A NEW KIND OF REVOLUTION
There have been major revolutions in several of the world’s leading countries over the last three centuries. The American Revolution immediately followed by the French Revolution and later the rise of communism in Russia all reflected the rebellion of ordinary people against an aristocratic government. Now in the early 21st century there are three more rebellions by the people to overthrow or replace a democratically elected government.
The recent rise of populism began when the British government was stunned to find that its citizens favored leaving the European Union, commonly called Brexit. Then came the Donald Trump’s surprise victory at the polls with support from the disenfranchised middle-class living in the industrial states. Even pollsters on election day missed the mark when they predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency. Both political parties were caught unaware of the potential power of the voters when provoked to make a change.
Next up was the election in France where again the popular vote is supporting a political party that never has been in power. Unlike the last rebellion in 1799, the replacement of the traditional coalition French government will be bloodless but critical in the balance of power within the European Union. Italy is still a wildcard for a similar change.
These major political shifts in three leading world nations sends a message. More citizens are taking control of electing government representatives that promise to make changes, not just drift along getting themselves re-elected. In response, a multitude of special-interest people gang up for a national protest march or a picket line nearly every week. American congressmen are sometimes under siege in a public forum from a shouting audience.
The next critical shift would be for more citizens to show up at the polls. I rather suspect that many of those protesters marching against the Trump administration never voted. “He’s not my President,” they shout. When the voter turnout for a presidential year is about 50% or less, the wining candidate with 51% of the votes cast means that only 25% of Americans have elected a president. Where are the other 75%?
Donald Trump captured 48% of the popular vote but was elected under the vagaries of the Electoral College where the important states have a winner-take-all system. So multitudes can truly say that Trump is not their president.
What can be done to get more people to the polls? This past election was symbolic of the public opinion that voters did not like either candidate. With widespread social media, false news and megabucks spent on campaigns, any candidate can be smeared. These are the dirty tricks used by both political parties so the public has a negative attitude about voting.
Modern technology and unlimited campaign money have hurt the democratic system. I have always opposed the influence that campaign funding creates, but the Supreme Court has spoken: Money is freedom of speech, it proclaimed.
Ever since then candidates became captives of special interests with plenty of money to buy influence. To stay seated in Congress, or any elected office, candidates begin fund raising for the next campaign after the polls close. The British may not have the best system of governing, but I do like the limited campaign system.
When the controlling party in Parliament fails to win a major legislative bill, the prime minister can dissolve Parliament and go to a general election for public support. The campaign period is 90 days. No fund raising or political action for re-election is permitted outside of that 90-day window. That means the ministers spend all their time representing their constituents, not raising money to be re-elected.
The established American political system would never have such limits, Money has taken over the election process. That’s why the rebellions in England, France and the U.S. have upset the establishments with a wave of popularization politics that will force elected officials to deal with their constituents not the lobbyists.
The next two years will define the trend of democratic representation. The EU exit crisis and Trump’s ability to make political change might be the modern-day version of a revolution against the same-old, same-old ruling class.