Primary Elections, the Electoral College, the Federal Election Commission, and the American Media

There is something seriously wrong with the election process in this country. As it stands, there is not a single election cycle that passes by where a majority of citizens are satisfied with the process, procedures, or outcome. This is not to say that everyone is supposed to be satisfied. It is saying that with each passing election more and more people are dissatisfied. This has been made most apparent by the 2016 Presidential election. From the beginning of the primary season, all the way up to the moment of truth on November 8th, people have loudly voiced their complete lack of confidence in the democratic process. At the moment of truth, they also did something else. In record numbers, north of forty-five percent, registered voters in the United States stayed home, rather than go to the polls and vote for a candidate that they were not happy with. Aside from people just not liking the available slate of candidates, there are certain processes that have been slowly pushing people away. The Primary Elections held by the various political parties are beginning to look like nothing more than pre game pep rallies. The Electoral College has, on multiple occasions, countermanded the popular vote of the American people. The Federal Election Commission has no teeth, or is paid off, such that it cannot properly enforce federal election laws against people or parties who attempt to cut corners to gain an edge against their opponent. The media seems to have more of a say in the outcome of elections than does the government, and these are just the top four. This does not include things like oppressive laws and the use of military force.

To begin with, the United States Constitution makes absolutely no provision for the formation, maintenance, and operation of professional political parties. In fact, the Founders intentionally left such things out of the document because they did not want it to be contaminated by partisan bickering and politicking. What this means, however, is that political parties are private institutions. They essentially operate like businesses who are able to write, revise, and enforce their own rules as they see fit, so long as they follow a basic set of rules laid out by the federal government. They are, of course, required to adapt to new rules as they are created. Election primaries are a tool that was created by US political parties to increase the air of democracy in how they chose their candidates. The very first primary was held by the Anti-Masonic Party in 1831 at their national convention, but the state primary system conducted by parties now was not formally in place and fully operational until the late 1960s. Before this period, a party’s presidential candidate was more likely to be chosen in the proverbial smoke filled back room. From time to time such decisions were contested and the party conventions became chaotic, but they still did not involve the general populace, at large.

The real push for states to take up the present primary system picked up just before the commencement of World War I. In the beginning, only twelve states held such primaries. There was a caveat involved, however. Most of these primaries were restricted to white males, only later to include white females. All twelve of the first states to begin using this system either conducted segregated primaries or simply refused to admit anyone of color to the polls, per their state’s Jim Crow voting laws, both North and South. Before the primaries, candidate selection, as was mentioned, was usually a rigged process. It usually involved money, political promises, and economic deals. The White Primary system was much the same. It was a way to rig the primaries against the non-white segment of the American population. The white primary system was not ended until the later stages of World War II. It was finally struck down by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944). Fast forward to the present debacles in the 2016 election, and people are still yelling that the primaries are rigged. Why would they not? In several precincts, polls were intentionally closed early to prevent working Americans from voting after work. Paper ballots that did not have the party approved vote on them were physically thrown into the garbage, and electronic voting machines were tested and found to be intentionally programmed to cast a vote for the approved party candidate, no matter who the registered voter standing at that machines actually voted for.

Now, the Electoral College is a different story. It was actually created by the Founders. It was written into US law by Article Two, Section One, Clause Three of the US Constitution. “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.” The original process was complicated, and cumbersome.

Originally, Presidential candidates did not choose their own VP candidates. Originally, the Electors voted for each candidate per their number of votes in the general election in their various states. The person that got the most votes was President. The person that got the second most votes was Vice-President. This created situations where the President and Vice-President were in different parties. The process was later altered by the Twelfth Amendment, passed in 1804, to allow for party affiliations to be involved. Now electors were allowed to cast their votes for a slate of candidates, rather than just individual candidates. There have been arguments ever since about whether or not this was the right thing to do. What if the Founders intended for this mixture to be a purposefully built in checks and balance system amongst competing political factions?

Consider, now, that the Electoral College, twice in the last twenty years, has given an election to a candidate that did not win the popular vote. Though this is a good reason for the people to be unhappy, they need to realize that this is not the first time that this has happened. There have been at least four other occasions where the electoral college and the popular vote did not match up, and in two of those occasions, the President was chosen through means other than the appropriate elections. John Quincy Adams was elected President in 1824 despite losing both the popular vote and the electoral college vote. In 1877, in a hotly contested and extremely botched election, Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President in a precarious smoke filled back room arrangement. There were two states whose electoral votes were in question, and they were the determinant votes for the election. He was offered the White House by Southern Democrats in exchange for a single important service.

