionally chaotic presidential electoral system, which is run by the states.

A clear victory last night for the Democratic candidate, Joseph Biden, would have avoided this crisis, but as a witty friend of mine observed this morning, the Founding Fathers of the United States actually managed to come up with a voting system that is worse than first-past-the-post.

Keep that in mind when Canadian conservative pests like Preston Manning offer up the U.S. system as a model to fix the flaws in Canada’s democracy.

Arguably, for the people of the United States and for the rest of us on this rapidly heating planet, what has happened is the worst possible outcome the deeply flawed U.S. electoral system could produce, bringing in this troubled year the real possibility of political violence, uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 across the Canadian border, and the world’s largest nuclear power teetering on the edge of becoming a failed state.

There is no need to wonder how the United States would react if this were happening in another country. We have just seen it in Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko captured more than 80 per cent of the vote in a presidential election on Aug. 9.

His opponents cried foul, and international monitors allowed by the Belarusian government declared the election to be unfair. Maybe so, although 80 per cent is a lead commanding enough to suggest Mr. Lukashenko could have handily won in an honest election too.

American officials cranked up the pressure on Mr. Lukashenko and Belarus’s next-door neighbour, which has been accused of interfering in other countries’ elections from time to time. There were threats, as usual, of more sanctions.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Photo: Адміністрація Президента України, Creative Commons).

Meanwhile, back at the American ranch, where there are no international election monitors and the state-run presidential electoral system is widely understood to be at least manipulated and often openly corrupt in many Republican states, Mr. Trump is declaring himself the winner after capturing about 48 per cent of the popular vote — compared to Mr. Biden’s 50 per cent. That doesn’t include, remember, whatever is on those millions of uncounted ballots.

How is this not the behaviour of an American Lukashenko, with a considerably weaker argument than the real President Lukashenko? Sanctions, anyone?

Then there is the matter of the public opinion polls. We keep scratching our heads and asking how the pollsters keep getting it so wrong. Various explanation are advanced: the weighting is off, young people don’t have landline phones any more, conservative voters are “shy” when a pollster calls.

But has it occurred to anyone that the polls may be getting it right more often than not and that the explanation for this phenomenon is that the American electoral system is now subject to so much institutionalized vote suppression, open gerrymandering, vote rigging, voter interference, outright corruption and threatened political violence?

Democratic Party Presidential candidate Joseph Biden (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

At least 28 million advance ballots are said to have gone “missing” in the last four U.S. presidential elections. God only knows how many will be lost or left uncounted in the ongoing gong show.

One could argue that this is the simplest explanation for the failure of the polls and, according to the principle of Occam’s razor, therefore the explanation that is most likely to be right.

There may be evidence of this emerging in the behaviour of the Electoral College, which operates rather like Canada’s oft-complained-of first-past-the-post electoral system.

Since 1824, when Americans started counting the popular vote, the Electoral College has chosen a president who had fewer votes than his or her opponent five times. Three were in the 19th Century, followed by a gap of 112 years. Two have been recently — in 2000 and 2016.

While this sample is too small to reach a firm conclusion, if this happens again this year, the narrowing time frame suggests the possibility that the Electoral College handing victories to the loser is becoming institutionalized in the face of demographic change and popular sentiment to ensure a Republican is always elected.

If that is the case, U.S. democracy is resting on a very rickety foundation indeed.

17 Comments to: The morning after the night before: Meet America’s Alexander Lukashenko, Donald J. Trump

  1. Curious George

    November 4th, 2020

    “Then there is the matter of the public opinion polls.”

    Yeah that is the same question that I had in 2004 after exit polling all of sudden was so wrong and Bush; surprise, surprise pulled it off.

    That was a question that was never fully explored.

    On the flip side of course I can not understand on how anyone could vote for Mr. T – after all, all one has to to is read the Wikipedia entry on him (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Trump) with an emphasis on 2.3 and 2.4 And that is someone that USA citizen vote for – enough said.

    Reply
  2. ronmac

    November 4th, 2020

    Major takeaway is the preliminary data suggests that Trump, the alleged White Supremacist, lost support among older white voters while increasing support among non-white voters. Hilarious.

