Happiness is not just a thing called Joe

Image: 1 News TVNZ

The world’s most famous democracy is off to the polls for an election with dire global consequences, regardless of the outcome.

While US elections are always a rowdy media circus, 2020 has received unprecedented attention.

There is an acknowledged sense of anxiety, not only amongst American voters.

Pandemic voting conditions could see a clear result delivered days, weeks or even months after election day.

Social media users are sharing hotlines to call in case of voter intimidation or violence at polling places.

Businesses in swing states have boarded up their windows in the event of riots and looting.

Voters uncertain of their mail-in ballot have been told they can no longer trust the US Postal Service or the counting process as state judiciaries hand down last-minute rule changes.

The FBI has prepared for a raft of possible scenarios including widespread violence, cyber-interference by bad foreign actors and even abuses of power from the office of the President.

Both Presidential candidates have dragged the global media into virulent smear campaigns.

For Republicans, for Democrats, the clear message in the week before the final vote has been: if the other guy wins, it’s the end of America as they know it.

The voter turnout looks set to be record breaking.

This would usually be the lead news story in a country often mocked as more consistently voting for American Idol than the commander and chief of the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal.

But despite the large turn out, the apocalyptic rhetoric and the obsessive efforts of pollsters to revive their credibility after 2016’s calamitous failure, the winner is still anyone’s guess.

At time of writing, odds on Ladbrokes have a Biden victory at $1.52 to 1 and Donald Trump at $2.55 to 1.

A recent story in The Washington Post attempted to debunk claims public opinion polls have been skewed by “shy Trump voters”.

These are Americans not prepared to openly support President Trump for fear of social rejection.

The idea of voter shame is not new for any Western democracy.

Over the past 30 years, expert opinion has become alarmed by the failure of democratic governments to decisively intervene on major global issues.

Rapid climate change, accelerating poverty, a catastrophic loss of fresh water sources and arable land, gender inequality and racial segregation have remained political issues for over four decades.

Despite improved technology, skyrocketing collective wealth and the impression of democracy as the dominant governing force, lasting change has not been forthcoming.

14 of the G20’s membership are stable democratic nations.

It’s time the voters of those countries, Australians included, acknowledged their own responsibility in the failure of global policy.

Wherever the world is right now, major democracies voted for it with shameless consistency, despite prolonged conversation and expressions of concern.

Current popular opinion holds voters are led astray by media monopolies, special interests, hostile misinformation campaigns and inexpert social media commentary.

These forces, to varying extents, did not exist through most of the 80’s and 90’s when many decisions were made leading the global electorate to its current precipice.

The reality is the voters of most global democracies have wildly abused and mismanaged a period of extraordinary privilege and freedom.

These voters are now looking for someone else to blame for the consequences.

Customers shop at a 7 Eleven in Philadelphia on the eve of the 2020 Presidential election.
Image: Nine News

The 2020 US election is a living example of a democracy tearing itself to shreds rather than facing up to the failure of its own voters and institutions to fairly and effectively govern.

The American Republic has long-term, systemic problems.

By 2040, 66 per cent of the US Senate will represent 30 per cent of America’s population.

The electoral college system is in urgent need of reform.

The deregulation of electoral finance laws has turned US Presidential races into a multi-billion-dollar industry.

US Attorney General William Barr has refused to cooperate with investigations into the use of the upcoming US census and redistricting cycle to gerrymander state and federal districts.

Changes to the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013 have led to widespread allegations of voter suppression by state legislatures, usually against African American and Latinx voters.

While Joe Biden’s proposals touch on electoral finance reform, neither Presidential candidate has offered meaningful solutions to America’s democratic problems as part of their election platform.

The majority of US electoral news coverage has followed the partisan narrative.

The 2020 Presidential election is not about how the United States of America should be governed, but who should govern it.

The two concepts have become inseparable, with both Republicans and Democrats pursuing different extremes of a political cult of personality.

The arcane, socio-economic argument of left vs. right has become shorthand for populism in the face of America’s incapacity to operate a responsible democracy on the world stage.

The short-term consequences of 2020’s election will dictate the speed of the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long term? It could potentially alter the perception of democracy as a responsible form of modern governance.

The Trump administration has revealed how a head of state can disrupt the American Republic.

Failing swift and extensive change, it’s no longer a question of if, but when President Trump’s tactics will be used in America again.