This year’s Republican and Democratic Conventions, where America’s two main political parties select their Presidential Candidate, couldn’t have been more starkly different. The Democrats, still carrying on with their relentless mission to break every imaginable glass ceiling, embarked on an almost self-parodying campaign of pandering and identity politics. Not a single opportunity was spared to point out how a warmongering, hypocritical, and deeply narcissistic corporate sellout is a true inspiration to young girls everywhere. At one point, a vertically challenged man came on stage and joked about how the Democratic Party always looks after the little guy. I mean, common, what kind of moron thought that was a good idea?
The Republicans meanwhile decided to get themselves into a time machine and travel back to the 1960s. Now I must confess that I haven’t yet seen every speech and appearance made there, partly becomes I don’t have that much free time but also because seventeen is far too young an age at which to start developing brain tumours.
Chances are, you’ve probably heard about how Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama, however, I feel that this particular issue has gotten far too much attention. Not because plagiarism is ok or isn’t worthy of comment mind you, but because it has drawn media attention away from other speakers and policy positions which you simply wouldn’t think possible in the 21st century. Everything from anti-porn provisions to the good old “Obama is a Muslim”.
I guess in a way a lot of it should be expected. Just like a few friendly book burnings and ‘Horst Wessel Lied’ singalongs should be expected if a similar event was to be held in 1930s Nuremberg. However what amazes me is that this is not a convention put on by some fringe group like The Westboro Baptist Church or the Ku Klux Klan, but rather one of the two main political parties in The United States of America. To a certain extent, it’s even a little sad. The GOP is literally competing against the second least popular presidential candidate in the history of their country. So what do they do? They go ahead and pick the least popular presidential candidate in the history of their country.
Well, then Hillary is almost certainly going to get elected, right? You know, If most of the country happens to hate her a little less than it hates Donald Trump? Problem is, most people living in The United States do not really get a say in who becomes the next President of The United States.
I mean, sure, on November 8th, 2016 over 100 million Americans living in 50 states plus Washinton D.C. will walk out of their homes and travel to their nearest polling station. At this polling station, they will receive a voting slip on which will most likely be four names. Those names will be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton of New York, Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Jill Stein of Massachuchets. The people will vote for their preferred candidate and by next morning the candidate with the most votes will become the 45th President of the United States. Right? Actually no, wrong, because that’s not how US elections work.
Presidential candidates don’t and never have won individual votes. Instead, they win states. This process is called “The Electoral College” and without getting into too many technicalities, here’s what you need to know for the purpose of this discussion:
- Each state is assigned a certain amount of electoral college votes determined by its total population.
- The candidate who wins the most votes in a state gets all that state’s votes in the electoral college.
- Whichever candidate wins the majority in the electoral college becomes the next President.
This process further means that:
- Smaller states such as Alaska have disproportionately more votes than larger states such as Texas, New York or California.
- Because the candidate who wins a certain state gets all that state’s votes (even if they win by a majority of 1), living in a state with a heavy bias towards a certain candidate makes your vote practically irrelevant. A Democrat living in a deeply Republican state, or vice versa, will pretty much never get to see his/her vote make a difference.
If you can’t already see the enormous amount of issues that can arise from such a process, The Electoral College makes it mathematically possible for a candidate to win The White House with less than 30% of the overall vote, as long as they win the right states. Realistically, however, it means that the election will be decided by a relatively small number of “swing states”, which have the potential to go either Republican or Democrat. Basically, Trump can get zero votes in New York, California, Massachuchets and dozens of other states and still win the election as long as he wins Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Virginia, and Ohio.
For all intents and purposes, Trump can easily become President even if most of the country votes for his opponent. This has happened before. In 2000, George Bush got significantly fewer votes than Al Gore but still managed to win due to a tiny majority in Florida. Is such a scenario likely this year? No, Clinton is still the favourite to win the election. But don’t kid yourselves, it’s still a very real possibility.