Upon his inauguration, Hayes was to announce the immediate termination of all federal activities and programs related to the federal government’s post Civil War Reconstruction program. Essentially, in exchange for becoming President of the United States, Mr. Hayes opened the door for the birth of Jim Crow. Though, in the remainder of US elections the Electoral College and the popular vote have essentially lined up, these few instances of malfunction highlight the true original purpose of this political mechanism. It essentially serves as a tool by which the social, political, and economic elites of the United States can correct the people’s mistakes when they find it necessary to do so.

What of the Federal Election Commission, then? What is its intended purpose? Does it actually matter? The FEC is an independent regulatory agency that was founded in 1975 by the United States Congress to regulate campaign finance in the United States. It was created in a provision of the 1974 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act. It describes its duties as “to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.” Since then, in several related pieces of legislation, the FEC’s slate of responsibilities has expanded, to the point that now, FEC officials can recommend the seizure of and federal control of a local polling station if it is found to be in rampant violation of any federal election law that has been passed to protect registered voters from any number of corruptions whose goal it is to either keep them from the polls, influence their vote while at the polls, or alter their votes once they have left the polls.

They are also supposed to work with various federal policing agencies to ensure that such activities do not take place, to begin with. Yet, in the past twenty years, the American people have sat and witnessed elections that were determined by nothing more than blatant corruption and massive election violations. Where is the FEC when they are needed? They are there, but much like the FBI in the late 1920s and early 1930s, they have no teeth. They can only recommend that the government take certain actions. They cannot make them do it. It has gotten to the point that the FEC’s role in federal elections seems to be purely ceremonial, such that its only true purpose is to stand in the path of anyone who accuses American elections of being anything other than perfect representations of the American democratic process and the authority of the American voter.

Finally, the American media, when it comes to the outcomes of elections, the motivation of public action, and the prioritization of certain events, has essentially become the fourth wing of the American government. If the ruling elite want the American people to be mad enough to kill over something, and this has happened throughout this country’s history, they have the press build up the problem to the point that the people are brought to a frothing fervor. If the elite want the American people to not care about an event, they simply tell the media to ignore the event, or if not that, to attack the event as if paying attention to what is happening is somehow un-American. There are very few places where this could be more apparent than in the 2016 Presidential election. The night before and the morning of the election, most media outlets had Clinton winning the election in a landslide, and by the end of the news cycle, they were blaming third party voters for ruining Clinton’s coronation when, in fact, it was their own premature announcements that had more to do with her loss that day.

It was even more apparent during the primaries. During the entire primary season, the media downplayed and blew off Bernie Sanders despite repeated victories, and continued to push Clinton as the desired candidate, despite continued losses, victories obtained through questionable means, and polling data that did support her candidacy. The media did more to shape the outcome of this election than any voter could have possibly done on their own. Just consider that as of right now, the popular vote from this Presidential election is still, technically, being counted. States across the country, to include states that were called for Donald Trump and are the difference in the election, are still counting handwritten paper ballots, yet somehow a winner has already been determined. The Electoral College does not even sit until December 19th, still more than a month away. Yet, somehow, a winner has already been determined in this election. What would happen if those paper ballots turned several states against Trump and gave the election to Clinton? Is the media going to actually allow for such a reversal? Not if they want to keep their ratings from sinking even lower. Further, would the FEC actually attempt to do anything about it? Doubtful.

So, what does this all mean for the American people and elections in the United States? What does it say for the American political process that political parties have the right to operate as independent corporate entities only to be checked when the government feels the required public pressure to actually do something to reign them in? What does it say for the American political process that the Founders wrote the Electoral College into the Constitution because they expressly did not trust the very people from whom they were supposed to garner political support for their electoral victories? What does is say for the American political process that the Federal Election Commission is really nothing more than just one more building built on lies and false promises? What does it say for the American political process that the media can have more sway over the outcome of an election than the government itself?

First, if one believes that the United States ever actually was a functioning democracy, it should warn them that that democracy is on its last leg.  More than that though, it should really tell the people that nowhere in this country’s history was it ever truly a people’s union. Too many limitations and restrictions exist between the elite at the top and the regular working man at the bottom for it to have ever been so. An individual voter from a small town, or from anywhere for that matter, has no chance whatsoever to influence the national political process. The average citizen has no real control over the laws that are passed to govern their behavior. This country was not built and was never intended to function as a platform for the advancement of the common man. The systems, institutions, and myths that have been perpetuated in this country have been put in place to make the common abuses committed by elites look like the will of the people so that they are less likely to get thrown off a cliff for violating just about every rule of decent human behavior that human kind has every created. This should show the American people that there is a genuine and desperate reason for them to get off their asses and act in their own defense if they ever want their illusion of freedom and democracy to ever actually become a reality. Finally, the most important thing that people should securely garner from this election cycle is that American elections have always been rigged.

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I am a Veteran. I am college educated. I am fighting for survival.