April 29, 2016

A Definitive Guide To Exactly What Is Going On In The US Elections! Sort Of.

[I was asked by Rødt!, the theoretical organ of the Red Party of Norway, to write a short piece for interested Norwegians who trying to make sense of the US presidential elections. Given that who is running the US is a matter of great concern for everyone in the world, it seems like my internationalist duty to try. I completed it March 11, so it hasn't been completely falsified by more recent developments. I concluded my introduction to the article with this caveat:
Just one word of caution. We here are also alternately amused and horrified and perplexed and given hope by what’s been happening.] 

How Do Bourgeois Democratic Elections in the US Work?

A decade and a half into the 21st  century, the answer is that they work badly. Very badly.

The basic function of the government—what Marx called the general staff of the capitalist class--in bourgeois democracies is to keep the ruling class on top and the masses down, of course. To do this, it is preferable to convince the people that their interests are being represented in the government than just to crush them under then jackboot of the police and military. The government also has to act as referee when the ruling class is divided on how to tackle pressing issues. And it has to uphold the interests of the domestic capitalists against those of the ruling classes in other countries.

The theory of the US government is based on the “balance of powers” between different sections of the government. Every other year there are elections in every state to choose the 435 members of the national House of Representatives (the lower body of Congress) and one third of the 100 senators (who serve six year terms). Every four years, the president is elected and can serve only two terms. The nine justices on the Supreme Court are not elected and serve for life. When one quits or dies, the president chooses a replacement who must be approved by the Senate.

The President runs the state apparatus and the military, Congress sets government policy by passing laws and the Supreme Court rules on whether laws and government actions are legitimate according to the US Constitution.

There are a lot of obvious holes built into this structure. One is the inequality between the fifty states in the Union. Each state gets two senators, regardless of population, So urban, multi-racial and generally liberal California has 2 senators for 38,000,000 people. The twenty-two smallest states, mostly rural, combined have the same population--and 44 senators! Similarly, presidents are not elected directly, but chosen by an Electoral College where each state gets votes allocated according to the number of representatives and senators. What that means is that if the races go narrowly for one party’s candidate in enough states it can overcome big majorities for the other party in the other states and a candidate will be elected without winning a majority or plurality of the popular vote, as happened with George W. Bush in 2000.

There are three other problems baked into what US schools teach children is Our Democratic System: racism, money and the two party duopoly. Racism hardly needs comment. The two first victims of European settlement

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