The American election and democracy

Elections are central to Western democracy. When we don’t have them, people say democracy has failed. When we do have them  and they appear to be rigged  – that is, the end result does not reflect the wishes of the people – as recently in Belarus, where President Lukashenko is supposed to have got 80% of the popular vote,  democracy has failed.

Which makes last night’s Democratic Convention in the United States very odd. Because Hillary Clinton gave a speech where she said that the coming presidential election must not be a ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda election’, as happened in 2016 when Trump defeated her.  In the popular vote, she got almost three million more votes than Trump. Yet she lost the election.

How come? Because each state  elects representatives to the Electoral College, and they then vote for who will be president.  Trump got 304 electoral votes, Hillary Clinton got 227 votes.

The reason for this contradiction is that  the founding fathers didn’t trust ordinary people to make the choice of president, and so devised a constitution where states sent delegates to the electoral college.

Thus the injustice of Hillary Clinton winning the. popular vote by nearly three million but losing the race for president.

The odd thing is that nobody in the US seems interested in changing it. Hillary Clinton, the most recent victim of the system, spoke passionately last night but at no point called for a change in the system.

Democrats are reasonably confident they can beat Trump using the electoral college system. But it doesn’t always work out, as Hillary Clinton knows to her cost.

The United States claims to be the leader of the democratic world.  Maybe it should address this absurd system and change it.

And meanwhile, maybe stop lecturing the rest of the world

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