You may have noticed in the news media that there was a Presidential election in the USA last week. You may also be vaguely aware that not everyone was happy with the result. Well, here we see an important and valuable lesson about the democratic process:
You don’t always get the result that you want.
This is important because (and I know I’ve banged on about this before) elections shouldn’t return the same result time after time. That leads to complacency in leadership, and a belief that the winners can do anything they like. Election winners are there for all the people, not just their supporters. They need to keep in mind a second important and valuable lesson:
They can be voted out just as easily as they were voted in
To the dissenters, protesters and rioters in the USA I would say this: we are where we are, you’re not going to change the result and so (as my mother would say) you might as well save your breath for cooling your porridge. It’s no good making a noise after the event – you should have made more noise before the election and persuaded more voters to your way of thinking.
The US Presidential Election
Surprising as it may seem, the election for the new US president hasn’t actually happened yet – it will be some time next month. “What are you talking about, Chippy? It happened last week; it was all over the news”.
Well, the process for electing a US president is complicated; most US citizens don’t understand it, so I haven’t really got a hope of explaining it – but I’ll give it a go anyway.
In a nutshell, the President isn’t voted for by the people: he/she is voted for by the states – taking into account the preferences of their respective populations.
Each state has a number of votes, and will cast those votes in accordance with the result of the election results in that state – casting them all in favour of the more popular candidate. This is the Electoral College system we hear about.
The number of votes per state may vary, but I’m not sure on what criteria. The rationale (or one of them) behind this is that it prevents a highly populated state being able to overrule the wishes of a lesser populated one.
Some states will always vote Republican; some will always vote Democrat. But many states will regularly change allegiance (these are the “swing states” – similar to the marginal constituencies in UK elections). And it only takes a small percentage change in voter preferences for these states to vote for a different candidate, and so change the outcome of the entire presidential election. On other words, the president can be voted out just as easily as he/she was voted in.
Closer to home
There is a dispute between staff and company at my place of work, and the trade union (after the required ballot) has called a one-day strike for later in the month. About 50% of my immediate colleagues (me included) are members of the trade union, but none of us is particularly militant. We don’t think the cause of the dispute is entirely justified, and certainly don’t think it is worth striking over.
Last week when the strike call was made our unanimous reaction was “well, I didn’t vote in favour of a strike; I’m still coming to work”. As the week went on, however, we started to have second thoughts – possibly influenced by our “that’s the democratic process; you don’t always get what you want” reaction to the US presidential election.
OK, so I didn’t vote for strike action, but a large proportion of members did; I should show solidarity with the trade union.
OK, so I’m not greatly affected by the proposed changes, but some other people may be; I should support those colleagues.
So, with great reluctance, I will stay at home on the strike day. Not because I support the union’s side in the dispute, but because over 50% of the union membership do and I support the democratic process.
Never miss out on another blog post. Subscribe here:
Subscribe to Blog via Email