What if America had a parliamentary system? What if we got rid of the presidency and the Senate and turned the House of Representatives into a 435 seat parliament? The Economist recently raised that question. Using polling data of the presidential candidates as of late April, a writer assigned them separate parties based upon their points of view. That would likely happen if we had a structure which allowed for coalition governments.
There was a graphic which depicted the parties seated in a legislative chamber. The seats were allocated proportionately by census region (North, Midwest, South, West). On the left was a Social Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders with 113 seats based upon 26 percent of the vote. Next over was a Liberal Party of Hillary Clinton supporters. This was the largest party with 124 seats representing 28 percent of the vote. On the right hand side was the third largest party, Donald Trump’s People’s Party, with 112 seats representing 26 percent of the vote. Then there was the much smaller Christian Coalition of Ted Cruz partisans, and the Conservative Party of John Kasich voters.
None of these imagined parties had a majority. The most likely outcome would be a coalition government of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties.
Now back to American reality. In this country, people generally do coalition building before the election within either the Democratic or Republican parties. In a country with a parliament, people create a coalition after the election. In a conference call to his convention delegates, Bernie Sanders said he definitely still had his differences with Hillary Clinton but his support for her in the general election constitutes a coalition. He said that such coalitions are common in Europe.
Tom Gallagher, Sanders supporter and former Massachusetts state representative, noted that a number of Sanders supporters might not understand this:
“American coalition politics, after all, tend toward combining people with generally similar overall views but differing primary interests — such as environmentalists and labor unions, or civil rights activists and feminists. The sort of European inter-party alliances Sanders referred to are not really that, though. They represent agreements between parties with differences that are obvious and well delineated in national campaign debate. A coalition government depends not upon any illusion that the two or more parties don’t have significant differences but on the understanding that they are lesser than those with the other parties in the field.”
Now Sanders is campaigning for Clinton and emphasizing that the Democratic Party has the most progressive platform in history which was the result of negotiations between his supporters and Clinton’s. He says: “This is the time to elect Hillary Clinton, and then work, after the election to mobilize millions of people to make sure she can be the most progressive president she can be.” That would involve the Democrats winning back the Senate and hopefully the House.
Voting isn’t about expressing your moral purity. It’s about which type of state power you wish to deal with after the election is over. Trump says he will appoint Supreme Court justices from a list provided by the far right Heritage Foundation. Trump claims that Black Lives Matter movement has helped instigate police killings and that he might direct his future attorney general to investigate the civil rights group.
Some feel that a Trump victory would be better for the left because it would get the American people off their duffs and moving leftward in resistance. That’s B.S.
Hope, not repression, builds the left. We will be waging a defensive fight for survival under Trump. Do we want to be pressing a President Clinton from the left or having to defend the basic rights of our Muslim, immigrant, Latino and African-American brothers and sisters under a nativist authoritarian? Not to mention our own right to dissent and form unions, etc.
In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a 27-page memo accusing Trump of advocating “police state tactics” and said his proposals on counterterrorism, border security and women’s rights would routinely violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments.
“If implemented, Donald Trump’s policies will spark a constitutional and legal challenge that will require all hands on deck at the ACLU,” said Executive Director Anthony Romero.
The report says Trump’s plan for a border wall and “deportation force” would escalate the militarization of border communities, “promising a border security approach akin to the fortified shoot-to-kill zones dividing the Koreas.”
The ACLU also expressed concern about the civil rights of American Muslims and his vow to “open up the libel laws.” There is no federal libel law to “open up” but this reveals Trump’s contempt for freedom of speech and the press. For the political revolution to advance, the first priority is to crush Donald Trump and the Republicans in November.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.