In the United States’ democracy, all votes are not equal, writes Victor C. Ariole
Jigsaw is never a straight or easily decipherable movement. It takes a great insight to know where and when the slope or rise could occur. That it will occur like lightening movement is in no doubt but the end result is not easily known. Its effect also is not easily known like the current storm Sally or raging fire in California. So, when ordinary people claim that democracy is a game of numbers they often miss the slope and rise that go with such numbers. In Africa, it could be claimed to be rigging when the rise is not given a value that really shows that all votes cast are of equal value. However in USA, it is seemingly transparent, though all votes are not equal. Hence it is understandable that a Presidential candidate could win the popular votes and lose the Electoral College votes – the one that counts most. Indeed it can only be in USA that it could happen, as each of its 50 States could even decide who to be on their ballot box or not, as African-American minded Kayne West had been removed from Wisconsin State’s ballot for filing his presidential nomination five minutes late of the deadline. Still in line with what states decide, with exception of State of California with the highest number of electoral college votes of 55, and most often gives all to the Democrats, Texas, New York and Florida, each having 36, 29 and 29 respectively, often give all to the Republicans; and it makes the USA democracy a quadratic jigsaw that respects, tending more to inequalities, a2 – 2ab + C = 0. That, in effect, shows that the head segment of the equation counts most; and for USA to remain the head of this troubling world, the content of the head segment must be strong in character and in economics. Except my knowledge of Mathematics in an MBA class, I do not lay claim to a good knowledge of Mathematics but I always wonder why mathematicians could not spread the factors to sum-up as one – win win game – instead of zero-sum game where it hurts most, like the State of California, seemingly, at the tale end of the equation, could always worry about its fate; just like Africa worries about its own weakness in the decision making platform of the world. The same worry seems to be playing out again like it played out in 2016 that ushered in the Republican President as the congress was also led by them; and as the tenure progressed, it slipped into the hands of Democrats; accentuating a partial win-win that could still not be the real win-win expected.
Assume there will be an additional 10% of voters that could be added to the figures that decided the 2016 election winner – about 135million + 13.5million – to make up approximately 149 million, to re-enact the same factors for the 2020 elections, and the electoral college number remains the same, 538 votes, with either Democrats or Republicans, but never one, in charge of the legislature, same scenario could play out. However, like Wisconsin has just done by removing the Democrats’ votes’ splitter – Kayne – from their ballot box, it requires dissuading such votes’ splitting in Pennsylvania and Michigan that join with Wisconsin to command 49 votes of the Electoral College to do so also, in the interest of fair play or in favour of one party.
Besides, the a2 segment of the equation still remains in favour of the Republicans with over 65% of non-graduate US voters clinging to the Republican side, as most of them desperately look forward to having a job as against looking for meal ticket which is what only about 30% as per those who voted for Democrats the last time expect.
Even, as at now, the current refusal of the Congress to vote for further palliative shows that Democrats are apprehensive of wrong effects of the palliative on the populace, as the expected vulnerable ones are not getting it.
In the segment of “2ab”, a pot-pourri of adherents exists for either Republicans or Democrats. What is constant, is the tail end of the equation, and it is the monopoly of the State of California, where migrant workers are always welcome and where Republicans feel that there is a need to build a wall against migrants’ infiltration, and, what is more, a court has granted leave to the Republicans to do their wish on them – the DACA case. Even, a known disgraced campaign manager goes to the extent of causing funds to be made available, individually, for building the walls, as if, hate or love for any crusader of wall building, the interest remains stronger than such hate. That, in effect, shows the bent of most non-grads in both divides who are interested in being seen as employable but are denied access for the preference of malleable migrants. So, it is; everywhere on this planet where the “untraveled” always feel that migrants are disturbing their employment space. What they fail to know is that such space was economically leveraged by the presence of migrants, and USA is a migrant country. Agreed, that undesirable migrants should be checked.
Though, for the ordinary untraveled – and greater number of the population are untraveled – it requires the broad cultured leader at the segment of a2 to allay his fear. But when a leader within the segment of “2ab” is coordinating the direction of the entire chain of the equation, more jigsaw effects are bound to happen. This is where the liberals should care so as not to tumble the USA boat. And as Julie Wronski of University of Mississippi sees it, it should not be a war between the President and the Liberals; that is: “The President acts like defending his base supporters from ‘liberals’ who want to take America away from them”. Liberals, for sure, do not operate on any entrenched belief and could waver when the boat goes tumbling. Somehow the present USA that seems iconoclast, disregarding established rules, could be seen as ultra-liberal, but it is not, with its pro-life stance.
The implied truth is that the pro-life supporters are in favour of the incumbent, and it traverses the space of USA beyond just “Making America Great Again”. The liberals are greatly in USA, and they are yet to occupy the head segment of the equation. In effect, what the USA is reliving, unexpressedly, is what transpired in a secret, but open debate as seen in “Allez Savoir” of University of Lausanne, between Bush and Chirac, bordering on unexpressed belief system of “In God We Trust” and “Liberté Egalité, Fraternité”. At the end, France ignored the content of its own “Fraternité” leaving “liberté” to take the shine and creating terror in their midst, before Macron started rebuilding it with “La Republic en Marche”, in great pains. It seems that Republicans are not quick to forget that and, indeed, they are not so comfortable with vitiating the belief of “In God We Trust”. Trump still believes what Bush stands for. USA citizens are not sure that Liberals, emasculating, currently, Democrats, could guaranty stability for them.
Ariole is a Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Lagos