Two of the most powerful nations on Earth; the United States and the United Kingdom have both recently experienced political earthquakes that have drastically changed what is considered the norm in those two countries. The United States has President Trump at the helm and the United Kingdom has voted to the leave the European Union. Or did they? Did the United States vote for Trump and did the United Kingdom really vote to leave the European Union? Take a closer look at both events and we find that things are not truly as they seem. By a margin of around 2.8 million votes, Hillary Clinton gained more votes than Donald Trump. The reason Trump ‘won’ is because in America the President is elected by an Electoral College. If we look at the United Kingdom we find that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain within the European Union. Clearly things are not as they first appear.
We’ll start with the ‘election’ of Trump. Countless reasons could be listed about why Trump as President is dangerous and truly terrifying but we’re going to focus on the mechanism that got him to being President in the first place; the Electoral College.
For a contemporary democracy, the method of an Electoral College is baffling. It is outdated and undemocratic. It may have made sense in the 18th century when the US constitution was formulated but in modern politics it is out of place. If the US wants to present itself as the beacon of modern politics and society then it needs to move to a system whereby the President is elected.
Twice in the past 20 years a President has been elected to office despite losing the popular vote, this is not good enough. America needs to abolish the Electoral College and have the president voted into office based solely on the result of the popular vote. Having a small number of electors decide who becomes President is a pretty shoddy way of deciding who becomes Head of State.
In the UK
Now for the United Kingdom and its foibles.
Much is said in the media about how the UK has decided that is going to leave the EU. This really is not the case.
The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Only two of those countries, England and Wales, voted to leave the EU. Ergo the UK did not vote to leave the EU. The referendum in the UK on leaving the EU was not conducted in a suitable manner and the mechanics of it were very democratic.
Having one referendum across the whole of the UK leaves other smaller regions with an imbalance of power with voters in England who comprise around 85% of the UK population and electorate. This means that the possibility exists for everybody in the rest of the UK voting one way and England voting another and purely because England has more people, the decision goes to England.
The result of the referendum was to reveal a divide in the UK; England and Wales voting one way and Scotland and Northern Ireland voting the other way. This has now lead to an anti-Union majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time and the Scottish Government calling for a second referendum on independence.
The Union itself is potentially at stake.
What is needed in the modern world is for radical changes in democracy. Within the United Kingdom, any referendum that doesn’t give each country within it an equal say is a mistake. One referendum in each country is required. Within the United States, the election for President needs to be decided solely by whoever receives the most votes. Serious and extensive political reform is needed in both the UK and the US. These are two common sense reforms that can spark radical change. If the UK and the US want to be at the forefront of global democracy, they both need to start by having the proper democratic mechanisms in place.