Elections in the United States: calm after the storm



With reference to the pretended surprising nature of the result, this has to be qualified considering, first of all, that both contenders were the worst candidates that their respective parties could select to compete with the particular opponent and, ultimately, to clinch the victory (in the end, one had to prevail upon the other, but even in this respect, the majority of the votes obtained by Trump in the electoral college is counterbalanced with the majority of popular votes that the Democratic candidate got).

Secondly, it should not be forgotten that the Republican Party had the benefit of the burnout of the rival after two Democratic terms. Since the approval of the XXII Amendment that restricts the presidential terms to two in 1951, after a 8-year Administration of a single hue (which has occurred eight times) , always, except for one occasion (the 1988 election), there has been alternation, a candidate of the other party has clinched the victory. Moreover, today (for some years actually) the conservatives are the favourite party of the American citizens: to the majority in both Federal Chambers is added the fact that 33 Governors of the States belong to the party of the elephant (against 16 Democrats), both chambers being republican in 32 states (against 13 of the opposite party), and, what is more striking, both factors match in 25 states (the so called trifecta), only by 6 with reference to the Democrats.

Eventually, against what has been published, especially by the Old Continent media, the alleged populism embodied by Trump is linked to a stream of deep tradition in the American political history. Thereby, the so-called “progressivism” that ruled the American political history between the late 19th century and the first third of the 20th century and that had elements of populist nature whilst it denounced the aloofness of citizens on the part of the political and economic power circles, was crucial. The interesting thing about the case is that said movement, which gathered a broad diversity of sectors, ended by permeating the agenda of the two big parties, giving rise to the adoption of significant reforms, among which the introduction of primary elections, the popular election of the Senators and the women’s suffrage can be quoted.

Moreover, as a soothing element against the apocalyptic prophecies heard these days, it should be remembered that it is not rare that initially revolutionary candidates have tempered in good grade their speech once the Pennsylvania Avenue was occupied. Such have been the cases of Presidents like Jackson, Nixon, Reagan or even Obama. The very configuration of the American campaign is not alien to this, ruthless exercise of competition (the highest cucaña in the world) where practically everything is valid to reach the objective.

Yet, the most meaningful factor is certainly the wise check and balances system, designed by the 1787 constituents. Even  if the 45th president of the Union wanted to carry his most discussed proposals on, there are notable curbs and counterweights that would jeopardize a good deal of said agenda, reality that imposes, ultimately, a constant negotiation (bargaining) between the different powers. Setting the important limitation and guarantee that means the existence of a more than prestigious Supreme Court and the major restriction that the power of the States implies in a federal system aside, the main counterweight is the Congress.

The articulation of what Loewenstein called “interdependence by coordination” by the fathers of Philadelphia entails that the power does not solely reside in any centre, but that even all participate in the particular field of the others. So, it should be remembered that the legislative agenda, unlike our parliamentary systems, is ruled by the Congress without the Executive having a formal role (except for a veto that can even be lifted), that most of the programmes of the Government depend on the corresponding approval of financial funds, a competence reserved to the Congress (with a leading role of the House of Representatives), that the ratification of the International Treaties requires the approval by 2/3 of the Senate, that the declaration of war demands the approval by both Chambers, or that the main designations of the Executive require, if anything, the assent (by a simple majority) of the Upper House. All this explains that Kennedy, already as a president, could affirm that while being a Congressman (he acted as representative and senator for 14 years), he had never been conscious of the importance of the Congress.

The fact that both Chambers appear ruled by the Republican Party is no guarantee that the instructions coming from the White House will be complied. The very configuration of the party system and the duty of the parliamentarians pay for it, to which the fact that the Republican Party differs from currently being a homogeneous block can be added. Moreover, the fact that the Democrat minority will always have a significant blocking capacity, especially in the Senate, where the Republicans have not obtained the magic number of 60 seats that avoids the illustrious filibusterism, true touchstone of the American political system that obligates measures of certain transcendence to necessarily count on the bi-partisan agreement.

The “founding fathers” kept in mind the figure of the king George (III), to whom the main responsibility of the grievances received by the colonies was attributed to, so his spectrum overflew the design of the new system. A system designed to be stronger than men. When Trump is sworn in on the stairs of the Capitol next 20th January that truth, concreted day by day for over 200 years, will have begun to unfold again.

Translated into English by Clara Ayuso