Tag Archives: Presidential election

Presidential Debate: The Glaring Omission

Did you watch the U.S. Presidential Debate a couple of nights ago? NBC News moderator Lester Holt promised viewers that the candidates would “explore three topic areas tonight: achieving prosperity, America’s direction, and securing America.”

That’s an incredibly broad set of topics, isn’t it? As promised, Mr. Holt’s subjects focused on everything from the global economy to the natural environment to the sources of social strife.

There was one subject, though, that wasn’t even mentioned during the ninety minute debate. Did you notice what former hot-button topic was completely omitted from the conversation?

It was the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obama Care. In fact, there was no reference to any element of health care policy whatsoever. The omission was surprising, given the controversial dominance of the subject in prior elections, and considering the central importance of the industry sector to the American economy and society.

So what are we to make of it? How should we interpret this startling lack of interest in America’s system of health care? Especially given the continuing controversies over the level of access to medical products and services, and the cost of that access, throughout the United States?

One possible explanation is that the very nature of the Affordable Care Act that made it so difficult to implement in the first place is now making it easy to accept in the minds of the American public. As you may recall, although the Act was initially described as a comprehensive reconstruction of the entire health system, its primary beneficiaries were to be the relatively few individuals who desired insurance coverage but who couldn’t obtain it.

Disrupt an entire nation’s system of care to benefit a mere 24 million individuals? In a nation of 300 million citizens? Opponents of the Act portrayed such an venture as a high risk, low benefit leap into the unknown. In retrospect, it was no surprise that so many citizens shrank from it.

But now that the Act has been in effect for six years, it has become the status quo. And guess what? The health care system hasn’t crashed. It’s still plagued with problems, to be sure, but now any future modification to the industry sector can itself be portrayed as a high risk, low benefit leap into the unknown. And that may be why the possibility of repeal or significant revision has vanished from America’s political debate agenda.

Indeed, individuals who wish to engender comprehensive reconstructions of other industry sectors may take heart from the current status of the Affordable Care Act. What lesson does it teach them?

Don’t settle for small, incremental, evolutionary changes. Instead, take a deep breath, swing for the fences, ride out the inevitable backlash, and focus on integrating the changes into the industry sector so deeply that they become inseparable from the status quo.

At that point, the elements of reconstruction may simply become part of the economic and social landscape of the nation. And the public may then simply accept the changes and divert its attention to other concerns.

Accounting For Elections

Whatever happened to the competitive Presidential primary elections? Just a few weeks ago, we were buzzing with anticipation over the possibility of contested Democratic and Republican party conventions. One candidate even predicted that political passions might boil over into street violence!

But with the surrender of Ted Cruz and John Kasich to Donald Trump, and with Hillary Clinton’s smashing victory over Bernie Sanders in New York State, the intra-party aggressiveness of the campaigns appeared to fade away. Indeed, with passion subsiding into pragmatism, cooler heads are now emerging to prepare for the Summer and Fall political campaigns.

So, now that we’re all gravitating back towards rational thinking, it may be an opportune time to reflect on the controversial methods that the Democratic and Republican parties have created to account for the preferences of their primary voters. As we’ve learned during the past few months, neither party simply counts the votes that have been earned by each candidate, and anoints the candidate with the most votes as the winner of its Presidential nomination.

Instead, each party requires a candidate to receive more than 50% of the delegate votes from its state affiliates in order to earn its nomination. And each state affiliate is free to determine the process by which the preferences of its citizens are translated into delegate votes.

And what processes have been adopted by the political affiliates of the states? Well, some employ primaries. Others utilize caucuses. And yet others simply rely on their own officials to select their delegates.

And what if no candidate receives more than 50% of these delegate votes? Then all of the primary, caucus, and party official preferences are tossed aside at the convention, and the delegates simply keep voting until they select a nominee. That process last occurred at the Republican Presidential convention in 1976, and many speculated that it could occur again this year.

