Monday, 8 August 2016

Thoughts on the run-up to the US Presidential election of 2016

We are now just three months away from the US Presidential election, with Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump fighting out such a heated contest bloated with hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate money and private donations, with a little bit of grassroots donations thrown into the mix. Out of all recognised democracies, the USA is the most infamously two-party of them all, with such strict requirements for minor parties to even get onto ballot papers (these vary by state, however) and with no limits on campaign spending meaning that other parties have no realistic chance of competing with the Democrats and Republicans, even though among minor parties the Libertarian and especially the Green Party are gathering more support than ever from a growing field of American voters tired of the same old Punch and Judy charade and the endless amounts of negative campaigning from both the Democrats and Republicans. This has been exacerbated by Bernie Sanders' unfortunate loss of the Democrat nomination, with many of his supporters now preparing to vote for Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein. As for Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson, his rise in support is likely the result of moderate Republican voters angered at Donald Trump's extremist and outrageous stance on issues like immigration a la John B. Anderson in 1980 (who attracted some votes from liberal-leaning Republicans in light of Ronald Reagan's then radical economic stance)

1. Will there be a breakthrough in this election?

It is very unlikely but with recent opinion polls showing that the Democrat and Republican candidates are attracting just 80% of the vote between them, the lowest level since 1992, this will be a great leap forward in pushing through the two-party dominance, and one that will probably last unlike that of Ross Perot. In particular, Jill Stein's rising popularity should bring climate change and environmental issues further into the minds of American voters, with many coastal areas at risk from excessive flooding and hurricanes.

2. How hard is it to win electoral votes actually needed to get accepted as President of the USA?

Very, very hard indeed. Most states use a winner takes all method and Electoral College votes are not evenly distributed at all because the 50 states are all different shapes and sizes. Only eleven populous states altogether need to be won by a candidate in order to win 270 electoral college votes and thus become President: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and New Jersey. Several of these are also key swing states that generally predict the outcome of the entire US Presidential election. Even in state campaigns, the amount spent on campaigns is in the tens of millions-money which only the pro-corporate Democrats and Republicans really have.

3. Could tactical voting be a substantial factor again as it was in 2000?

Not necessarily, since with only three months to go Donald Trump is lagging considerably behind Hillary Clinton in the polls. Only in swing states like Ohio and North Carolina is it likely to be seen to a substantial extent, thus squeezing out 'minor party' candidates. The polarising nature of both Hillary and Donald, and the increasing popularity of 'minor parties' at a local and state level, means that American voters are more likely to vote for what they believe in than ever before.

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