20160926 Why the USA needs to add "none of the above" to its ballot paper

Something scary is happening in the USA. Two candidates, both described by media as "unpopular" have come out of the "Primaries" - the selection process by which party members vote for the person they want to be the next President of the USA. After a "race" (as they call it) between a batch of people who, so far as the rest of the world can tell, were all entirely unsuited to run a family barbecue, much less a large powerful country that is in domestic and international crisis, the members selected their least worst options which were then "confirmed" by a party congress. If many people want neither of them, democracy can only be served by the addition of a "none of the above" option to the ballot. And it's not as impossible as it first seems...

In the USA, there are non-stop campaigns for something or other. Their presidential system is disassociated from the election of the houses of government and those are disassociated from the elections of state officials and those are disassociated from the elections for various offices such as State's Attorney, Judges, even mayors. Sometimes it seems as if the only person who is not elected is the homeless man with a dog on a string, the man who sleeps on a sheet of cardboard on a street corner until the clean up of his corner (but not the provision of services for him) becomes a campaign issue.

So it would not be a particular challenge to add to a future ballot the choice of president. Equally, the presidential ballot does not signify a change of president. The vote takes place in early November but the incoming president does not take charge immediately: the existing President gets a few weeks in which to sort out his departure and to give last minute favours to those who have, in one way or another, endeared themselves to the President. Clinton chose to pardon financial criminals. The former President Clinton, that is, not the possible future President Clinton.

The whole delay thing is either the template for, or a pastiche of, the system under which criminals are sentenced to jail then sent home to prepare their affairs before turning up at the doors of a prison to report to serve their sentence.

What it means is that there is time, if a truncated selection process is adopted, for the Congress to select an alternative and for a new election to be run. For sure, the incoming President and family won't have time to visit the warehouses full of furniture and art to choose which crockery will be used for state events, for example but seriously, if décor features so highly on the person who will, the USA remains convinced, become "the leader of the free world," there's something horribly wrong.

Clinton is a liar who is also rabidly anti-Palestinian. Trump is a businessman with some dubious episodes who is rabidly anti almost everyone, almost Aryan in his choice of what it takes to be American and anyone who isn't, by his definition American is a fly on the windscreen of his juggernaut, regardless of where they are in the world.

The prospect of Clinton's view of the world v Trumps is truly disturbing. Domestically, it's equally worrying.

Let's put the costs of a US Presidential campaign in perspective: so far, the Clinton camp has raised more than USD500 million, more than a quarter of it from so-called "PACs" and "Super-PACs," which in previous campaigns have often been found to have been the route by which unlawful contributions have reached the war chests of candidates of all hues. Surprisingly, some 72% has come from direct contributions: however, this, too, is not as clear as it appears: law firms donate in their own names using funds passed through them by clients, so shielding the true identity of the donor. In a country that tries to tell the rest of the world how to identify laundered money and what to do about it, its presidents are elected using funds contributed using exactly the methods money launderers use to hide, move and invest the proceeds of their own and others' crimes.

Somewhat surprisingly, Trump has raised only a little over USD160 million of which only 1% is through PACs or Super-PACs. The rest is declared as donations. Trump is proud of saying that he has funded his campaign from his own resources. According to opensecrets.org, which says that almost 30% has come from donations of less than USD200, demonstrating, perhaps, his blue collar and redneck appeal, Trump has contributed more than USD47 million to his own campaign.

But there are clouds on the Trump campaign: pressure group Politico (left-leaning but not far left: some call it "liberal" which usually means the opposite. While it does lean left it also criticises Clinton, but not much) says that it has analysed the Trump finances and found that more than USD8.5 from his campaign was paid to Trump family companies.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/09/donald-trump-business-campaign-tra...

Picking my way through Politico's negligent writing or editing (see graphic)

the criticism seems to be not that which is implied by the headline " Trump's campaign paid his businesses $8.2 million - The GOP presidential candidate draws on his own companies to an unprecedented degree" i.e. that Trump has done something wrong in paying moneys to his family companies, but rather that, perhaps, his campaign has underpaid for services which it has received.

CNN, which is not above making up lies to boost its own viewing figures, reported that "four news organisations" had found that " Donald Trump lies more often than Hillary Clinton." It's frightening that voters should be encouraged to choose the least dishonest candidate for the job. But CNN's choice of outlets is nothing more than the usual suspects of partisan reporting: Politico (again), The New York Times (Clinton was the Governor of New York during her most anti-Palestinian phase), the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times: CNN does not point out that these are all at least left leaning and, mostly, traditional Democrat supporting newspapers and therefore bias should be assumed. The reports, which all the editors denied to CNN were co-ordinated, followed a NewsWeek report several days earlier that started "Donald Trump committed perjury. Or he looked into the faces of the Republican faithful and knowingly lied. There is no third option.

It has become an accepted reality of this presidential campaign that Trump spins a near-endless series of falsehoods. For months, the media has struggled with this unprecedented situation—a candidate who, unlike other politicians who stretch the truth, simply creates his own reality. Trumps regularly peddles “facts” that aren’t true, describes events that never happened or denies engaging in actions that everyone saw him do. He utters his falsehoods so fast that before reporters have the chance to correct one, he has tossed out five or six more." http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-jeb-bush-lie-florida-casino-gamblin...

But that story juxtaposes two statements and say that they are contradictory: well, not if you speak proper English and not the sloppy version that America insists on: Trump said on the one hand that he held a fund-raiser for Jeb Bush in the hope that it would influence Bush in relation to the opening of a casino in Florida and, on the other hand, that Bush was not telling the truth when he claimed that Trump gave him money to influence him in relation to the opening of a casino. NewsWeek says that one is a lie and there is no third option. Actually, both can be true: the fund-raiser can be viewed as a conduit for third party funds to Bush's campaign, rather than Trump's own moneys therefore Trump could hand over money but not be giving money. It's a fine point, but it's a valid point.

Fortune magazine (http://fortune.com/2016/09/24/fortune-100-companies-donald-trump/) reports that since the Trump nomination was confirmed, none of the 89% of Fortune 100 company CEOs that historically support the Republicans have made any campaign contributions: they are not supporting Clinton either.

Opinion formers in mainstream media are bad enough but in June this year The Atlantic, one of the USA's better newspapers, reported that Clinton had somewhere in the region of one million fake twitter followers and that Trump was using hired "twitter-bots" to retweet his messages (about 2,000, it said). Given that news organisations such as the BBC have all-but handed over journalism to reposting what it finds on twitter, especially the "trending" sections, the false image of support that these techniques generate is worrying.

Frankly, short of cancelling the election and telling the parties to start again and to find credible candidates this time around, there is not much that can be done except to put up straw candidates or, as suggested above, a "none of the above" with a clause that any candidate failing to achieve more than 30% of the vote is disqualified. With Clinton and Trump currently neck and neck (some report) but at interest levels that are bordering on those usually reserved for The Greens, or similar groups, there would be every chance that the election would result in a rejection of both.

The world would let out the breath it has been holding, out of concern, for months.

 


 

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