Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The College No One Should Attend

For the second time in five Presidential elections, America is rewarding the White House to the candidate who lost the popular vote. When all the ballots are counted, Mr. Trump will have fallen 2.3 to 2.5 MILLION votes short. Just as in 2000, when Mr. Gore defeated Mr. Bush in the popular vote, apologists are emerging for the Electoral College. They are dead wrong, and  they are taking the Electoral College out of historical context. 

Hit back, but put it in context. The original Constitution had...er...no faith in the average citizen. It was a baby step toward a Democracy and was more of a "hey, this divine right of Kings thing needs to go, so let's gingerly try something new" document rather than a recipe for the 21st Century. We've eliminated most of the anti-Democratic tendencies of the 18th Century and taken the Constitution into the 21st. The Electoral College, in this light, is just the last shoe that needs to drop not some sacred institution we need or want any longer.

Let's look at what the Founder's intent was for the common voter and see what seems fair today, two and a half centuries later.

The Constitution forbade women, blacks, and non property owning whites from voting, and it counted slaves as 3/5 of a person in assigning US House districts so that the population-poor south could keep slavery legal. Raise your hand, in the 21st Century, if you think these are things you'd like to bring back.

The Constitution forbade popular election of US Senators. They were elected by members of the various state legislatures. Raise your hand, in the 21st Century, if you would like to give up voting for your Senators by popular vote.

The Constitution gave the District of Columbia no Electoral Votes in the Presidential race. Now, It has  three.  Raise your hand, in the 21st century, if you would like to disenfranchise the 690,000 residents of DC.

The Electoral College was, in part, put together to OVERTURN the vote of the people if they voted for someone....unfortunate.  Raise your hand if you want an elector, whom you've never met, to vote THEIR conscious and not yours, for the President of the United States.

The population distribution of the US has never been more uneven. A guy in Wyoming has his vote rolled into 187,000 vote blocks to make one electoral vote. Eligible voters in California have their vote rolled into blocks of 592,000. In the 21st Century, everyone should be equal; a vote in Wyoming should NOT carry three times the weight as a vote in California. The Electoral College is one of the leading reasons voting participation lags behind Europe. GOP voters in California believe (justifiably) that their vote for President "won't matter" just as Democratic voters in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma or Texas feel likewise disenfranchised. The students marching on America's college campuses should be praised, not condemned. They know systemic disenfranchisement when they see it. We tell them "vote, it matters." We don't tell them..."your vote matters...er....depending upon where you live and how you vote." They are trying to hold us to our words.

The population distribution is getting worse every year. In some scenarios, by 2024 it will be quite possible for the Democrats to win the popular vote by 10 million votes (a larger victory than President Obama garnered in 2008) and still lose the Electoral College.

Finally, let's have a moral discussion about racial equality. Is it fair for a women in Brooklyn, whose father was beaten by police in Alabama in the 1960s trying win suffrage for African Americans, to have her vote, today, counted at less than 1/3 the value of a rancher in lilly white Wyoming? Keeping the Electoral College has become inadvertently racist. It is time for it to go.

Raise your hand, in the 21st century, if you think one person, one vote should extend to the only place it's forbidden: the Presidential vote. We've eliminated the notion that citizen votes don't matter everywhere else in the Constitution; for every other elected office in America we have one person, one vote.  EVERY CITIZEN SHOULD HAVE PRECISELY THE SAME SAY IN THE ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT. No one deserves special privileges because of where they live. It's time for equality.

 No, the Founders didn't trust the citizenry, but this isn't the 18th Century and the Founders weren't perfect. Hamilton and Madison were elitist snobs and Jefferson had children with his slaves; times have changed. A lot of folks toiled very hard to build on the original Constitution and to expand the suffrage. Eliminating the Electoral College is part of the new Civil Rights struggle. Make a joyful noise, America, and rid ourselves of this outmoded relic. Removing the Electoral College will not be easy, but that doesn't make it a less moral, or imperative, task. 

Put the shoe on the other foot: if Hillary Clinton won the White House by losing the popular vote by over 2 million popular votes, the GOP would be raising a hue and cry all over this country and they wouldn't let up for a New York minute. We don't do that. We kvetch on Facebook and have a glass of wine and call it a night. That's why they win and we lose. Ape the GOP. Make noise. Write a letter to the editor of your paper. Call the Senate and ask them to support Boxer's bill to kill the Electoral Congress. And EVERY time you complain to a GOP lawmaker in the next four years, absolutely EVERY TIME, mention the popular vote totals. No, we won't overturn the Electoral College any time soon, but we can erase the notion of a GOP mandate. IF WE TRY. Given Trump's histrionics about "election fraud" over the last week, we need to let the Congress know that we expect them to disown Trump's lies and refocus them on the real inequality here: awarding the White House to the loser. So, come armed with facts, and get busy, people.

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