    If Biden manages to squeak out a win it’ll be by a razor thin margin. Come to think of it, the differences between the GOP and the Democrats are also razor thin.

    As Joe Biden himself said, speaking to a Wall Street audience, “Nothing will fundamentally change.”

    Reply
  3. lungta

    November 4th, 2020

    and only the winners can change it
    Who wants to shoot the horse they rode in on?….no-one
    they are beyond shaming
    and an appeal to their higher nature will get you a smile of disbelief
    Jamahiriya with its multiple citizen congresses voting weekly on every issue
    local national and international
    would have always been better than
    any meatsack (1st past, proportional, ranked) representation given access to a 4 year crime spree
    we would accept
    of course they had no elections because every citizen belonged to congress and got to vote on issues
    but we bombed the heathens
    out of our ignorance and fear
    (well we didn’t because we were not consulted or informed beyond propaganda)
    oh well

    Reply
  4. Dave in Sask

    November 4th, 2020

    The Dems and repubs are both bought by the same billionaires and have to do what they say to do or face very well funded challenges in the next primary/election and once they get on the Washington perks elected politicians want to stay on the gravy train.

    It’s the same for all politicians at all levels in most countries.

    There are very few principled politicians. They are largely in it for themselves. Witness parties giving th he leader to much power. Add in a candidate’s need to have the leader sign approval for their candidacy and the leader gets most of the say.

    Reply
  5. Dave

    November 4th, 2020

    As they said in the Poseidon Adventure, as the ship was going down – “there’s got to be a morning after, if we can hold on through the night …”. Perhaps not the most optimistic situation here either, but I suppose we already knew the US electoral system was somewhat dysfunctional and a mess, much like the country itself which often tends to be overly chaotic and dramatic, but somehow muddles on.

    Until recent years, I did not really understand the electoral college. Having learned more about it than I care to now, it seems to me to be an anachronism – something designed for another time in the past, that no longer works well. I realize in a multi party representative democracy outcomes can happen that do not totally reflect the total national vote, we recently had that in Canada (although one could also argue a minority parliament actually does reflect the popular vote). However, the US is essentially a two party system and when one party gets over 50% of the presidential vote, you would think it should be the winner. It is probably time for the Americans to seriously consider dumping this unhelpful institution and just have a direct vote for President and Vice President. At the least, it would probably also speed things up, instead of having to wait hours or days for crucial states that were not well prepared for the pandemic induced avalanche of mail in and advance votes.

    I also do wonder about those US pollsters and how once again they seem to have gotten it so wrong. Given the strong turn out, I think voter suppression is probably not the main factor. There might have been some voter intimidation by the Republicans, but I think that can go both ways. I could see some strong arming of reluctant Republican supporters to go out in vote and I think that may have happened with some of their door to door canvasing. They did not seem to care about the pandemic and went full steam ahead with the door to door canvasing, while the Democrats did not, which probably helped them get some of that additional 4% or so that was not reflected in the polls. The Democrats percentage was not off as much from the polls, so it seems again to be mostly an underestimation of Republican support. I also find it amazing how support for Trump seems to go right back up if he doesn’t say or do something stupid for a few days.

    Whatever the reasons for the polls being so off, I think another part of the problem is the US now exists in two separate bubbles and it is hard for one to understand or reach the other. It is as if there are two different realities or two different countries. It really would be best for the country if the candidate who is trying to reach out and bring people together wins over the one who is trying to divide them. The US and the rest of the world does not need more division now.

    Reply
  6. jj gibbons

    November 4th, 2020

    The elections may be run by the states but the parameters for those elections for Congress and President are up to Congress. They just haven’t bothered to set those parameters due to – are you ready for this? – POLITICS!!!

    Reply
  7. Just Me

    November 4th, 2020

    The interesting thing is that based on current information, if Biden wins both Nevada and Arizona, which he appears to be on track to do, he will be pushed over the top. Trump’s crazed effort to make war on the Upper Midwest and torch 100M ballots smacks of an action that is typical of a life that has been built on deception and distraction.

