If someone gave you a 1790s townhouse in Georgetown, you would be thrilled ... until you realized there haven't been major updates in some time. There's no indoor plumbing or electricity.
That's where we are with the Constitution. We need to start renovations by abolishing electoral voting.
In electing the president, the founding fathers needed to protect the little states from the big states. But in 1790, we were 13 very different states clinging to the shores of the Atlantic. Yes, yes, I understand the federal concept. But the framers of the Constitution would gag: We've gamed electoral voting into absurdity.
Electoral voting must go.
We are now a large, rock-solid union from sea to shining sea. Fly over it and you don't see state boundary lines. Travel abroad and most of us self-identify as Americans, not Iowans or Mainers. We still protect the little states quite well: Each state, regardless of size, gets two senators. Even the least populous get three U.S. representatives. The small are protected from the big ... EXCEPT in electoral voting. Sure we have 538 electors (D.C. gets three), but the little states get hammered.
The Constitution does not specify a winner-take-all system. But if a candidate wins by one vote in California, he or she gets 55 electoral votes. A one vote win in Wyoming nets three votes. The California vote is 18 times more valuable. That flies in the face of the one person-one vote concept that is sacred to us.
Electoral voting has failed three times. In 1876, 1888 and in 2000, the winner of the popular vote lost the election. And in 2012, according to 270toWin.com, there were 32 combinations of swing states that could have resulted in an electoral tie -- a nightmare scenario.
In a tie, we'd wait until Dec. 17, to see if even one "faithless" elector switched sides. If so, the election would be over. That person's choice is president. One person, a stranger to us all, elected by no one, can determine the presidency. I'd prefer a coin toss to that.
If an electoral tie stood, the election would go to the incoming Congress on Jan. 3. The Republican House would choose Romney as president and the barely Democratic Senate would choose Biden as VP. Oops. Don't tell anyone, but Romney-Biden wasn't on anyone's ballot.
Please do not defend this antiquated system by invoking the enduring wisdom of the founding fathers. They put up with slavery, allowed only white male property owners to vote and, for Census purposes, counted slaves as three-fifths of a person. These guys wore wig powder, and their doctor buddies didn't even wash their hands before delivering a baby.
We have extended suffrage repeatedly and nothing awful has happened. Doing away with the electoral voting system will avert a disaster. Let's act now to prevent more election angst. Wasn't 2000 bad enough?
Currently, a candidate who wins by a whisker of the popular vote looks only at the whopping electoral votes. He thinks he has a mandate; we know he got lucky. A blizzard somewhere could have done him in. Direct popular vote is simpler and wiser than electoral voting. Note: If we can pay our taxes, I'm pretty sure we can make do with the popular vote only. Since a Constitutional amendment is required to abolish electoral voting, let's fix a few other things while we're at it:
· The Line Item Veto, which could cut pork at least in half. (The Supreme Court can void one part of a law; the president cannot.) I think every president since Washington has wanted this.
· A Balanced Budget Amendment (phased in to prevent economic whiplash), including a pay down of the national debt to zero over 60 to 70 years. Let's give this nation, free and clear, to our great-grandchildren.
· A Single Six-Year Term for the President and Vice President, so they'll spend all their time on the work of the nation, not beginning their run for reelection on Day 2 of their term.
· Campaign Finance Reform. Every law has been gamed, and Citizens United bloated secret coffers to obscene amounts. Many think Constitutional change is the only way. I favor an idea I heard years ago: Allow ONLY voters to donate, if they wish, and then only to ONE candidate in each federal race for whom they're eligible to vote. That way, our representatives and senators will answer to us, not the lobbyists. WOW. Lobbyists can still advocate, they just can't bring cash to the conversation.
These non-partisan, good government changes allow us to solve our problems. Our current political system is broken. How? Anything good for 99 percent of us is promptly nixed by the lobbyists for the other 1 percent.
Kindly, do not tell me it can't be done. Anything 300 million Americans want in the Constitution, we can put there. We've already added several amendments addressing presidential elections; the popular vote is the next logical step.
Our lovely, 1790s Constitution needs indoor plumbing, heating, insulation and electricity. This is not rocket science or brain surgery, both of which we do quite well.
This is Civics 101.
We can do this. Why am I so sure?
I believe "We, the people," are the three most powerful words in the English Language.