Ohio - The super bowl of politics is finally here. November 8 is elections day in America. Americans are ready to go to the polls and pick a President, and other critical down ballot votes ranging from senators, members of congress, state governors, states representatives, county representatives, to local municipal seats.
Ohio – The super bowl of politics is finally here. November 8 is elections day in America. Americans are ready to go to the polls and pick a President, and other critical down ballot votes ranging from senators, members of congress, state governors, states representatives, county representatives, to local municipal seats.
In order to understand how the American election system works, this article will cover the following topics: How are elections conducted? How much money is raised for elections? An overview of candidates for president and how they view major issues. Finally, a brief demographic profile of the American voter with a preview of Election Day.
1. The American Electoral system and how it works
2. American Politics and Money
3. The Candidates and the issues
4. Voter Demographics and Election Predictions by the numbers
1. A brief overview of American Electoral system and how it works
American Candidates for the Presidency take years of planning and strategizing before they jump into the political race at least one year and a half ahead of the general elections held on the First Tuesday after the First Monday of November every four years. Although there is more than one political party in America, only two major political parties have so far garnered substantial votes: The Republican and Democratic parties. Candidates are selected through Caucuses or Primaries.
Caucuses are private meetings organized by political parties to pick one candidate. Primaries are organized by local and state governments. After that, candidates are assigned a number of delegates. Candidates gather at their National Conventions where each party nominates their representative to the National Elections, this is also the step when each candidate picks their Vice President. Candidates of each respective party cross the country to campaign for the General Elections also known as Federal and State Elections. This is where most money is spent on elections. The next and final process is called the Electoral College which picks the President through indirect voting of registered voters in each state. Going back to the creation of the US constitution, based on the population census, each state is assigned a number of electors proportional to the number of members of congress and senate.
There are 538 Electors. A candidate has to get more than half to win the Presidential Election. The magic number is 270. Voters go to the polling stations to vote or send in their ballots. Votes are counted, and candidates with the majority of votes earn the Electoral College for that particular state. This is where the concept of Red States and Blue States is also important in mathematically reaching the magic number 270.
Blue State refers to a state that traditionally votes democratic, and conversely a Red state votes for Republicans. Other terms like a Toss-up state or swing state is a state where voters cannot be determined based on party lines, and can vote either Republican or Democratic. Leaning Republican or Leaning Democratic are states where the outcome of their election is highly probable to benefit one party or the other. Battleground states are states that are leaning one way or another, and those are the states that receive special attention from candidates, and large amounts of spending ranging from generous advertising and canvassing, to heavy polling by organizations specialized in projecting electoral probabilities. This is where American elections are truly state of the art and are perhaps some of the most sophisticated I the world. The demographics are studied down to projections of how a voter will vote.
2. American Elections and how they are funded
The American Election Machine requires huge amounts of funding from its start to the final day of voting. This explains in part why American Elections are the most expensive in the world because of the resources and the amount of time they take to organize. In 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States voted in a landmark case in favor of Citizens United versus the Federal Elections Commission to allow unlimited donations to be spent in US elections. Staggering amounts must be raised by candidates from all kinds of sources including major individual donors, small donors, and Super-PACs. Super-PAC stands for Public Action Committee which is an organized pool of money from unions, associations, organizations, businesses and individuals who can organize or advertise on behalf of a candidate. Super-PACs are not allowed by law to contribute or coordinate with a political party or a candidate.
According to an article published in the Bloomberg Politics on October 28, in 2016 America’s Presidential election will cost an estimated 6 Billion Dollars. Hillary Clinton has raised close to 1.1 Billion Dollars compared to 520 Million Dollars raised by Donald Trump. Trump promised to spend 100 Million Dollars of his own money on the 2016 election, and up to date he only spent 62 Million Dollars. Super-PACS for Clinton raised 210 Million while Super-PACs for Trump raised 60 Million Dollars. In the final week of this election, both campaigns are spending huge amounts in battleground states including Clinton camp spending money in traditionally Red States like Arizona while stomping for down ballot states with potentially positive outcomes for senate races in states like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. There are times when funds are redirected to a battground state to help out with a senate race, as in the case of Marco Rubio who dropped out of the presidential race in March 2016 and is running to reoccupy his senate seat.
