The unthinkable has happened. A dangerous, uneducated, racist, hate-filled, sexist, misogynistic, delusional, idiotic, unqualified, overprivileged 70-year-old man-boy with no experience in statecraft, diplomacy or political leadership has been chosen to “lead” and be the face of our country to the world.
But here’s the kicker: the REAL winner, according to the popular vote, was Hillary Clinton.
That’s some mandate to govern.
There were several reasons why this pathetic candidate has been given the Oval Office: There was, of course rampant skullduggery on the part of Debbie Wassermann Schultz and the Democratic National Committee who screwed us out of the only candidate that could have beaten Trump hands-down (Bernie Sanders, in case you’ve forgotten).
There was the inability for Clinton to successfully win over reluctant voters and make them believe that she would serve them better than Trump. Also, there was complete apathy on the part of the electorate (less than half of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot), gerrymandering, voter suppression by the GOP – oh yes, there is plenty of blame to go around.
But what clinched it for the Orange Man was an antiquated and obsolete institution known as the Electoral College. For the fourth time in U.S. History, this august body has gone against the will of the American People – twice in this century alone.
The first time was in 1876, when Democrat Samuel Tilden ran against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden won that election by more than a quarter-million votes. However, Tilden and Hayes were tied for electoral votes. The Republicans who controlled the Senate contested 20 of Tilden’s votes. At this point, Tilden needed only one of those contested votes to win – but Hayes needed all 20. A fifteen-member commission was formed in order to study the problem and decide who should get the contested votes. Originally, the commission was made up of seven members of each major party, plus an independent. However, when that independent member was appointed to the Senate (Senators were not directly elected until the early 20th Century), he was replaced by a Republican. Predictably, the commission voted 8-7 along party lines to give the electoral votes to Hayes.
The second time was in 1888, when Republican Benjamin Harrison ran against incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland. Cleveland won the popular vote by a thin margin (less than 1%). However, Harrison wound up winning the electoral vote because he had gotten narrow majorities in the states in which he won – and lost in the South by 65%. The issue was tarriffs, which the former Confederate states supported while Cleveland strongly opposed – but were championed by the Republicans. At that time however, the Southern states did not have enough electoral votes to carry Cleveland into office.
Of course, most of us remember the fiasco of 2000, when Al Gore narrowly won the popular vote – only to have the Supreme Court hand the presidency over to George W. Bush.
Although all the votes from this week’s election are still being tallied, so far, Hillary Clinton leads Donny Boy by a margin of well over 233,000 votes. Yet, because of the way the system works, Trump is poised to take over the reins of State in January.
The tragedy is that it’s all legal and Constitutional. The concept dates back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where delegates agreed that the then-radical idea of direct democracy was not to be trusted. James Madison, who would eventually become the fourth President, feared “factions” – citizen groups whose common interest in an issue could potentially violate the rights of others, or cause general harm to the nation.
In short, he was afraid of what he termed “The Tyranny of the Majority.” In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton clarified, writing that the one purpose of the Constitution is to make certain that “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
The Electoral College’s purpose was to maintain “the sense of the People,” while making sure that the Executive is selected by “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”
As we have seen in the elections of 2000 and 2016, that hasn’t worked out so well in recent years. Not only were unqualified candidates with questionable judgement and little intellect placed in office, we have become subject to the “Tyranny of the Minority” – a sizable one to be sure, but a minority nonetheless.
The Electoral College may have made sense in the beginning. Back then, communications were slow and the speed at which information was disseminated was only as fast as the rider on a good horse, and relatively few people had any formal education at all. Today however, that institution has clearly outlived its usefulness.
Not surprisingly, Republicans prefer to maintain the status quo. In 2012, Representative Alison McHose (R-NJ) claimed that the Electoral College puts smaller states and communities on a level playing field with larger ones. But again, that is a dated argument, given modern communications and the power of electronic media.
In 2011, 62% of Americans polled said they supported abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with a straight popular vote. To date, measures to eliminate the Electoral College have been introduced in all 50 state legislatures. Not surprisingly, only ten of those states – all solidly blue – have actually passed such measures. Nonetheless, if there are many more elections like those of 2000 and 2016 in which the loser of the popular vote is awarded office, the Electoral College may yet be consigned to the dustbin of history.
In the meantime, there is one possible scenario in which Hillary Clinton could still get the White House. It would rely on “faithless electors.” Normally, electors are pledged to cast their vote for whomever was the winner of their state – but they are under no obligation. If an elector is willing to incur a monetary fine – currently $1000 – s/he may vote as s/he pleases (or as conscience dictates).
Currently, Change.org has a petition calling upon electors to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton come December 19th, assuring them that Clinton supporters will happily cover their fines. It’s a long shot, and highly unlikely to have much effect – but desperate times call for desperate measures. So far, nearly 1.5 million people have signed the petition.
On a more pragmatic note, there are no fewer than six additional petitions calling for the Electoral College to either be changed or abolished altogether. One thing is abundantly clear: the system is severely broken. Getting rid of the Electoral College is possibly an excellent first step toward fixing or replacing it.