One week from Donald Trump’s inauguration and bolstered by his paranoid assertions directed at America’s intelligence community during yesterday’s long-awaited press conference ― where he accused them of Nazi Germany tactics and refused to answer CNN Reporter Jim Acosta’s question ― there are continued reminders of his popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton.
It’s heartening after watching Trump’s erratic behavior there’s more talk of altering the system than after 2000 when Al Gore suffered a similar fate. Editorials continue to call for reform. However, constitutional amendments to abolish the Electoral College are difficult, needing approval by 3/4 of the states. Many oppose change, citing our Founding Fathers as the reason. They reverently ascribe God-like brilliance to the creators of our presidential election system, unconcerned that within the Constitution’s text Founders recognized their imperfection, specifically designing mechanisms to amend any part of the document.
Let’s also not forget, however notable and courageous these leaders were, their intellect was no greater than many who’ve served since. We celebrate early champions on our currency, such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton while sidelining their deficiencies, such as the slave-holding first two and the Machiavellian nature of the latter, who severely undercut fellow Federalist John Adams during his second campaign against Jefferson.
Not to mention the “wisdom” of Hamilton agreeing to an 1804 duel with Aaron Burr, such combat already unlawful at that time in New York as well as New Jersey, where the tragedy ended his life. And the fact that Jefferson was a spendthrift who died deeply in debt, despite inheriting a vast fortune.
This is not meant to diminish these men, but to recognize they were no brighter than, say, Abraham Lincoln who came around four score and seven years later or Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, or Franklin Roosevelt many years thereafter, all presidents with lasting accomplishments embedded in our social and economic fabric.
The Founding Fathers creation of the Electoral College was also based upon prejudices of the time, that the citizenry couldn’t be entrusted with direct election of the president because of intellectual deficiencies, due to lack of education and access to the news.
Plus, the Electoral College was amended after the election of 1800, because it was recognized the original system, making the top two vote getters president and vice president, created an unwieldy consequence after the first contested election in 1796 produced President Adams and Vice President Jefferson. In 1800, due to additional factors, including the aforementioned handiwork of Hamilton, the top two were Jefferson and Burr, both of whom Hamilton hated, but as he despised Jefferson less he lobbied the House to elect Jefferson.
So, their genius was not so sacrosanct, not to mention their pragmatism counting Negro slaves as 3/5 of a person to entice southern states to ratify the constitution, ensuring they’d get more congressional representation. Subsequent amendments to the electoral process granted Negroes the vote and then sixty years later suffrage for women, followed in fifty years according 18-year-olds participation. Likewise changed through amendment was limiting the presidency to two terms and allowing presidents to nominate vice presidents when the office was vacant.
The Founding Fathers creation of the Electoral College was also based upon prejudices of the time, that the citizenry couldn’t be entrusted with direct election of the president because of intellectual deficiencies, due to lack of education and access to the news. We’ve vastly progressed Americans’ capacities through public schools and colleges, not to mention dissemination of information through broadcast airwaves and social media. Which is why such a seemingly logical premise, popular election of the one official heading our nation, is no longer foolhardy but necessary for true democracy.
Some argue states are disconnected from other states, but we’re all Americans affected by stuff concerning the entire country, and the idea that three million more Americans must be controlled by policies, laws and court decisions promulgated by people appointed by a president who received fewer votes doesn’t make sense. In particular, since there were many Hillary supporters in Wyoming, Mississippi and Texas, the latter of which awarded her almost four million votes. We’re not thus entirely provincially divided on disputes such as pro-choice, civil and immigration rights, the environment and affordable health care. Such reforms are not only desired in coastal states or in Midwest states with huge urban centers.
But there’s a selfish resistance to change, not only by folks benefiting from Trump’s victory, using any excuse to falsely proclaim Americans preferred him. It can’t be thrilling to know, least of all Trump, most citizens backed Hillary, so they either try to dismiss it with “It doesn’t matter,” (which legally, for the moment, is true) or instead say Trump could’ve won the popular vote if he’d campaigned to do so, as if Americans in states he lost handily weren’t aware of his candidacy.
They cite his victory in thirty states, though several key states were won by less than one percent. (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan). Florida (1.2 %). Republican states like Georgia (5%), Arizona and North Carolina, (3.5%), and that many of the thirty states are tiny with three or four electoral votes, giving voters there unfair disproportionate sway over those in larger states.
Americans preferred Hillary Clinton, in spite of her mistakes, in spite of her personality, in spite of her email server, in spite of Trump’s taunts, in spite of media reports of Obamacare premium increases, burying in the story 77% of the recipients received subsidies, in spite of a hugely publicized FBI resumed investigation, as it turned out for no reason, ten days before the election.
In spite of this, almost three million more people favored Hillary Clinton, yet because of a system over 200 years old, which endorsed slavery and considered women inferior, all since rectified by constitutional amendments, we’re still impacted by a presidential system that for our democracy to survive must be changed. It is a mantra that must not be forgotten and continuously repeated until it is so.
Michael Russnow’s website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com
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