Donald Trump raises some valid points about American democracy
It is easy to write off Donald Trump. People have been doing it for decades. However, while mainstream media networks cut from his White House speech on Friday, dismissing his rant as hokum, the president was actually making some valid points about the byzantine ineptitude of American democracy. Most, if not all, of those points are yet to be answered, reconciled or rubbished, but the masses want to sweep them under the carpet while anointing Joe Biden a most unlikely saviour.
Why political polls need to be regulated
Firstly, let us consider the pollsters – yeah, those so-called ‘experts’ who once again failed to conceal their innate liberal biases while spinning influential narratives. Almost universally, the prognosticators gave Trump a 10% chance of winning a second term. Some biased bystanders said Biden was between 12 and 17 points ahead. As of right now, though, with 46 states declared, Trump only has a 6-point deficit, making the polls somewhere between 35% and 50% effective. Therefore, in relation to their singular purpose – defining voter intent – polls have once again been shown as fatally flawed.
For all the progressive handwringing about fake news, smear campaigns and widespread disinformation, why do we continue to allow polling – an inaccurate science by definition and historical statistics – to wield such influence over political thought, debate and decision? In a world where the US president is censored by big tech conglomerates for sharing his opinions – once the very motivational genesis of social media before profit got in the way – how can pollsters have free reign to shape the global zeitgeist around their own predispositions?
More than ever before, the political commentariat is beholden to polls in the formation of news and narrative. Under the duplicitous façade of mathematic genius, pollsters boast of demographic data and predictive algorithms, but how do we know those ingredients are authentic, and how do we know their taxonomies are unbiased? Who owns the polls? Who funds these surveys? How did polling become a viable profession? These are valid questions that point inextricably to vested interests, be they political or financial. Quite frankly, why should we trust such chronically inaccurate barometers of national mood?
Ultimately, polls are bound to fail because their sample sizes will never be big enough nor broad enough. In this regard, the only poll that really matters is that constructed by the people on election day. However, in their thorough dominance of public discussion, and in their crucial fuelling of the corporate news cycle, polls affect sentiments and intentions more than most other pieces of political apparatus. Accordingly, the time has come for polls to be regulated. After all, if Donald Trump cannot tweet his thoughts without censored citation, why should Nate Silver be allowed to do so?
“As everyone now recognises, media polling was election interference, in the truest sense of that word, by powerful special interests,” said president Trump in the statement that was dropped by several media outlets. “These really phony polls – I have to call them phony polls, fake polls – and they were designed to keep our voters at home, create the illusion of momentum for Mr Biden, and diminish Republicans’ ability to raise funds. They were suppression polls. Everyone knows that now. And it’s never been used to the extent that it’s been used on this last election.”
If we tone down Trump’s typically incendiary rhetoric for a second, he makes some valuable points here. In addition to their unavoidable conflicts of interest, polls repeatedly fail to grasp a fair and diverse representation of America, a huge country of infinite counterculture. Polls are designed by and for the millennial class of virtue signalling internet dwellers, but the people on your Twitter feed do not represent the whole spectrum of a deeply divided populace. If democracy is to be served, we must step outside those echo chambers and debunk the myth of polls as meaningful gauges of public approval.
Why do mainstream media networks call elections? And why do we listen?
Likewise, if free and fair elections are to be held, they must be shorn of excessive media interference. The entire concept of news networks 'calling' states for one particular candidate – be they Democrat or Republican – is asinine. Politics is not a reality television show. Politics is not entertainment. Politics is about real lives, real choices and real decisions. The dumbed-down trivialisation of election coverage serves only to boost ratings and exacerbate revenue. In no way should media coverage be conflated with legislative scrutiny like this.
Once again, Trump is correct in his recent assertion that Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone of the overall presidency. Sure, that certification process may be a mere formality, and it is unlikely to change the outcome of this election, but we must move on from the archaic nonsense of projected winners and decision desks moderating national moods. Here is a novel idea: how about we count all the votes first, rather than rushing to extrapolate minuscule datapoints to universal extremes?
A slew of news organisations ‘called’ Pennsylvania - and thus the presidency - for Biden on Saturday afternoon. Three days later, there are still ballots to be counted in the state. Why was it called, then? Well, the remaining ballots are from ‘heavily blue counties,’ we are told by the clairvoyant gurus, and it is seemingly enough to elect a president based on probabilities these days. You see, procedural formalities are secondary to lurid clickbait headlines.
There may well be complex formulae behind networks calling specific states for certain candidates, but even those formulae appear to be hued. Right now, Biden has a 0.7% lead in Pennsylvania, which has been called for him by every media outlet in the world. Yet, in Alaska, Trump is ahead by 28.6%, but that state has not been called in his favour. The only logical cause of such inconsistency is vengeful ignorance or wilful tampering. Either way, Trump has certainly been screwed over in some places.
What if Trump is right about voter fraud?
