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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

So what is the 2016 election really all about?

So what is the 2016 election really all about? 

As usual there are different things for different folks… from being a historic GOP or Dem full ballot voter; to those checking all the issues that impact them personally; and finding a candidate or ballot issue that matches each, as closely as is possible. This probably doesn’t give anyone satisfaction, since democracy is not that granular, therefore individual needs cannot be assuredly satisfied with a single vote.

Democracy is not many of the things we believe it to be. As an example, it is not a “majority rules” form of government… except in 22 countries of the world who require all eligible voters (usually based on age) that are listed here http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/22-countries-voting-mandatory/ … In effect, the rest of the countries are being ‘ruled’ by the leadership of the winning political party that received the majority of the votes of those who did vote… Usually much less than 80%.

 An example of non-democratic voting processes, is the USA. In 2012 just 57.5% of eligible American voters actually cast a ballot. In 2000 only 54.2% voted in the election that ultimately put the USA into a war in 2001 that is (fifteen years later, it is still not over). Interestingly, the outcome of that election, was in effect, decided by only the nine members (5 – 4) of the Supreme Court of the USA (SCOTUS) that stayed a Florida State Supreme court decision of 4 – 3 and ultimately elected George W. Bush president. All of which means that a change of around 1,500 votes overcame the majority of the votes in the country based on the arcane Electoral College system established by the US Constitution Articles and its 12th Amendment. Hardly a democracy by the definition… but here I digress!

So, if one is not choosing to vote based on specific line item issues… what is a reasonable way to consider the election of 2016. It is relatively simple, in my opinion to see the number one issue on the minds of Americans… not war, not healthcare, not the deficit… it is more likely the issue of “government not working” at the federal level. Without attaching blame, let’s look at the mechanics of the “government not working” issue, and the resulting legislative acrimony.

To start, it is important to understand the structure of the US Government at the federal level. There is a separation of power between the President of the USA, the Congress and the Supreme Court of the USA. These three branches of government have different responsibilities that allow government to work (Congress) and to manage disagreements/interpret the US Constitution (Supreme Court of the USA, (SCOTUS))
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The President has certain responsibilities under the constitution. S/he is primarily responsible for any international agreements, policies and non-declared wars (the type of which most USA military activity in the 21st Century, have been). The President is also the “leader” of the administration of the country within the boundaries and laws established by the US Constitution and Congress. S/he is also the morale leader in times of trouble, and celebration.

 The ‘framers of the Constitution of the USA’ established the US Congress with its two houses… one, the Senate is made up of two Senators from each state (50 x 2 = 100, today). With an age requirement (30 years old), and six year terms (a third is replaced every two years). The Senate was established to take the edge off the House of Representatives (which is based on population dispersion). The Senate is perhaps intended to be the wiser, more sedate, less tumultuous governing body in congress. Because of that, it was also chosen to give the President ‘advice’ relative to international wars; the nomination of Federal Judges; and leaders of Federal Agencies. In these situations, they are also required to give ‘consent’ to the ‘major’ nominations like Supreme Court Nominees, Ambassadors and Cabinet Members.

The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is based on each state’s population density percentage of the national population (there are 435 members of the house… eg: 27 are from the populous New York State and only 8 from Wisconsin a much lower density population state); the members serve only two-year terms (however there are no limits to the number of terms a Representative can serve).

This makes the House more volatile and prone to swings in policy based on the happenings of the day. Things like unemployment, healthcare, education and other personal issues, often cause significant swings in the politics of this legislative body. The wisdom of the Senate which must pass each of the House of Representatives’ legislative recommendations, prior to it going to the President, for promulgation, was seen by the framers of the constitution as having a ‘calming’ effect.  

The President can refuse to sign into legislation (veto) policies to which s/he disagrees. The Congress can over-ride a veto with a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Obama’s vetoes, for example have been overturned only once in eight years. So the ‘veto’ is a big hammer that the President can swing on the Congress.

The foregoing is an overly-simplified version of what happens in the legislative process of the USA. It is however critical to understanding why government is not working. If the leadership of either the Senate or the House of Representatives (or both), is in disagreement with the President for political, economic or other reason, they have the ability to hold up any, and/or all new legislation the President wants to pass*. This is critical in the 2016 Presidential election, simply because promises made by a Presidential candidate may not necessarily be passed into legislation, if the leadership of the House and Senate cannot, or will not agree to it.

So in my opinion, there is only one issue in 2016 Federal Election… when a President is elected on November 8th, 2016, will s/he be able to accomplish the goals to which they aspire?

It is the structure of the government that may give us the answer, if the past 20-year-history can lead us to better judgement, in the future. The President of the USA, for all the apparent power s/he may seem to have, cannot move the country in a significant way, without having agreement with the Congress, and in many ways, the Supreme Court.

The twenty-year-trend has been toward polarization between the President and Congress, so legislation has been very slow to pass. Yet, clearly there are significant domestic issues that need to be addressed. Based on structure, it is my opinion that the only way to deal with the needs of the country (infrastructure, healthcare, domestic security, social security, education) is to elect a President who can manage the relationship with congress on a win/win basis. There is a secondary issue that ‘might’ help… that being, to elect a President and Congress (House and Senate) from the same party in order to get legislation flowing. Although absent managing the relationship with Congress, even same party officials often disagree on issues (Obama’s first term for example).
Primarily the election of a President should be based (again in my opinion):

1) on electing a person who has demonstrated the ability to understand and work with all branches of the federal government;
2) it is critical for the incumbent to also understand, and be capable of working with the military, Governors of State legislatures, municipal leaders and leaders of other countries
3)  on understanding that the USA is a daunting leadership quagmire, one that is very different from being a business or institution
4) knowing the gravitas of also carrying the mantel of decisions that perhaps could impact the globe… pollution, power, human migration and nuclear proliferation to mention a few.

The main crux of this note is that it is important to vote… but also to understand what is in the balance of our votes… and it will be the union of many votes that gets our Legislative Bodies to work with the Leadership through rightful and thoughtful use of our obligation.


Notes: * (an exception to this is the budget of the USA: there is legislation in place that states that if the new budget request from the President in any one year is not passed by a pre-determined date, the budget of the prior year is repeated).

This is an interesting website: https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2016



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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!