Confused by the US electoral system? There’s help at hand!
Many Americans, let alone Europeans, are confused by the complexities of the US electoral system which is akin to a simultaneous general election in 50 federal states, all with their own laws.
Happily, help is at hand with a concise, accessible and highly readable book published in both English and Portuguese by American-French retired entrepreneur and current President of the American Club of Lisbon (ACL), Patrick Siegler-Lathrop.
His new book Rendez-Vous with America was unveiled on Thursday evening at the illustrious Grémio Literário in Lisbon where he pronounced on what is likely to be a “smooth transition” but one of the most fascinating and fraught elections in US history for some decades.
In a presentation to members of the ACL, Siegler Lathrop whose book began as a set of essays on the US electoral system written partly during the quarantine period in Portugal, explained that there are actually 50 different elections, one for each state.
The book discussed the importance of campaign funding, the relationship between the states which make up the Electoral College, the origin of that college which forms every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice-president the United States and its 538 electors.
Patrick Siegler-Lathrop said that allegations of possible electoral fraud from postal votes was based on no evidence whatsoever and that he expected a smooth transition if Donald Trump loses the elections because most Republicans at Senate and Congress levels would not support any disruptions to the traditional tried and tested system of choosing a president.
Tiago Moreira de Sá, Universidade Nova US constitutional expert, warned that the US was becoming more and more divided with Democrats infused with currents from the far left and the Republicans equals infused with elements from the far right.
He said that if the US disintegrated socially and politically, it would not be because of outside forces such as Russia or China, but rather an implosion from within caused by its own internal contradictions and fissures.
It was also suggested at the presentation that if former Vice-President Joe Biden does win the elections (he is so far leading in the polls), US foreign policy rhetoric towards both China and Russia will be toned down, but the essential policy towards the two rivals will remain the same because “Americans love a cold war and they love to have a rival.”
Unfortunately, any chance of reforming the current electoral system in any meaningful way to proportional representation instead of winner takes all/first past the post, is unlikely and all attempts of reform have failed over the past several decades.
It was also noted that some 40% of the US voting population didn’t vote at all and these often tended to be poor and poor black citizens.
Explaining why he decided to write the book, he said that he had been encouraged by the eminent Portuguese lawyer António Rebelo de Sousa, also an ACL board member, and because living in Europe for decades and witnessing many US elections, many non-Americans had asked him over the years about the process and “I realised people didn’t understand it very well.”
“I’ve written this book which explains the complex electoral system in very simple terms which I hope will be easy to understand, focusing mainly on the presidential elections, but also doing a retrospective of past elections, particularly the 2016 election,” he said.
As to Donald Trump’s success in 2016, the ACL president partly puts this down to the perception the public had of a successful, straight-talking businessman compared to Hillary Clinton who did not always come across as a likeable candidate for voters who had had enough of the Clintons.
Rendez-Vous with America – An Explanation of the US Election System (in Portuguese and English) by Patrick Siegler-Lathrop with forewords written by António Rebelo de Sousa and former US ambassador to Portugal, Robert A Sherman, is published by Diário Bordo and available in good bookstores throughout Portugal.