    What is noted in Trump’s last-minute desperation to have the whole election thrown out is that he is in great danger of becoming a convicted felon. Indeed, every member of his family, and every member of his administration, could be brought up on an array of charges that would boggle the mind.

    Hiding in the White House surrounded by a palisade, and garrisoned by Secret Service and National Guardsmen, leaves one with the impression that this is a repeat of the last days in the Führerbunker. I anticipate that as this non-drama continues to unfold, Trump will upon his ‘Army of Deplorables’ to save his re-election, where the court challenges may fail. Trump will ramp up the excitement, because it’s all about the ratings.

    Reply
  8. Bill Malcolm

    November 4th, 2020

    An excellent, adult commentary. The CBC (or CTV or Global) could use you instead of the blatherwit pundits they presented for our delectation to comment on the election last night on TV.

    So far this year, we have seen that Americans were incapable of managing Covid-19, what with relying on individual states to run the show, most of which seem barely competent at best, while beset by old wives’ tales with more than a hint of belief in magic in the dopier regions. Actually, beyond Cuomo, did any other governor show a hint of common sense and the ability to speak clearly off the cuff?

    Now for the umpteenth time, the crappy way the US runs elections, by states again, is shown up for the corrupt and incompetent way they do it, voter suppression, etc etc etc etc. A gong show indeed. And with an added dash of maliciousness with it from the Republicans.

    Makes you wonder how these jokers got to the moon. They couldn’t organize their way out of a wet paper bag these days. And that’s before you even consider the mindset of the almost half of the electorate who delightedly voted for a venal autocrat with delusions of grandeur. Biden’s no prize either.

    Would anyone in Canada actually hire any of the national US pre-election polling companies? They seem completely incompetent. Rather like the country as a whole.

    The world gets to see in plain view the stumbling incompetence that is the actual real USA. An F35 fighter jet that may or may not work at a coupla hundred million each, anyone? Good for maybe one pass over Erdogan’s Russian S400 anti-aircraft system. If you’re lucky.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 4th, 2020

      “Makes you wonder how these jokers got to the moon.” Surely you understand the moon landing was faked. DJC

      Reply
      • jerrymacgp

        November 5th, 2020

        This is one of those times when your blog needs lol emojis or a like/laugh button …

        Reply
    • tom in Ontario

      November 4th, 2020

      “Biden’s no prize either.”

      Jeffrey St. Clair Of CounterPunch goes steps further.
      “The Democrats’ candidate voted for the Iraq war, NAFTA, the destruction of welfare, helped instigate the war on drugs, wrote federal crime laws that incarcerated two generations of black and brown Americans and has preached austerity his entire political career.”

      Reply
    • Champlain

      November 4th, 2020

      Canadian engineers from the AVRO program who left for better pastures when a Conservative PM sold our country and collective security for a bag of magic red, white and blue beans and some BOMARCS. And Women of colour who did the calculations. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Bret Larson

    November 4th, 2020

    Should of said a billion ballots, it would make your argument better.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    November 5th, 2020

    I have a funny feeling that things aren’t going to be so pleasant to the south of us. It’s not going to be a pretty sight.

    Reply
  11. Jim

    November 5th, 2020

    A coloured revolution comes home interesting to see but a little to close to us for comfort. The US has become the land of you can’t have that. Progressives and anyone leaning left has been told they can’t have their candidate. Look at the treatment of old Bernie. Those more nationalistic who want good jobs and maybe some manufacturing brought back are told you can’t have that. Looks at treatment of Trump. So instead they have a senial old war monger who supported segregation pushed upon them. Not sure how anyone can be happy with the results.
    So now the vast the majority of the population is pissed off, it’s almost like they are trying to push for a civil war.

    Reply
  12. jerrymacgp

    November 5th, 2020

    No argument here that the electoral college is a dysfunctional system. However, the country is probably stuck with it, as it would take a constitutional amendment to ditch it & that is a very long, involved, & uncertain process that is likely to be resisted by vested interests.

    It would be interesting to calculate how Electoral College votes would be distributed if each state’s electoral votes were based on a proportion of the vote rather than winner-take-all.

    Reply

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