Observers of the Clinton versus Trump campaigns showed a highly organized and well-disciplined Clinton campaign. Trump’s spending on the other hand enjoyed a coattail of good, bad, and ugly media frenzy estimated by a New York Time’s article to be about 2 Billion Dollars. His campaign has been understaffed and often lacked direction and in an ironic way reflected the way Trump handled his campaign from the get go. All spending by both campaigns is audited for integrity by the US Federal Election Commission which has broad authority over how election spending is financed and candidates have to report their funding and spending with the FEC.
3. The Candidates and the issues
I can safely bet that everyone in the civilized world may have heard of the American Election and the two distinct candidates running for the most coveted job in the world. When he first came to office, George Washington made $25,000 per year, today the job pays $400,000 per year. Most likely Clinton and Trump are not competing for the salary, but for history, and the legacy of steering this nation into the future. Traditionally each candidate is chosen based on how much they uphold the ideals of their respective parties. This election cycle has been particularly different and different than previous ones because of the climactic animosity that filled the airwaves from one party or another. Both candidates have been vocal in stressing the weaknesses of the one another. Vitriol and poisonous jabs replaced what used to be restrained and courteous discourse. Trump has the distinction of being the first presidential candidate to break with the conservative values of his party.
Trump also has the distinction of insulting every possible ethnic group and every one he viewed as an opponent. His rants against Media are dangerously Orwellian as they convey a radical dismissal of free speech and ethical journalism. When a candidate is not doing the rhetorical slamming, usually their surrogates hit the trenches, and do the airwave rounds to blast the other candidate. Despite a surge in social media as a new medium of communication, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube in particular, Television continues to be a favorite channel of campaign spending. Campaigns prefer to communicate via TV to disseminate public discourse intended to sway or get the vote. Partisan Media channels like Fox News have become de facto surrogates of the conservative Republican Party, while MSNBC mirrors more of the views of Democrats and the left.
To see where each candidate stands on the issues, Clinton is embracing traditional positions held by Democrats: On Immigration, Clinton stands for immigration reform. Will not deport the estimated 12 Million illegal immigrants currently in the US. Will ensure “dreamers” have a clear path to citizenship (Dreamers are children of immigrants who came to the US, grew up in the US and know no other home but the US).
Clinton does not believe in building walls, on the other hand, Trump wants to start deporting all illegal immigrants en-masse on the first hours he becomes president. Will not honor Dreamers towards a clear path to Citizenship, and will build a wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering the US. Trump wants to ban or scrutinize all Muslims arriving to the US. Second important issue in 2016 is about gun control: Trump does not believe in gun control while Hillary wants to put measures to ban assault weapons that were used in mass shootings in schools and malls and public spaces across the US. She is also for the Center for Disease Control to study deaths from guns as a public health issue. On environment issues, Hillary is for the Paris climate accord, for a ban on offshore drilling, and recognizes global climate change as an important issue. Trump is totally on the opposite side of this issue, denies that climate change exists, he also does not believe in protecting exotic and endangered species.
On Abortion: Hillary believes in a person’s choice while Trump was at one time for it, to pander to his conservative base, he changed his stance on this issue. He is against abortion. On trade, Trump is against NAFTA, TPP, he is for imposing tariffs on trade partners, is against free trade. Clinton is for free trade, wants to renegotiate parts of NAFTA, does not support TPP, and is against imposing tariffs on trade partners. On healthcare, Clinton wants to build up and improve up on Obamacare and a Medicaid expansion while Trump wants to dismantle Obamacare for the market to decide, and is against Medicaid expansion. On education, Hillary wants to make college free to families earning 125,000 Dollars or less. Trump is against free education.
