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Student Blog Post: Even democratic theorists couldn’t have predicted our current state of affairs

trump winner victory so good

Voting is both praised and damned in this election. Our criteria for judging elections are derived implicitly from the works of political philosophy. Philosophers have considered, approved, and condemned elections.  In “The Ballot in Political Theory”, political theorists of all eras have considered the functions of elections both in the choice of leadership and the determination of governmental action. They differed, however, in their relative stress on the direct and indirect effects of the vote.

Few philosophers have seen wise public action as the direct result of the electoral process, Machiavelli was an exception, believing the electorate competent to choose able leaders. Comparing popular vote and despotic governments, Rousseau was even more optimistic and emphasized policy decisions. Under suitable conditions, he wrote “The general will is always right and tends to be public advantage.” Most theorists who emphasize direct effects of elections are hostile to the ballot. They stress the need for skilled leaders in the government and for wise policy decisions. Elections are judged on their ability to meet such goals and are found inadequate. Those who concentrate on these direct effects, therefore, become opponents of elections and fearful of their results.

As quoted in “The Ballot Theory ” by Lederman, Plato states, “Unless either philosophers become kings in their countries or those who are now called kings in their countries or those who are now called kings are rulers come to be sufficiently inspired a genuine desire for wisdom; unless, that is to say, political power and philosophy meet together, while the many natures who now for their several ways in the one or other distraction forcibly debarred from doing so, there can be no rest from trouble, my dear Glaucon, for states, nor yet, as I believe, for all mankind.” Plato, among other political theorist criticized ballot due to the lack of political knowledge of the general public. He firmly believed in “philosopher kings” who tested into positions of leadership due to their wisdom and ability to form political knowledge. The criticism against the ballot is founded on an elitist premise. Plato believes that there are certain discoverable abilities are needed to participate in the government, that only a severely limited number of persons have these skills, and that all others should be excluded from politics.

As the presidential election comes to a close, it can be interpreted various ways. With no political background, President-elect Donald Trump has won the presidency with, as some may argue, a racist ill-informed platform. This essentially proves the dangers of a democracy that Plato had warned. His elitist theory of philosopher kings would essentially weed out those who are ill prepared and lack in political capabilities such as President-elect Donald Trump. The “Political Ballot Theory” sheds light in flaws in our electoral system through the eyes of these political theorists.

Reina Cassandra Rosales is a fourth year political science major at Cal Poly Pomona. She enjoys finding new places to hike, volunteering at her church, and spending time with family. She plans on pursuing a law degree following graduation.  

Student Blog Post: Donald Trump’s victory demonstrates an education and regional divide

The “Student Blog Post” series invites students from my PLS 321: Electoral Process course to author their own blogs about recent election events.

trump fake news knowledge

Political knowledge can be defined as the range of information about politics that is stored in long-term memory. Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 Presidential Election can be potentially attributed to those American voters who were less educated. In the beginning, many were surprised as Trump won the Republican nomination, maintained the position as frontrunner position in the polls, and finally winning the 2016 Presidential Election. Polls and media predictions indicated that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, was going to win the election with no contest. Donald Trump, a businessman who had not previously served in an elected office, was underestimated by Democrats and Republicans alike, vowing to fight for the interests of average Americans who had lost faith in the country’s political leadership.

Donald Trump spent much of this campaign with a focus in rural America, where much of the population was the classed as white with some or no college. With a lack of political knowledge, Donald Trump seemed like a candidate who wouldn’t be bought and corruptible, thinks of the blue-collar America, and disconnected from politics in the sense that Trump actually cared about what the average American thought. With higher education, generally comes an improvement in economic stability. Data statistics for the 2016 Presidential Elections shows that most of Trump’s enthusiastic primary voters were more likely to live in areas with difficult economic conditions. Because Donald Trump is a multi-billionaire, it allowed him to gain leverage over other candidates by giving him the freedom to speak his mind without fear of losing donor support, no matter how controversial the topic. The ability to speak his mind gave him the impression of a straight talker; no one is controlling him and he is a man of his own. Standing out in the presidential campaign allowed Donald Trump to be seemingly invulnerable to the traditional rule of politics. Amusingly, Donald Trump created a toxic image for himself in many of the voter’s eyes, and even getting disapproval ratings among women just because of his competition with Hillary Clinton.

Trump however gained even more political controversy as he started to expatiate publicly racial slurs and comments. In this election cycle, Trump had a long history of racist rhetoric against African-Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Latinos. Many Americans were anxious and concerned about a theoretical threat against immigrants which Trump was able to gain their vote by creating an anti-immigration platform which allowed him to gain more popularity. Although the Republicans believed in a strict immigration policy, many Republicans avoided publicly speaking in order to not offend Latinos. In order to replace the Latino vote with another large minority, Trump was able to replace that percentage with many Caucasian-Americans in middle America. Much of the population was located in the heart of red-state America and dominated swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Many of these states were actually more populated overall than urban areas and large amount of unexpected additional voters turned out. The lack of a uniform campaign from Trump’s main rival, Hillary Clinton, also allowed Trump to be able to gain the upper-hand in the presidential election as Clinton advisors stated that they saw no point in spending a couple million dollars on television advertising and campaign travels when Clinton was likely to lose the state. This lack of effort caused Hillary to lose many of the rural states which Trump had put majority of his effort into.

