If you’re paying attention to things like the Arizona primary, you probably wonder what could possibly go wrong next. This cluster-eff of an event featured 60 polling places where 200 were normal, creating miles-long lines and many hours of wait just to vote.
Of course, if you’re a cynic, you might say that the attempts at voter intimidation worked perfectly.
But that’s the strange miracle of an election cycle that has been so incredibly surprising that nothing, absolutely nothing has gone by the script. The systems we have are being strained to the point where we have to ask why we have them in the first place. The cynics? As always, it’s easy to point out places where our Democratic-Republic was deliberately designed to be less than open. Systems, as we know them, are hardly designed for today’s world – that much is true.
But today we have light shone on nearly everything in ways we never have before. The main reason that every gear in the machine of democracy seems more broken than ever is at least in part because we never knew how ugly it was before. And that’s reason enough to get ourselves to the point where the system is fixed.
The problem is much bigger than Arizona. I have enough faith in the system to believe that what really happened was that their attempt to create a mail-in primary was hopelessly flawed in ways that Oregon never experienced. That it happened at all was a travesty, but there is good reason to believe that it will be sorted out in time for the general election – with a ton of money or lawyers, probably both. We saw how awful it was and there will be a lot of eyes on them now that hopefully will be enough to get it right when it really counts.
Away from that, there is a deeper flaw in our system when someone like Trump is making the progress he is towards the nomination. It’s not the obvious Nazism that bothers me as much as the simple fact that most of his rambling diatribes don’t actually make sense. There is something truly wrong with him that people blinded by the allure of celebrity have not been able to see. Very little about this makes any sense in any way at all.
Yet through this, we’ve seen the value of free speech. No one can now deny that racism is endemic in our nation. No one can deny that money has corrupted not just our politics but every aspect of our system.
Like an alcoholic, we had to hit rock bottom to find that out.
Why should we have faith in the system’s ability to fix itself? The same racist code words that have now fallen to open racism may no longer be acceptable. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan appears to understand this, saying repeatedly that he was unequivocally wrong to use code words like “Makers and takers”. He didn’t go quite as far as to admit that he helped create this monster, but he also didn’t go quite as far as to say “Please let me keep my job.” Both of those are assumed at this point – and may be more explicit later.
That Ryan apparently fears that Republican control of the House is now in play is evidence enough that the system works, after all. The tactic elevated to a strategy of doing absolutely nothing has blown up in his face. Disgust with government clearly created Trump – and no longer appears to favor the establishment Republicans who have made a case for themselves to be voted out. Supreme Court Justice? More gasoline, as if the fire needs it.
Over on the Democratic side, the focus on superdelegates is in many ways missing the point. Yes, the party has always tried to maintain a safety valve that will prevent another McGovern from being nominated. It also prevents any threat to the establishment from gaining any ground. There is little doubt that Clinton would be winning no matter what, especially as she is currently out-polling Sanders by 9 million to 6.5 million overall. But the taint on that win by the current system makes her more vulnerable than she should be and has fired up nasty opposition that should not be there on the left.
The system will change. In today’s world it produces inherently weakened nominees.
How many other ways is our system broken? We’re about to find out, for sure. But there is still nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what is right with America. We have a lot of work to do to fix things, yes, but we are getting a clear picture of just what is wrong. That’s actually a good thing.
Now, will we get down to work and fix things? Will we stop Trump before it’s too late? Will the Democrats either take the House or be left working with a Speaker who suddenly understands the need to actually work? Time will tell.
For now, the systems of our national electoral process are so broken it’s both hard to ignore and hard to know where to start. But we can, and almost certainly will, fix them. It’s all a matter of how.