4. Voter Demographics and Election Predictions by the numbers
Voter turnout is not the greatest in the world. Pew Research ranks America 31st out of 35 countries. In 2012 only 55% of voters turned out to vote despite the abundance of absentee ballot vote in some 31 states. Analysts warn that the 2016 election cycle might see even lower numbers. Pollsters and experts such as fivethirtyeight, Quinnipiac University, Marist College, CNN/ Opinion Research Group, ABC News/Washington Post, are trying to make sense of what the votes and voters mean in order to predict this election 2016. Lower voter turnout tends to benefit Republicans, and higher voter turnout is usually good news for Democrats.
According to Voxdotcom website, 42 Million votes have already been cast earlier than today’s deadline. This is compared to 46 Million votes cast in 2012 Analysts believe that the drop in voter’s numbers is due to a resounding malaise towards both candidates especially Trump. So far 18 Million early ballots in 2016 were cast in Battleground states. Battleground states are: Ohio, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Iowa, Arizona, Georgia, and New-Hampshire, Nebraska and Maine have split electoral votes. The interesting surge in Latino votes might be key to putting Hillary over the top in what many consider the most important state in this race: Florida. Latinos are voting in record numbers in other states such as Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and North Carolina.
According to Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight, Clinton has a 70% chance of winning this election on Tuesday November 8, 2016. Most polls including the latest poll checked while writing this article was published by the NBC Battleground Poll, and it showed Clinton winning 274 and Trump lagging or losing at 170 with 94 outstanding toss up states. In his outlandish stratospheric speeches, so far the only one winning everywhere appeared to be Donald Trump.
My prediction is Hillary winning with a minimum of 300 Electoral votes. People remember Khizr Khan the Muslim American whose son was killed while serving the US. Khan speech was a turning point for many who viewed Trump as a lose canon who did not spare insulting Muslims, women, handicapped people, the Pope, and the list is endless.
In addition to the Latino vote that will emerge clearly as a booster to Democratic candidates, one silent card that could tilt the vote is the Muslim Americans who will vote by a landslide for Clinton. A recent article by Abigail Hauslohner in the Washington Post writes: “The prospect of a Donald Trump presidency may frighten plenty of Muslim voters, but Hillary Clinton isn’t particularly popular, either. In the Democratic primaries, many Muslim voters backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). Clinton was too hawkish for them — and may still be even if she earns their votes.” Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia add up to about 1 Million Muslim voters. This number is highly significant especially if the races turn out to be tight in one of the battleground states. The extreme right wing leaning website Breitbart shows 72% of Muslims will vote for Hillary versus 4% for Trump with 12% undecided.
Side notes about the 2016 election: It is the beginning of the end of a long treacherous journey that will culminate in the selection of a US president. Unlike all other presidential races in recent history, this one was ugly, off topic, confusing to many, and may seem to have brought the anger of many politically frustrated Americans to the surface. Trump may have emboldened fringe groups like the KKK to jump back into the political scene with the likes of David Duke of Louisiana, once a grand Wizard of the KKK running for the Senate.
Although it is a presidential election, many experts do not consider it to be consequential when it comes to legislation, but can redefine the course of politics for the next 40 years based on future SCOTUS appointments. Congress is expected to retain its Republican majority, and many legislators have already vowed to continue gridlock as it is known in the political beltway. Senate may shift to the Democratic column, if that happens, and assuming that Hillary will win this election, it will give her a breathing room to push through some Democratic Agendas that Obama has not been able to muster.
This campaign was the first in history where some outcome may have been affected by an insertion of the FBI into the American politics. This election 2016 will be looked back in the mirror as one of the most grueling contests in the history of the US, and also one of the most polarizing. Election Day is still one day that everyone will celebrate cautiously the first Female President in the history of USA. Americans have an attitude of accepting the outcomes and going back to work. Should Trump win the Presidency, no one is prepared to predict that outcome nationally, or internationally. Having seen Trump off message, one can only hope that America will learn from its mistake of electing such a dangerous candidate.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.
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