One rationale for delayed projections in Alaska and other key swing states is that absentee and postal ballots can be received up to 9 days after the election in parts of the country. So long as those ballots are postmarked on or before election day, they can be counted. Of course, such discrepancies leave open the possibility of fraud and malfeasance, but when Donald Trump posits seemingly plausible theories to that end, they are shot down with the rest of his wider bluster.
“It’s a corrupt system, and it makes people corrupt even if they aren’t by nature,” said the president. “It’s too easy. They want to find out how many votes they need, and then they seem to be able to find them. They wait and wait, and then they find them.”
While the Trump campaign has noticeably failed to deliver any tangible evidence of such voter fraud as yet, that does not change the shocking possibility of it happening amid a system ripe for exploitation. The loophole certainly exists; we just do not know if anybody took advantage of it.
Accordingly, my point is that the very existence of these nefarious tactics – indeed, the mere possibility of illegal scheming – is a major threat to democracy. And just because Donald Trump articulated the theory does not mean it should be instantly discarded as a nut-job conspiracy.
How delayed vote tabulation incites violence and encourages corruption
The absurdity of real-time scorekeeping in elections also feeds into this conundrum. By drip-feeding results in a staggered fashion, updating scoreboards like Wall Street tickers, the news channels ferment frustration that erupts with volcanic force. This is not the 1919 World Series, when a giant board was erected in Times Square so people could keep abreast of developments between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds. This is a presidential election, and to make seismic changes based on convoluted projections, beamed around the globe instantaneously, is folly of the highest order.
Yes, individual precincts and counties should record their vote tallies, but the whirring tabulation is a vector of anger and resentment. We hear a lot about warring factions on either side of the political divide, from Antifa to the alt-right, but the same networks that condemn public unrest stoke the undergirding alienation by live-tweeting the degradation of candidates and their ideals. The double standard is nothing short of scandalous.
Similarly, the hypocrisy of Democrat functionaries campaigning for every vote to be counted yet celebrating perceived success based on drip-fed projections is uncanny. They accuse president Trump of wanting the election to be stopped while he was ahead in the count, but they themselves have declared the contest over when there are still votes to be counted and legal challenges to be heard. That is the literal definition of hypocrisy.
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Regardless of illogical formats and nonsensical deadlines, even the very process of counting votes is painfully anachronistic. In 2020, are we really still using paper ballots? Are we really still relying on a flawed postal service? Our lives are governed by mobile phone apps, allowing us to order food and adjust air conditioning on the fly, but when it comes to the most important processes of western democracy, we still need to draw crosses in boxes with actual ink? Surely there is a far easier – and fairer – way of doing things than ferrying around crates of paper ballots.
By the same token, I’m routinely stunned that actual human beings are still responsible for sifting through completed ballots, checking them for compliance and sorting them into partisan piles ready to be scanned. Humans are naturally and intrinsically biased. The expression of those biases may be explicit or subliminal, embraced or stifled, but they exist as a matter of mere survival. How, then, can we expect democracy to be unbiased when its practical application relies so inherently on biased agents?
This is especially pertinent given the apparent polarisation of American identity and ideology at the moment. And when it comes to Donald Trump, those feelings are turbocharged among both supporters and detractors. Everybody has an opinion on Trump, frequently branded the most divisive president of all-time, and ballot-sifters are not immune to those impulses. The same is true for any political candidate who ever stands for election. Starbucks does not even trust humans to make a consistent cup of coffee, but here we are allowing them to sort and count presidential ballots? Come on – this is ludicrous.
Sure, there would be issues with digital voting, not least the threat of cybercrime and international hacking, but surely a solution can be found. America is the cradle of technological advancement, with Silicon Valley churning out the most innovative products in consumer history, yet we cannot figure this out? Where there is a will, there is a way, but maybe there is no will for transparent change. Perhaps the political establishment likes its archaic electoral system just the way it is, so open to manipulation.
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As outlined, there are many other important questions raised by president Trump, but they are reported with a dismissive air of condescension by a fatigued press that still does not know how to cover his phenomenon. How can people vote without showing valid identification? How can ballots be cast without stringent authentication? Why are poll watchers being denied their legal right to observe pivotal procedures? Adequate answers are yet to be provided.
If the shoe was on the other foot right now, the outrage would be biblical and – dare I say it? – anarchic. The Democrats spent the past four years arguing about election integrity, pursuing fanciful theories pertaining to Russia and Ukraine, but now they do not want to explore the potential irregularities of a pandemic-altered process that did not run smoothly. The capricious self-interest is contradictory and damaging.
Joe Biden may well have won this election. He probably did. But probably is not certainly, and the ambiguity betwixt those duelling pillars is anathema to democratic will. The mainstream media is quick to gag Donald Trump, perhaps owing to his complex track record, but his vocalisation of endemic electoral anomalies must be heard. More importantly, his claims must be explored, because the fairness of elections is deciphered in practice, not in semantics, and America would be wise to heed the concerns of its president.
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