Both As Bad: A False Equivalency

Both As Bad: A False Equivalency

In less than three weeks, the year-and-a-half stench of the 2016 election will begin to fade. With poll numbers increasingly conveying the dominance of the Clinton camp, it seems unlikely that we will see an orange face in the White House come January. But unlikely is just not good enough. Polls can be misleading for a variety of reasons. Voters can be swayed too, depending on their feelings; and whilst we would like to think every eligible voter will bother to get of their beds November 8th, the dismal reality on such occasions has always proven otherwise. Too many people,  disenfranchised with the so-called broken system, often espouse notions of how voting won’t make a difference. There’s something dodgy going on with both Trump and Clinton after all, right? It’s a wash- either’s going to be terrible for the country! It’s easy to say such things but it’s also lazy and irresponsible- because like it or not, Trump and Clinton are not as equally bad and indifference or disgust in the election cycle will not grant you immunity from its consequences.

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SNL’s interpretation of the 2nd debate

False equivalencies have always speckled their way across political discourse. We believe balance is important because it mitigates bias. That’s why we try to give Republicans and Democrats equal opportunities for speaking when it comes to the issues. On certain occasions however, balance for balance’s sake becomes inconvenient, if not, regressive. For example, in a debate on Global Warming, does an Archbishop really deserve the time of day a qualified scientist receives? Should politicians with ties to the fossil fuel industry really influence environmental progress, where their expertise (if any) lies elsewhere? You might argue that these agents of chaos are only there to reflect the beliefs of a wider population. Does the percentage of climate change deniers then still reflect such a ridiculously humoured viewpoint? Almost every issue has at least two sides to it but they do not always balance on the basis of argument, scientific proof, and popularity. That’s why most schools in enlightened parts of the world teach evolution but not creationism.

With this election, it seems absurd then that false equivalencies are being thrown around so casually. We have Trump, who without fail,has  committed to at least five gaffes every debate without answering a single question coherently, as sentences meander off into the upside-down, perhaps to be rediscovered in the next season of Stranger Things. He has for years navigated his personal and business life with the candour of a silver-back gorilla on cocaine. He has questioned the legitimacy not only of Obama’s presidency but of his citizenship. He has mocked the disabled. He has dimissed sexually aggressive banter as “locker room talk”. He even used the word “bigly.”

Then we have Clinton, who just feels dangerous. Granted, there are plenty of issues to be raised with this woman but in comparison to Trump’s resume, they are minute and rather petty (except for her Iraq vote- that was bad). From the vitriol of her adversaries’ testimonies however, you’d swear she had sold nuclear missiles to North Korea and covered this up with laundered money from several years of work on behalf of the Clinton Global Initiative.  Really, she hasn’t done all that much wrong. She was cleared of Whitewater and Benghazi. The e-mail scandal, whilst irksome and professionally unacceptable, has hardly warranted the level of discussion it’s been given. The truth of the matter is that Clinton’s legacy has been dogged for so long now by conservatives that scandals seem to arise out of thin air. As John Oliver wittily pointed out, before it’s proven that there’s no basis for them (or in fact, that they are just made up), they have already simmered into the subconscious of America’s vague but general distrust of this power-hungry, condescending woman. We know she’s dangerous, we just don’t exactly understand how.

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When you sincerely think this is a tough choice…

With Trump, we know we’d have a disastrous presidency. With Clinton, we suspect we won’t be given the revolution Bernie promised last year. Those are both disappointing outcomes of a desperate election, but they are not equally disappointing. This logic is simple but the Bernie supporters now backing Trump or even the idiot Gary Johnson don’t seem to have grasped it. I am reminded of a quote from the movie Argo in which Bryan Cranston’s CIA operative informs representatives of the Carter administration about the option they have chosen to rescue six hostages from Iran; “there are only bad options. This is the best bad option we have.” So, even if Clinton’s not your choice of spice, isn’t she a whole lot better than putting a piece of human shit onto your chicken?

