“Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” – Winston S. Churchill.
Predictions for the United States Presidential election were shattered, releasing an emotional shockwave through the country and the world. The unexpected results fueled protests as Americans refused to accept the rhetoric of hate, fear, sexism, and racism that the President-elect promoted during his campaign. If our country was a true democracy, Hillary would have been elected President by nearly 3/4 million people (estimated to end up around 2 million). Instead, America has an “altered” system with safeguards to supposedly protect the presidency from its own people.
This “rigged” democracy, known as the Electoral College, was devised in the 18th century to alleviate the founders’ fears of bad scenarios that could occur when the people decide by majority. One case was to prevent “mobs” in populated areas from determining the leader for less populated areas. Essentially, this is what happened to the Clinton voters, who were concentrated in urban areas. Their votes were “modified” by the Electoral College to make it “fairer” for the people stretched across rural areas. Fair is subjective. There are many people who believe that “fair” is counting every person’s vote equally, and whoever receives the majority of the vote wins.
In the past several years, there have been many people that wanted to eliminate the Electoral College, and one of them was Donald Trump. He tweeted during the Nov. 2012 Presidential election that “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.” In a 60 minutes interview this past weekend, he said, “I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win.” The latest attempt to establish a popular vote system is an agreement among U.S. states and the District of Columbia known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The 10 states that have already signed on agreed to pledge their electors to the national popular vote once the number of states joined has enough electoral votes to win the election (270). The states that are currently on board comprise 61% of the electors needed to enact the compact. If your state isn’t one of them, please encourage your representatives to join.
For the Americans who believed that we were voting for the President on Nov. 8, it’s important to remember that we are actually selecting the state’s Electors that will later choose the President and Vice-President on our behalf. These appointed Electors meet in their respective states 41 days after the popular election (December 19), and cast their votes for the President and Vice-President. While it’s rare for Electors to change their vote, they can, and they also have the option to abstain from voting. A large movement of people are currently asking the Electors to either change their vote to Hillary, or withhold their vote from Trump to prevent him from receiving enough electoral votes to win the election. It’s a long shot since the Electors are generally loyal to their respective parties, but in this unusual election where many voters were unhappy with both of the two main candidates, it could just possibly happen. To add to the millions of people asking the Electors to change their vote, sign the petition at Change.org.
Opponents of the Electoral College point out that we’ve had multiple elections where the winner was not determined by the popular vote, violating the principle of political equality where all people’s votes should count the same. The system encourages candidates to ignore the states where the vote is considered entrenched by party domination, and focus their time on a small amount of “swing states”. Voter participation is reduced in the states likely to go one way or the other, because the minorities in those states feel their vote will simply be canceled by the electoral college. The system has also been found to obscure problems such as voter suppression. Legal scholars Akhil & Vikram Amar point out that one of the original intentions of the Electoral College was to disenfranchise the slave and women’s populations by counting them to get more electoral votes, but not empowering them to actually vote. Another neglected group is the U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and Guam, who get no electoral votes. The Electoral College also encourages a 2 party system because of the winner-take-all method, and third party candidates are prevented from gaining real viability. In the worst case scenarios, a candidate could win the election by claiming as few as 11 states, or less than 25% of the popular vote, and still win the election. While these cases are unlikely to occur, they do show just how skewed our “democracy” is.
Another scenario that the founders of the Electoral College wanted to account for was, as Alexander Hamilton explained in “The Federalist Papers”, “the office of the president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” There have been arguments that Trump fits this case because of the following reasons: 1) he is a novice with no governmental experience to meet the requirements as Commander-in-Chief; 2) his business experience pertaining to running our economy includes 6 bankruptcies, and fraudulent activity (he currently faces two federal class-action law suits); and 3) his lack of knowledge about vital political, environmental, and social issues of our time. When Scientific American graded the candidates on their responses to 20 questions about the most important issues of the coming years, Trump scored a miserable 7 out of 100, demonstrating both a lack of understanding the issues, and their potential solutions. In the last question about integrity, they explain that Trump’s Politifact scorecard over the campaign shows more than two thirds of his statements to be “Mostly False”, “False”, or “Pants on Fire”, unprecedented in their evaluation of politicians. It appears the proponents of implementing this protective feature of the Electoral College may have a case.
If Trump is chosen in December, many Americans will be preparing for what may be a backward journey in evolution. Deep concerns about his proposed agenda include: “largely eliminating” the Department of Education; repealing or dismantling the Affordable Care Act; attacking abortion rights; filling the Supreme Court with ultra-conservative justices that could last more than a generation; removing environmental regulations intended to alter climate change; building walls to the global community; and bringing back cruel torture methods like waterboarding and worse. These agendas are only a small part of the dangers Trump poses for our country. There are also a number of Americans who feel he is too unstable to be trusted with the country’s nuclear arms codes.
It looks like it’s going to be up to the people over the next 4 years to protect the long-fought progress made on climate change, human rights, women’s rights, education, environmental protection, global community, and public health. It’s crucial that we make our voices heard in peaceful protest to defend these gains. Sign petitions, participate in rallies & marches, write blogs & editorials, anything that lets the Electors and State Representatives know how much we care! Stay strong, and lets join together in keeping our country great!
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