By Roland Watson
November 10, 2018

Representative democracy has many different principles and institutions. However, there are three basic premises:

- Everyone is allowed to participate - to vote.
- You can count the vote.
- Voters are able to make informed choices, reflecting their own interests and also what is good for the country.

1. For the first, the obvious hurdle is that there must be no discrimination - denial of the vote based on gender, ethnicity or race, religion, wealth, party affiliation, or even age. For the U.S. Midterms, this was largely - although insincerely - satisfied. Anyone who wanted to - and persevered - could vote. The only material case of actual voter blocking was Florida's ban of criminals who have completed their sentences, now reversed by the passage of Amendment 4. Without this ban, though, the results for the State could well have been different. For a number of posts the Republicans had only tiny advantages, and which were in the process of being challenged at the time of this article's publication.

Being allowed to vote also extends to the issue of being able. There were many states where the Republicans attempted to suppress the Democrat vote, through such things as the purging of voter rolls; requiring Voter ID; requiring exact signature, name and address matches; and providing inadequate polling locations. This was most notable in North Dakota and Georgia, and for the latter may have affected the outcome. In particular for the election of Governor, although the race has not yet been called, the Democrat candidate clearly was harmed.

A final and unspoken part of the premise is that a vote is a vote - that all votes are equal. Republican gerrymandering of State districts has sabotaged this. In such districts Democrat votes effectively count for less, since they are not fairly apportioned throughout the state. Gerrymandering has destroyed the idea that everyone can vote. Were there no gerrymandering, Democrats would have significantly higher representation in the House. This in turn would affect not only Congressional agendas and outcomes, it would change the entire national atmosphere, and which in turn would likely impact the occupancy of both the Senate and the Presidency.

Conclusion: We can therefore say that fulfillment of the first premise FAILED. Republicans manipulated the system to create an undemocratic advantage. (Proof of this of is the oft-mentioned observation that if the reverse occurred, if Democrats conspired to perpetrate all of these acts, Republicans would be outraged.)

2. The second premise comprises a variety of issues, including technical - that voting machines are provided in sufficient numbers to prevent long lines and that they function properly, and also the risk of computer hacking. Again, in Republican-controlled states for Democrat-heavy areas, there were many different problems. It is uncertain though if these incidents affected the final outcome. For hacking, either by Party agents or foreign actors, it does not appear that the polls were rigged, through tampering with voter registrations or with the actual polls.

But, there were other counting issues as well. In the days after the election, Republicans in Arizona, Florida and Georgia overtly attempted to block Democrat votes, for seats still in question. They did this by trying to stop the counting of mail-in and absentee ballots, and provisional ballots. The last are cast when a voter at the polls either does not meet ID demands or when their ID or signature does not have the aforementioned exact matches with registration records. We can say that for these states the Republicans strove to rig the outcome.

Conclusion: While here again the Republicans attempted to suppress the Democrat vote, through making the process arduous and more deeply through voter intimidation - creating fear, it does appear, with the exception - again at the time of this article's publication - of the mentioned states, that the final technical tally was a SUCCESS. The overall result was not affected.

3. The last premise of course is that we can make informed choices, in our own interests and for those of our state and the nation. This in turn means that we decide based on reason, not emotion, particularly the feelings of fear and anger.

Here, the premise - for the Republicans - FAILED.

Donald Trump's entire strategy, supported by the congressional leadership, has been to sew division in the country. Not since the Civil War has the "United" States been so disunited. Trump has again and again screamed that Republicans should be angry and afraid. It seems clear that the majority listened.

Interestingly, a large portion of the Democrat vote was also motivated by hate, but with a difference. Such Democrats hate a handful of people - "individuals," including Trump and the different Republican leaders. Trump has encouraged his base to fear and hate "entire groups," including immigrants in general, Mexicans and Central Americans specifically, Muslims, gays, Democrats, etc. The distinction couldn't be more evident. Democrats hate Trump because of his dismantling of America's political system, starting with the Rule of Law and Checks and Balances. Republicans hate these groups because they have been shouted at that they should, by Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, every single day. They have been told that if someone is not white, they should be afraid. Everyone else is coming to get them and to hurt them. Everyone else is the enemy.

The suspension of reason at times has been farcical. For a country where literally every single person is a descendant of an immigrant (if you go back far enough), a group of asylum seekers, including young children and babies, became an ISIS horde. Then there is the woman who gave public testimony that she was the victim of an attempted rape, which testimony was so convincing that even Fox accepted it. But to many Republicans, including women, she either deserved the attack or was a liar. Finally, all real journalism is Fake News, and which should - which must - be ignored.

When a group is dehumanized, its members become the "acceptable" target of any and all abuse, up to genocide. It is the enemy. Dr. Ford may have been assaulted, but it's OK because the rapist was one of us. Sure, children are fleeing violence to come to America, but they are not us and therefore can be shot. Anyone who is not us is the enemy, including journalists who reveal the truth.

Historically, populations in different countries have been able to make their electoral choices using reason. There have been cases of extreme demagogues, but these are well recognized in part because they have been the exception. With literacy and newspapers the general public became informed. This has now changed though with the advent of the Internet and Social Media. In 2016-2017, in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (aka Myanmar), extremists used Facebook to create hate that was so severe that it triggered the genocide of a small group named the Rohingya. In the U.S., Republicans, with Russian help, have used Facebook and Twitter to solicit fear and hate from Party members. While we don't have open war or genocide in America just yet, it is apparent that the most fanatical Republicans would be happy to see them.

Digging more deeply, the real premise isn't in fact that we are able to make informed choices. Instead, it is simply that we have free will. Democracy requires the exertion of free will. Trump's campaign of hate, magnified by Facebook and Twitter, has so distorted the cognition of ordinary Republicans that many no longer have wills of their own. They have acted against their own interests, like robots, and done what they were told to do.

It is an open question what it will take to block this consequence of Social Media such that real representative democracy again becomes possible. Overall, then, and while many Republicans did turn against Trump in the Midterms - particularly women in the suburbs who simply couldn't accept the Party's support for the alleged rapist Kavanaugh, enough continued to back him such that we can say that American democracy in the Midterm Elections FAILED.

I would argue that the specific poll results - some of them at least - are illegitimate, although we will have to live with them until we get another chance to change it. The starting point of course is to get rid of Trump.