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The possibility of a soft coup in the United States

Ahmad al-Farraj

Published: Updated:

I have already said it many times, but I believe that American democracy is based on a process of selection. This does not, in any way, disgrace the longstanding institutional system of the United States, which is considered as a beacon of light in the world.

The Constitution has been written by what they call the Founding Fathers; a group of thinkers led by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, who were the leaders of the revolution against the English occupation. Although feudalistic, they were first rate politicians who founded what became the greatest global power. They wrote a unique and immortal constitution, so how can one say that the American democracy is based on selection?

The two-party jinx

The presidency of this unique empire cannot, in practice, operate outside the framework of the two parties, The Republican Party and The Democratic Party. Our prominent politician of Arab origin, Ralph Nader, is a living example that an independent stands no chance. It is an unknown fact that in the past, hundreds of candidates representing different parties competed for the White House, but we have only heard about the Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. This is another facet of American democracy and the coverage of its free media, which would require many articles to decipher and understand.

It is possible to win the presidency even if the candidate does not get the majority of votes

Ahmad al-Farraj

In short, what is happening in America is that the two main parties present a group of candidates, and they compete against each other to choose the party’s main candidate. This means that the American citizen does not elect the person he wants, but elects the best of the available options. Millions of American people were not supporters of any of the presidential candidates in the last elections (Hillary and Trump). This is also true for all the other American elections over the past two centuries — a truth widely accepted by most Americans.

President without majority votes

The important point here is that the candidate who wins the majority of the votes of a state wins all the electoral points of that state, meaning that it is possible to win the presidency even if the candidate does not get the majority of votes. This happened in the last elections when Donald Trump won the presidency, even though his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was the real winner with majority of votes of the American people. In addition, the vote that decide who wins the presidency is actually the Electoral College vote, not the votes of the general public. Their number is currently only 538 people, and they vote after a month and a half of the general elections.

Even though they always vote in accordance with the general election results, they can practically and legally, conduct a soft coup and vote for whoever they want. For instance, members of the Electoral College in the last elections could have voted for Hillary Clinton rather than Trump, and although this has not happened throughout American history; there isn't anything legally binding to ensure this doesn't happen. Did the founding fathers deliberately leave this loop hole which allows for the possibility of a soft coup, in anticipation of something unexpected?! And can we then claim that American democracy is based on the principle of selection?

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Dr Ahmad al-Farraj is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah daily. He holds a Masters degree in literature from the University of Indiana and a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. He was the Dean of the Arabic Language Institute in King Saud University and a member of the university’s council. He tweets under @amhfarraj

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.