U.S. political system flailing, can be fixed

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Well, America. Here we are. Our 18-month election nightmare is over. And for a majority of Americans, a four-year nightmare has just begun. Before I respond to Staffwriter Brandon Schmuck’s counter-article in our ongoing discussion of the two-party system, I would like to start by addressing the events of Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Many people are angry. Many people are scared. Most are both, and understandably so. For these members of our society, this moment begins a dark chapter in our nation’s history. But there are several things that we need to clear up before crucifying any particular group about why this has occurred.

We should not solely blame any one group. Voter turnout statistics show that while Latino voter turnout was high, Trump won a higher percentage than Romney in 2012. Black voter turnout was slightly lower, and Clinton won 5 percent less than Obama did in 2012. White voter turnout was high, and more non-college educated women voted for Trump than expected. In addition, Clinton did not win college-educated women by the margin she was expected to. There are many reasons for this; some have speculated that these women were reluctant to discuss with pollsters their support for Trump given the media’s focus on his treatment of women, while others point to the population metrics of the polls themselves being incorrect.

We should not solely blame the pollsters. While some gave Clinton overwhelming odds heading into the election, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast had the odds at 65 percent to 35 percent in Clinton’s favor two days before Election Day. These odds are lower than the Obama-Romney odds in 2012, and it is common for polling errors to account for such margins. Just because she was ahead does not mean that she was guaranteed to win. A 35 percent chance was higher than many were willing to admit. When it comes down to it, polling is a science that continues to improve with time and data. Polling can be helpful and inform our political understanding of an electorate. I do not believe for one second that we would be better off if we simply got rid of the pollsters.

We should also not solely blame third-party voters. While a small percentage of votes were siphoned off by the Johnson and Stein campaigns, it is safe to assume that not all of these votes would have gone to either major party candidate. The margins they won were not going to be enough to flip the states that Clinton lost.

We should also not believe, as some on the left have already hypothesized, that Bernie Sanders could have done any better. It is unknowable how that race would have played out, but we do know from the primaries that he would have underperformed with minorities, and that the GOP would have attacked him fiercely (which they never did during the primary) with an anti-socialist firestorm.

We should also not solely blame Trump supporters. They live in an America far different from the one in our university bubble. They chose to put certain things aside for their candidate, and people can (and should) criticize them for that. They did, however, send a clear message to Washington after being fed a particular narrative for years about the inability of our government’s elites. Whether the narrative is true does not matter to them, because elections are not won with facts alone — this one in particular.
Many of these factors came together to form a perfect storm. And while many people, including myself, are stunned by the result, there is one thing to take note: Clinton won the popular vote.

For the sixth time in the last seven races, Democrats have won the popular vote. Despite everything she had going against her, and Trump’s unexpectedly strong performance, the Democrats still won the popular vote. This reinforces something I described many weeks ago about how our country as a whole leans. I described it briefly in my third article discussing the stress about the 2000 election. A Republican won against the majority’s desires. That left our country divided and more partisan than before. But our nation as a whole has and always is shifting and evolving. We are still the same growing, diverse nation we were last week.

If there is one ultimate culprit in this election, it is the Electoral College. For the fifth time in our history, the winner of the popular vote lost in the Electoral College. That is a failure rate of 9 percent in determining who is the leader of the country. I’ve written about the Electoral College in the past, and unfortunately I would not get your hopes up about changing this system. It works to give more power to rural voters to balance out population centers, ensuring a president has support from around the country. You can thank the Founders for that one.

The most important thing to remember is that our country is represented by those who vote at all. If you did not vote, you do not have the right to complain about this outcome. Your ideals will never triumph in an election if you do not express those ideals in the voting booth.

This brings me to my response to Schmuck and his counter-article published last week. He reiterated his claim that voting your conscience may still be your best option, and that the two major party candidates were equally “terrible.” He also insinuated in his piece that I seem to have some covert goal of advocating for a Democrat-only government.

I am not going to take up more space debunking all of the claims that Republicans have already disproven. The nine Congressional Benghazi investigations confirmed there was no scandal, and the FBI investigations into emails found Clinton had not broken the law. This is the reality behind most Clinton “scandals” (ahem, Whitewater). And of course the Russian email hacks were designed to influence our election in only one direction.

I am not going to blame Schmuck’s firm libertarian ideology for swinging the election either; I addressed the third party vote earlier. And if he chose to vote, he has every right to complain about the Trump presidency as I do, because voting is the most patriotic thing a citizen can do in this country.

However, I believe that Schmuck has forgotten what I was originally arguing for. He wrote that I have an agenda “not in promoting even a system of two choices, but one with what [Glickman] believes to be a clear-cut choice: Hillary Clinton or Hillary Clinton.”

My series of articles has been based around the argument in favor of a two-party system. The fourth article focused on the recent election and how Trump has turned this system upside down and how Republicans and Democrats who do not align with him should still send him into the abyss. This is where Schmuck discerned my “clear-cut choice.” So yes, obviously, I was advocating for a candidate. That should not come as a surprise in an opinion column.

Schmuck and I do agree on a fundamental problem with our government that I touched on in earlier articles: our partisanship has reached astronomical levels.

It seems that, now with full Republican control of our government, that partisanship is unlikely to lessen. Expect Democratic filibusters akin to those of the Republican obstruction under Obama.

Still, I argue that the two-party system can work. It has worked. However, several things need to change for us to return to an age where conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans even exist. And many of these things involve you, reader.

For one, try to take as many high roads as you can. As easy as it may seem, resist the urge to block your friends and relatives who supported the other candidate. This will only increase the problem of people getting information from only one side. You have to be informed; seek out all paths of data and information to ensure a healthy exchange of ideas once again. Our country needs to realign itself, and you can play a significant role in that. We have to be willing to talk politics and remain on good terms with our fellow students, friends and family when we disagree.

There is not an easy road ahead for many people of color, non-heterosexual orientations, or different nationalities. And what I am asking is not an easy task. But by defending the people who feel disenfranchised by this election result, we can be pragmatic and realistic about returning to common sense in this nation. Many people have poured out their emotion and support for one another in the past week.

It lifts me up to see people simply caring for one another, but our work has just begun.

For those of you upset with this election, we cannot simply grieve and then accept defeat while the Trump administration follows through on any number of campaign promises sure to set our nation back decades. The most patriotic thing one can do is vote. The next most patriotic thing one can do is protest and organize. We must remain vigilant in reminding Trump that a majority of the nation is ready to oppose any illegal or retrograde actions. If we simply fall back into a complacent state of mind, then we are lost.

Our work has just begun.

And my heart is in the work.