In fact, it was this very possibility — i.e. the possibility that no Republican candidate might receive more than 50% of the delegate votes before this summer’s party convention — that appeared to generate the most concern among many Republicans. After all, they feared, wouldn’t this result in the “tossing aside” of citizen votes? And wouldn’t such an action be undemocratic, and thus un-American, in nature?

Yes, perhaps it would be undemocratic … but it wouldn’t be un-American at all. In fact, this very “tossing aside of votes” process is a central feature of the United States Constitution.

You see, America’s Founding Fathers didn’t anticipate the emergence of political parties. Instead, many of them dreaded the emergence of such parties out of concern that citizens might prioritize “what is good for the party” over “what is good for the country.” And they certainly did not want the federal government to simply award the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most votes from the citizenry.

So they created a system that permits numerous candidates, preferably with no particular party affiliation, to vie for state delegate votes. And they granted the states a fair amount of flexibility to determine how citizens register for voting, how votes are cast, and how voting results are tabulated into delegate votes.

Then, according to the Constitution, when the state delegates meet in the Electoral College to cast their votes, the candidate who receives more than 50% of the votes becomes the President of the United States. And what if no candidate receives that many votes? Then the votes of the citizens are tossed aside, and the members of Congress in the House of Representatives simply keep voting until they elect the President.

Can you see the similarity between the contemporary Party nomination process and the Constitutional national election system? In essence, they function in the same manner. And most strikingly, they both presume that the votes of the citizenry should be tossed aside whenever no single candidate receives more than 50% of all votes.

It’s a strikingly undemocratic approach to accounting for the will of the people, isn’t it? But it’s important to keep its Constitutionality in mind when we hear people criticize its current inclusion in the nomination processes of our political parties. After all, even though it seems inappropriate to contemplate tossing aside the votes of the citizenry, this is the very process that the Founders of our Republic chose to write into our national Constitution.

The Fallacy Of Labels

And now it’s Secretary Clinton’s turn to be tagged with a label by Donald Trump! After applying sobriquets to Low Energy Jeb Bush, Little Marco Rubio, and Lying Ted Cruz, The Donald is now alternating between Incompetent Hillary and Crooked Hillary.

By doing so, the leading Republican Presidential candidate is drawing attention to the validity of such labels. Are they ever truly accurate? Or are they simply misrepresentations of the beliefs and positions of our political leaders?

While pondering these questions, it may be helpful to consider the American President who may have accomplished more than any other to usher in the modern era of limited government. He presided over the deregulation of the airline industry, the abolishment of usury and other interest rate regulations, and the phase-out of price controls over domestic oil supplies in the United States.

Indeed, he may well have been the most free market oriented leader of the five American presidents who held office during the 1960s and 1970s. Was he Republican President Gerald Ford? Or Richard Nixon?

Believe it or not, this Presidential promoter of capitalism was Jimmy Carter. He signed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 into law. He also signed the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. And he signed the National Energy Act of 1978, followed by the Energy Security Act of 1980.

These laws, considered in tandem, collectively implemented the massive deregulation of the American transportation, financial services, and energy industries. That’s why a conservative libertarian web site and a liberal progressive web site agree that the left wing label that is often affixed to President Carter requires “rethinking.”

Ironically, the two Republicans who served in the Oval Office immediately prior to Carter may have been the most economically liberal Presidents in modern times. How so? Gerald Ford, for instance, ultimately decided to participate in the fiscal bail-out of New York City after he initially rejected the Big Apple’s plea for federal aid. And Richard Nixon temporarily ordered “a freeze on all prices and wages throughout the United States” in order to tame inflation.

Apparently, like the liberal label on President Carter, the conservative labels on Presidents Ford and Nixon are extremely misleading monikers. Ironically, many contemporary pundits have declared that Donald Trump’s self-characterization as a conservative is actually fallacious as well.

So what should we do with these political labels? Perhaps we should simply pay no attention to them. Instead, perhaps we should strive to understand each politician’s policies and positions before we draw conclusions about their philosophical leanings.