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A Rigged System?

Photo by Paul Sableman | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Paul Sableman | CC BY 2.0

At the risk of validating anything uttered by the misogynistic, xenophobic, racist demagogue, Donald Trump, anyone with a critical perspective on the electoral racket run by the duopoly would have to acknowledge that the system is rigged, albeit not in the constricted and partisan way advanced by Trump.  Unpacking the political matrix within which electoral delusions are perpetrated and consumed is essential if we wish to provide a more inclusive and radical analysis of that rigged system.

First and foremost, the electoral system has both structural and ideological features that guarantee the perpetuation of the rule of the 1%.  The very instruments that operationalize the electoral system, from voter registration to ballot access, are particularly susceptible to partisan manipulation, from gerrymandered districts to control by secretaries of state who, in many instances, are political operatives for one of the two major parties.

On the latter point, recall the role of Katherine Harris, the Republican Secretary of State in Florida, during the run-up to the 2000 presidential election when nearly 100,000 mostly African-American voters were kicked off the registration rolls.  (A matter conveniently overlooked by all those who continue to blame Ralph Nader for the debacle in Florida.)  A Republican Secretary of State in Ohio also apparently tainted the 2004 presidential election results. However, Democratic Party operatives were notoriously manipulative in this year’s Presidential primary from Nevada to New York.

Beyond such partisan interventions in skewing election results, the very access to the ballot has over the years become more difficult for third parties and large segments of the population.  Starting with the anti-fusion laws of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that made the translation of populist insurgencies into electoral success nearly impossible, states have erected barriers to ballot access.  Accompanying such ballot restrictions were exclusionary regulations that erected impediments to the participation of the poor, workers, and African Americans.  The latter had to mount heroic decade long efforts to overturn disenfranchisement laws, especially in the South.  While recent efforts by Republican legislatures to use voter ID laws to prevent students, the poor, and people of color from participation in the elections, various courts have struck down the obvious discriminatory objectives of these laws.

On the other hand, the US Supreme Court has recently voided parts of the Voting Rights Act that had important protections for African Americans, in particular in the South.  Trying to amend and strengthen these provisions of the Voting Rights Act has proven exceptionally problematic given the control of the US Congress by Republicans.  In addition, it is still the case that millions of ex-felons are denied enfranchisement in states around the country.  Although agitation for change is helping to push some Governors, mostly Democratic, into extending the franchise to ex-felons, the punitive criminal justice system continues to expand disenfranchisement.

Once citizens reach the voting booth, they still have to contend with a variety of hurdles that call into question the efficacy of their vote.  From limited times and locations for exercising the vote to faulty and suspect voting machines there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the system is rigged against the working poor and minority constituents.  Indeed, as numerous empirical studies demonstrate, suburban whites are privileged (once again) when it comes to the electoral system.  The compounding of class and geographical disparities is evident, in particular, in the anti-democratic US Senate where Senators from rural and small town states hold sway over their colleagues from more populous and diverse states.

When one adds into the mix the role of money in politics and the impact of Citizens United, the class advantages reinforcing a rigged electoral system are huge. The amount of money poured into the electoral arena has primarily, but not exclusively, guaranteed that duopolistic outliers and third parties will be further marginalized.

Of course, the corporate media perform their ideological function as the gatekeepers to the electoral system.  Beyond hectoring, trivializing, and neglecting any challenge even within the electoral matrix, the corporate media perpetuate the fantasies about the US as a “representative democracy.”  As the recent Princeton study demonstrably proves, when it comes to legislation at a federal level the 1% make out like the bandits they are.

So, we are saddled with a rigged system that is patently undemocratic, especially with the continuing arcane influence of the Electoral College.  The constrained call by Bernie Sanders for a “political revolution” never contemplated the actual overturning of such an undemocratic system.  When a number of Latin American countries faced a duopolistic system, like ours, with an extreme right-wing party and a center right party, their population took to the streets and brought to power through insurrectionary action new political leadership more committed to the 99% and new constitutions.

While Trump and his right-wing populist minions have already begun to bray about the “rigged” election and the need to revolt, we, on the left, had better prepare for the potential reaction to the coronation of the Queen of Chaos.  Moreover, we need to seriously create a broad front of resistance which could, in time, blossom into an authentic political revolution without violence and macho posturing, but with steady transformative moments that will create a new world in the ashes of the old.

 

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Fran Shor is a Michigan-based retired teacher, author, and political activist.  

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