 

 

The Plight of the 3rd Party

The Plight of the 3rd Party

In recent weeks, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian, Gary Johnson, have been making the rounds in the media, hoping to draw up the support of the loose stragglers of the Bernie camp, among other disenfranchised souls weary of the Donald and HRC. Chasing that elusive 15% (required to enter the national debates) has so far proved a challenge however, with current polling placing Johnson just under the 10% bracket and Stein at a mere 3%.  Is it that these candidates are lackluster? Do they simply lack the magnitude bestowed upon others by the mainstream media? Or is it that old adage at play that affirms a vote cast for an independent is a vote thrown in the garbage? As always, it’s a bit of everything but history, once again, speaks loudest.

Despite the occasional disruption, America, for the most part of its recent history (20th Century), has championed a two-party system. This has developed as a result of natural inclination and artificial structures placed on its political thresholds. With regards to the former point, these two parties have essentially been afforded the right to prosper, owing to conditional and enterprise funding over the years as well as historical gravitas. The party of FDR, for instance, is an institution in itself and tradition, while valued, is often upheld merely for the sake of its own legacy. With the moral decay of the GOP and its hopeful actual decay in the future, one would think a third-party  could possibly build itself on the crumbling mounds of another, but a three- or four-way battle is rarely as marketable for the media and public. In America, commercial tendencies encroach on all avenues of life.

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See? Even the RNC had its own ridiculous ad!

In relation to these artificial constructs then, we must remind ourselves of the unfortunate nature of America’s election cycle and government. They do not facilitate a parliamentary-like system, the way ourselves or the UK do. With most of their votes, plurality laws eliminate the point of acknowledging where the minority votes lie- even if that is a very slight minority. Basically, winner-takes-all. This, of course, simplifies the already tedious process of the election cycle but it also obfuscates the diverse range of public opinion. Even with many of the latter Republican primaries for example, this applied so that Donald Trump, though opponent-less later on, would be the unrelenting winner. (Surpassing 50% isn’t even mandatory for this reasoning.) This hardly seems necessary for establishing the preferred candidate, when everything is only officially tallied up at the conventions. Math is not the GOP’s forte however. With single-district representation and plurality at play, the scientific study of Duverger’s law has found that such countries will thus be more likely to develop a two-party system.

Theoretically speaking then, a third-party candidate’s ascension to the White House is not impossible. The climb however is steeper than the one even Bernie had to climb (he was after all, an independent who adopted the Democratic Party to his advantage.) Huge wads of cash won’t do it alone; even with his popular inclusion in the televised debates, Ross Perot wasn’t able to budge a single electoral vote in either the 1992 or 1996 elections. Framing yourself as a genuine alternative may prove appealing to some but as Ralph Nader’s candidacy proved in 2000, without enough steam, you can cause significant damage by taking votes that would have been cast for another candidate. (This humorously led to Bill Maher and Michael Moore begging him not to run in 2004.) In fact, the last actual candidate of a third-party persuasion to make any notable stride was George Wallace in 1968, who took 46/538 electoral votes. And who was the most successful third-party candidate of all time? Well, they fared a great deal better in the 1800s when the two-party system was still in development but the answer is Theodore Roosevelt from 1912, who for obvious reasons, was an exception.

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Maher and Moore- liberal mavericks

With Trump and Clinton being the two least popular candidates in decades however, is it not plausible that 2016 could do another flip and present the so-called impossible alternative? Logically speaking, this is a sound theory but as aforementioned, the 15% is still out of reach and the first debate is coming up at the end of this month. After that point, if not already so, most people will have decided if they’re wearing blue or red this November. If a third color is to succeed in breaking this fashion trend (which I do not mean literally, I intend to wear an array of clothes), then it will be because of a strong mass organisation which eschews the notion that a third-party vote is a wasted one. Any other kind of philosophy will continue to hold back the prospect of a third-party president ever existing.