The 2016 Presidential Election, an election cycle that will be remembered for a long time as the two presidential candidates were choices in which many voters had to “choose the lesser evil”. However, Donald Trump, our president-elect was able to win the presidential election due to his ability to win the hearts and minds of rural America as they saw him as a candidate who would vouch for their hardships. He appeared as a candidate, with no political ties; one with the average American despite being a multi-billionaire, who would change the establishment which seemingly no longer cared for the American people, who are the most important. Americans sacrifice democratic ideals and only intervene when corruption and greed is high, a time which appeared in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Kevin Kim is a fourth-year Political Science major who enjoy camping, football, and motorcycle riding. He plans on continuing his career in the US Army after graduating from Cal Poly Pomona.

Student Blog Post: Faithless electors may come into play later this month

The “Student Blog Post” series invites students from my PLS 321: Electoral Process course to author their own blogs about recent election events.

electors faithless illegal

As everyone knows, Donald Trump has been declared president-elect. But what people may not know is that the Electoral College meets December 19th, 2016 to officially vote and elect President. In controversy, a presidential elector, representing the state of Texas, declared this week that he would not vote for Donald Trump. This makes this Texan elector the second person to refuse to cast his vote in accordance to his state election results, as the Texas’ Electoral College vote went to Donald Trump. Texan Republican elector, Art Sisneros, went as far to state that he would rather resign than vote for Donald Trump. And he is not alone, as a handful of electors, whom are to cast their vote on December 19th, are outspokenly showing their disdain for Donald Trump.

Samuel Miles of Pennsylvania had the distinction of being the first elector to refuse to vote for his state’s electoral victor, in 1796. Miles was a Federalist who had been pledged to vote for the Federalist candidate, John Adams, but rather cast his vote for Democratic-Republican candidate Thomas Jefferson. Now, refusing to vote in the favor of your state is not unheard of, but it is quite rare in American history.

To determine if these rebellious electors will be punished, let’s look at the law. Now, the Constitution does not specifically require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote in their states, but the laws of 29 states and the District of Columbia bind electors to do so. Some states even go as far to require pledges or threaten fines or criminal action, according to a summary of state laws by the National Assn. of Secretaries of State. So far, no elector has actually been punished, but we shall see after December 19th how these electors actually vote.

It is not unheard of for electors to not vote in the favor of their state, although it is rare. There has been a lot of controversy over Donald Trump as president-elect, as shown through the numerous rallies, marches, and protests. However, the point of the Electoral College is to give all states a say in who becomes President; thus, electors should vote based on the people they represent. Yet, as more and more people resist against the notion of Trump becoming president, the electors in the Electoral College can’t but help to try to give these people a voice. Because in end, the electors are a representation of the people, and if the people are angry, shouldn’t the electors be too?

Third year, Paulina Darett, is a double major in Political Science and Business Marketing. As a young child, she knew her spunkiness and sassiness only had one purpose, to become a future lawyer of America. Born in Los Angeles, raised in Coronado, then back again to Los Angeles, Paulina is enamored with diverse cultures (especially food) and wishes to work with all types of people and work with a variety of law cases in the future.

Student Blog Post: Trump’s election brings up deep questions about free speech and democracy

The “Student Blog Post” series invites students from my PLS 321: Electoral Process course to author their own blogs about recent election events.

trump democracy

Throughout Donald Trump’s political campaign, the candidate or should I say president-elect, made comments and built his political campaign out of slogans that took the world by storm. “Make America Great Again” was the center of his poorly planned campaign. As he promised the world many things, such as building a wall on the Mexican border and getting rid of Obamacare, his words have made it so he is not accountable for anything. His false statements have been twisted and altered time and time again throughout the last year within this presidential election.

In the article Trump’s Threat to Democracy Isn’t Free Speech, Balkin states that “The ability to lie with impunity severs the connection between public opinion and how officials exercise state power. It undermines democracy.” During the course of this class, we focused a lot on public opinion and what influences a person to vote a certain way. With this, we decided if this constitutes and makes it so the US is considered a democracy. Democracy is defined as a government by the people. This political campaign brought issues into question such as free speech, the Electoral College, and the status of the US as a democracy.

As Donald Trump continues to make these false statements, the public continues to draw more praise and criticism towards him. This attention is becoming toxic. After the elections, the public saw a turn in its attitude. People started becoming more interested and took actions like protesting, commenting on social media, google searching how to impeach a president, or simply just moving to another country such as Canada. One thing we learned within this class is that the majority of people are not politically knowledgeable and this is essential for the way that government has set itself up.

What draws the public to become involved in politics is when these matters are affecting them personally. The fact that Donald Trump has targeted more than one racial group with his statements has led him to become an unfavorable person. However, there are a small portion of the world that hopes his political inexperience is enough to keep a healthy economy and drive government in the right direction. Donald Trump is smarter than the media paints him to be. Though he has made ridiculous statements, Trump has a power that commands the attention of the media and the public. With this power, he undermines a lot of centralized ideas that took more than two centuries to build. However, the public will see through these ridiculous statements that hold no promise. With this there is also hope that the public finds itself in a position where the only thing left to do is to be optimistic. “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” -J.K. Rowling

Ana Quiroz is a fourth- year political science major with a women studies minor who plans on joining the Peace Corps after graduation. After the Peace Corps she plans on pursuing a law degree and eventually work for the Public Defender’s office someday. She is currently part of the Cal Poly Pomona Cheer team. She also enjoys going to the beach, running, and discovering Los Angeles hidden gem restaurants. In her free time, she enjoys going to local elementary schools and community youth programs to teach young boys and girls basic Tumbling and Dance skills.