Donald Trump Demonstrating How Much Of Our Political System Is Based On Tradition & Custom, Not Rules

from the is-that-good-or-bad? dept

Perhaps one of the most common phrases I've seen in reference to various actions by Donald Trump and his transition team since the election in November is "this is not normal" or "this is not how things are done." Those phrases keep popping up over and over again -- often in somewhat horrified tones. Politico recently had a pretty good article demonstrating how the Trump transition team seems to not care one bit about the traditional way things are done:

President-elect Donald Trump has said he might do away with regular press briefings and daily intelligence reports. He wants to retain private security while receiving secret service protection, even after the inauguration. He is encouraging members of his family to take on formal roles in his administration, testing the limits of anti-nepotism statutes. And he is pushing the limits of ethics laws in trying to keep a stake in his business.

In a series of decisions and comments since his election last month -- from small and stylistic preferences to large and looming conflicts -- Trump has signaled that he intends to run his White House much like he ran his campaign: with little regard for tradition. And in the process of writing his own rules, he is shining a light on how much of the American political system is encoded in custom, and how little is based in the law.

And... that's really quite interesting, because of how little many people -- especially policy experts -- have really stopped to consider how much of the way we do things is based on custom, and not actual rules. There are two ways of looking at this. First, there absolutely are serious problems with "the way things have always been done." So there's potential value in having someone who doesn't feel hamstrung by traditions and customs that might not make sense. But, the flip side of that is that there are often really good reasons for the way many of these things are done. And, so far, the customs and traditions that Trump has been indicating he'll ignore, are ones that do seem to be based on solid reasoning, rather than just silly legacy reasons. Intelligence reports, secret service protection, and anti-nepotism rules make sense.

It's one thing to blow stuff up because they're outdated and unnecessary -- and another thing altogether to just blow them up for the sake of blowing them up, or even just out of convenience. But as a way of highlighting just how much of our system is held together based on legacy reasons, rather than actual rules, it's fascinating.

Filed Under: customs, donald trump, politics, rules


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  1. identicon
    k, 6 Jan 2017 @ 3:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Well, it is a republic with elections.

    There is so much wrong with this.

    "The electoral college is a compromise intended to do more good than harm."

    It's a compromise intended to give the slave states and states that restricted the vote in other ways a say in presidential elections that is disproportionate to their voting population. Some of that was concern over keeping the voting franchise male and landed, but overwhelmingly it was to enable slavery.

    'It shifts the weight of votes in a certain manner in order to have more qualified votes cast for the actual presidential election and to represent regional interests without "overrepresenting" regions with large populace.'

    Like the nonsense about the civil war being over "state's rights", this argument was created long after-the-fact and reflects what people had wished were the intentions of the time, when the real intentions were, clearly stated at the time, to enable slavery.

    And while it doesn't over represent large states, it grossly over represents small states. A presidential vote in North Dakota has 50 times the weight of one in California.

    "As a compromise, it changes the priorities. The end result still requires the majority of the represented votes."

    That's. Just. Wrong. Over half the US population lives in the ten most populous states. The smaller 40 have around 45% of the population and enough electoral votes to elect the president (Maine splits its electoral votes, but is small enough not to change this analysis.) A candidate could win the 40 smallest states with small majorities, get insignificant votes in the largest states and take the presidency with around 24% of the vote. That's extreme, but possible.

    "And you still need significant localized majorities to make gerrymandering work."

    You do realize that if you look at voting preference by counties, there aren't really Red states and Blue states so much as Red counties and Blue Counties right? And urban, ie Blue, areas are by definition "significant localized majorities."


    "A significant amount of people, significant according to the principles of the electoral college and the preceding primaries, wanted Trump."

    If you ignore the larger number of voters who voted for Clinton, and the smaller but significant numbers who voted for Johnson and Stein, (those Johnson votes BTW are largely Republicans who explicitly did not want Trump), and then ignore anything else that doesn't fit your existing worldview, then yes, you don't have to admit any flaws with the current system or ever change your mind about anything.

    "Hitler did not have a popular majority when he started, but he managed pressuring out a parliamentary majority for the Entitlement Act."

    The key votes to give Hitler dictatorial power occurred after the burning of the Reichstag while the parliament was meeting in the nearby Berlin Opera house. Nazi paramilitary groups guarded the entrances and kept opposition lawmakers out, beating some, blocking others. I'm not sure what Godwin's law says about this.

    "And in the end, getting a majority at the right representative level is all that counts."

    You can only say that if you don't really think Democracy is a good idea. Many conservatives don't.

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