Here is my theory. Basically democracy in English speaking countries has been taken over by private entities. There are only two entities who can win power in the UK, USA and Australia. They are called political parties. They are not in the constitution, but because they vote as a bloc, they control the parliament. Because they are private entities they do what their donors want. Few citizens want privatisation, but the donors to the parties do- so we get privatisation. Few want to go to war, but for some reason the parties do, so we go to war. We want universal health cover- Medicare, but it gets rolled back and we have to buy private health insurance, which suits that lobby. Unemployment is rising and the government fiddles the figures and no longer takes responsibility for the problem, it just talks about ‘the market’. What the people think or want does not actually matter. The parties continually put their interests and power ahead of what the people want. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the political parties do not seem to care. They get donations from the rich, and run campaigns to convince the poor to vote for them.
Faced with this situation and two political parties, people are accustomed to voting for the lesser of two evils, or making a protest vote, which is what they did. Trump was anti ‘the system’, so although he was deeply flawed personally that was enough. The Democrat Party machine had got rid of Sanders, the leftist challenger to the status quo, so it became status quo Clinton v. Non status quo Trump. Then the polls got it totally wrong. How come? Part of the same thing- the whole polling establishment obviously had a large segment of the population missing from their sample, but did not know it- like the government really. So if some people did not vote for Clinton because they were disgusted and thought it would not matter, they were wrong.
But if the level of disgust in the process of government is enough to turn a US Presidential election, one must also wonder about the effect of the media. For years, news has been replaced by infotainment. What is important is replaced by what is titillating or exciting. News is trivial, what is important is often not covered, particularly things like falling middle class jobs and stagnating wages. The media is the message. If you are not in the media, the message is that you do not matter. But also note the rise of ignorance. Quiz shows used to ask historic or scientific facts. Now it is TV trivia. And ‘shock jocks’ on commercial media are there to shock and to push products. They do not have to be consistent or informed- just entertaining enough to rate and bring in advertising dollars. So the non-expert, pontificating and criticising overcomes the expert discussing sensibly- how many of those are on TV? The shock jock has become more important than the politician. So why are we surprised when it now happens in real life? The shock jock beat the politician. And the pollsters got it wrong again- just like in Brexit.
What will happen with Trump in charge? He will destroy Obamacare, the relatively minor improvements made towards a universal health system, appoint Conservative Supreme Court judges and officials in public policy such as Climate Change, and boost gun ownership. More significant changes to corporate power will take the approval of Congress and the House, now both Republican-controlled. Obama was elected on the slogan, ’Change is possible’. Obstruction by the Republicans ensured it was not. Now Trump will try, but the same obstructers now have even more power and are not about to let one of their own damage their interests. So Trump is unlikely to be a force for good unless he has unexpected foreign policy triumphs.
So what is the long-term solution to government ruling for the rich by buying political parties? Democracy has to be taken back to the people. The Parliament is controlled by parties and they are private entities and so can be bought by other private interests. This has ever been the case in systems that evolved in Westminster. It is Anglo-Saxon arrogance that makes us think that our democracy is best. Quite simply, it isn’t. Our political power structures, like our corporate structures concentrate power at the top. Swiss democracy involves power being moved down as low as possible with politicians merely enacting what public referenda decide, and with no opportunity for individual politicians to get long-term power structures assembled for themselves. It is time we looked at these models and worked for constitutional change based on a real change of philosophies, priorities and power.