Electoral Confusion

11/11/2016 02:35 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2016

It has been two days now since we have had to face the reality of a Trump Presidency and I am still numb. There is a sadness that pervades my soul, like the death of a friend or relative, but certainly a realization that we are about to end one era and pass into another. It is the end of an era of having Clintons in our political calculus. Imagine, for the first time in a quarter of a century we will not have either Bill or Hillary involved in our political lives. For political junkies this is akin to withdrawal. Republicans will rejoice, Democrats will reflect, but let there be no doubt whatsoever that together and separately they did have an impact upon our lives.

Uncertainty about the unknown is always a daunting proposition: anxiety, fear, and a general uneasiness about change. We do not know what will happen but we do know what Donald Trump has clearly indicated he intends to do and that is truly scary. I have already heard rationalizations from several Trump supporters that he really did not mean all those things he said he only said them to get elected. As disturbing as that is at least it provides some degree of comfort. But if he is that malleable, that slippery, that calculated is there any question why his trustworthiness index was so high. And as if to defy logic altogether is it not simply astounding that given the choices most people perceived between two untrustworthy candidates the people actually chose the greater of two evils?

Which brings me to another issue that must be addressed. For the second time in the last five elections we have elected a President that did not receive a majority of votes cast, the last being in 2000 when the Supreme Court stepped in to halt the counting of ballots and awarded the Presidency to George W. Bush. And of course we know how that turned out. It is time that we seriously examine the functional utility and desirability of the Electoral College. This product of late 18th century political expediency has probably outlived its usefulness.

In a society that revels in its celebration of representative democracy serious questions must be asked and answered as to the viability of a process that fundamentally weighs the value of small state voters over large state voters. Several Supreme Court cases in the early 1960’s dealing with redistricting, most notably Baker v. Carr, the concept of “one man, one vote” was propounded as a remedy for processes that overrepresented rural votes over urban votes. it seems to me that in a truly democratic society no person’s vote should count more than any others, yet that is exactly what happens when we choose electors to elect the President.

We have been electing Presidents since 1787 and over the ensuing 227 years we have elected 5 Presidents who did not secure the popular vote (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, 2016). As you can see during the first 211 years this occurred on three occasions, yet in the past 16 years it has now occurred twice. Clearly this should give concern and pause to those who discern a disturbing trend in frequency as if to suggest that maybe the current system is antiquated.

Let me make it abundantly clear that I am not questioning whether Trump won, he did according to the rules of the electoral process. What I am questioning, however, is whether or not the electoral process adequately reflects the will of the people. When candidates from both sides say that the people have spoken it does not necessarily mean that the people have decided whom they prefer. Factually, the people spoke and decided in 2000 that Al Gore was preferable to George W. Bush and the people spoke and decided in 2016 that Hillary Clinton was preferable to Donald Trump. Unfortunately neither mattered. The people have spoken and the Electoral College will decide.

If this is the new normal it seems plausible and necessary that we exhaustively examine whether the electoral process as currently constituted is consistent with the values and designs of a democratic electorate. If the answer is yes then so be it, but if the answer is no or in serious question we may need to revisit an issue that has existed since the founding of the Republic. And then maybe we can get serious in our examination of the gerrymandering of congressional districts which distorts our representation in the House of Representatives and the proliferation of voter suppression activities in a majority of states that disproportionately work to the disadvantage of minority participation in our elections.

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