Respecting Our Elders
My family, with the exception of me, is highly religious. They believe that a 1900 year-old book contains the truth about all of reality. They spend their time at church listening to someone rant about a verse’s meaning for 1/2 an hour, and the Bible is the only book they read. They do not question the material, and deflect when you find contradictions and excuse God for his horrible behavior towards the people he ostensibly loves.
It makes me sad when I think about how lost they are, and feel terrible that their life was so incomplete that they needed an invisible friend to take this ride.
I should make my point before I lose track. What I am trying to say is that just because something is old and many people believe in it, it does not make it helpful for the situations we find ourselves in today.
I’m about to pivot to the US Constitution-as another example of a document whose outsized influence on the present makes people think stupid things and have reverence for it even though it is dangerous and horrible in some parts. Oh, sure, we amended it and took out the really awful stuff and put good stuff in its place, but some of the things remaining I believe are antidemocratic, and the bitch of it is that our founders purposely angled to make it that way because they were rich elitists.
Let’s switch lenses and focus deeper, on one thing. I’ve been arguing my ass off on Facebook (yes, I know how dumb that makes me) with friends and acquaintances about the use of the electoral college. It has, for the second time in this century, elected for president the person who came in second place in the popular vote. This has got a few of us wondering if this is really a good idea anymore. Mostly it’s libtards like me who are complaining because it is we who have been the victim of electoral math. I have been told that I would complain no matter what system is in place when my candidate loses. That’s a bullshit assumption and I don’t think there’s a liberal out there who would go pining for the electoral college if a Republican won the popular vote. We would say fair and square, after we finish addressing the voter suppression that comes in many forms– all designed to let less people vote.
There is much information about the nature of our use of the college going around, most of it false. It is alleged that it was supposed to prevent “mob rule”. Now I don’t think the founders ever said anything about “mobs”, having pored through the Federalist Papers several times and looked at an online resource or two. Mostly what they were worried about was “factionalism”, where one interested group could override the interests of another. The electoral college was not a solution to this, and neither was the rest of the fledgling government. When we created winner-take-all democracy, it could not be helped that we had created two distinct “mobs” because of this. We have a zero-sum game going in our country-and the contestants are bitterly opposed to each other.
So you see, someone has to win. Our country decides on either the liberal faction or the conservative faction. It sucks for the loser, and is often dangerous to the loser in this college scheme. Interestingly, a smaller mideast “faction”, the Rust Belt, heard some shit from Donald Trump that they liked, and switched their party votes based on his promises. And now the whole country has to bear the costs of that switch. The founders failed. Factionalism rules the day despite their best efforts, and democracy is not served.
The next excuse for the continued existence of the college is that small states need it to balance out the influence of larger population states. This consideration is also absent in the founders’ decision making and is made up. However, it is true, the college does do this, albeit ineffectively. Even the tiniest state gets 3 electoral votes, one for each of their federal representatives. Folks, the Midwest and the tiny New England states never swayed a vote. They all vote as a bloc and candidates are still free to ignore them because they are still sparsely populated and therefore not good spots to harvest votes, and they always vote the same way. It’s the swing states that make the difference, and I’ll have a few words about that in a bit. Anyway, once again, we have an undemocratic machination at work here, where someone in North Dakota can enjoy an outsized vote influence over a New Yorker simply because he is not surrounded by many people.
People are really smarting over the stunning loss that Hillary Clinton was handed two weeks ago. It continues to upset them as her popular vote totals continue to eclipse Donald Trump’s by a larger and larger amount. And the more intelligent ones have ferreted out Alexander Hamilton’s reason for favoring the electoral college: if we elected an abomination, the electors were presumed to have more knowledge than the citizens who voted and would not cast their ballots for a terrible choice. Yet another antidemocratic maneuver by the founders. This maneuver of electors is not in use anymore, as it is strongly discouraged that an elector become “faithless” and not vote the way his state did. I dunno. I don’t like the idea that strange “electors” are presumed to have a better conscience than the people. It might shift the election my way, but I’m not willing to open this Pandora’s box. I would much rather see the electoral college die.
So what does the electoral college do today? Well, it’s all about where you live that determines your influence on the election, thanks to it. About twelve states get to determine the President because of their party makeup. My Democratic vote in Georgia doesn’t count for shit because this state is overloaded with Republicans. But if I were in Ohio, where the party split hovers around 55-45, either way I voted, I would have a major effect on the outcome of the election. That’s just as fucked up as diluting urban votes. There’s only one sane solution, one that James Madison favored-let the people decide, not the states. I am fed up with the worship of this fractured federalism that idolizes the idea of a “state”. No state is special. People are, and I’m tired of jackasses braying on about how this is a republic and not a democracy. People actually say this as if it were a good thing. It’s both anyway. I can’t square conservative insistence on the primacy of individualism with their contempt of people, of democracy. I also can’t understand how they can despise elitism yet not blink when our fucking founding document is loaded with things to stop ordinary people from deciding their future in a fair manner.
Finally, let’s remember that the college is not the only obstacle to a better democracy that our forebears put up. We’ve come a long way. The status quo, as you can see, is bullshit.