Let’s get started with a simple fact. The Electoral College came about because of slavery. It’s that simple. It was a compromise between the North and South because the South realized that if the presidency was determined by the popular vote, they’d always lose the vote (you know, since the vast majority of people in the South at that point weren’t so much “people” as much as they were “property”). So the two groups decided that they’d create the Electoral College, with the number of Electors based upon the population of the states, and the South being allowed to count their slaves as 3/5 of a person for population purposes (you know, that whole “Three-Fifths Compromise” we learned in social studies classes growing up).
Oh, we also had Alexander Hamilton proclaiming that the Electoral College was essentially a way for the educated elites to overrule the will of the idiot populous. So it’s based on slavery and elitism. Both things upon which you want to base the selection of the most powerful person in your country (if not the world, but that’s always been something of an arrogant misnomer, something Adolf Hitler or Vladimir Putin might take issue with).
So now that we’ve gotten some unpleasant facts out of the way, let’s get on with the discussion.
Four times in history, the winner of the popular vote has not won the presidency (five if you count some weirdness with the Alabama vote in 1960, which I don’t understand and don’t care enough to research, so we’ll move on). Of course, that doesn’t matter, because when we go to vote we’re not actually voting for the president, we’re voting for who the Electors should – and almost always do – vote for. Generally speaking, the popular vote, for lack of a better way of putting it, doesn’t matter.
Obviously, this year is one of those times where the popular vote winner didn’t win the presidential election. And this is the first time I can think of that the Electors need to overrule the will of the idiot populous.
Donald Trump won the presidential election for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because he was running against an utterly garbage opponent. While I don’t think you can say that anyone other than Hillary Clinton would’ve destroyed Trump, she didn’t help the case. Let’s just do a quick review of the reasons:
Racism/xenophobia/sexism/every possible bad –ism you can possibly imagine
It’s easy to jump on the basic –isms (let’s just call it racism for simplicity’s sake) and say that this is the only reason Trump won. It’s not. It probably wasn’t even the main reason he won. Let’s face it, racists are generally going to vote Republican anyway (and before anyone jumps on me, please let me be clear that I am not saying that if you’re a Republican you’re a racist. I am saying that if you’re a racist you’re probably voting Republican). So yes, these guys (and women; we all know there are plenty of racist women) didn’t help, but at best it just got out people who wouldn’t otherwise have voted.
Clinton sucked as a candidate. She simply had too many scandals – Travelgate, Whitewater, defending her husband’s improprieties, her emails, Benghazi – that it was easy for anyone to seize on those scandals and scream “EMAILS!” anytime Clinton was gaining ground. Add in the fact that she arrogantly ignored the pleadings of various state’s (particularly Michigan) campaign headquarters because she figured those states were won, and she had a huge hand in her own defeat. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply blind to the facts.
People who didn’t realize their vote mattered
This sounds stupid, but I assure you there were people who voted for Trump who woke up the next morning (or stayed up that night) pissed that Trump won. I guarantee there were people – likely a lot of people, enough to swing some close states like Michigan and Wisconsin – who saw the polls and saw that Clinton had their states safely locked up. So they decided that while they didn’t want Trump to become president, they could vote for him for any number of reasons (most importantly that he had that telltale “R” behind his name) and hold their nose and not have to do the odious task of voting for Hillary Clinton because essentially, they figured their votes didn’t matter. Well, their votes mattered.
The 2016 Democratic nominee for president was determined on August 29, 2008. As soon as Barack Obama sewed up the nomination at the Democratic National Convention they knew that the next “open” nomination would go to Clinton (assuming it didn’t go to Joe Biden, which was a safe assumption considering he’d be 74 the next time an incumbent wasn’t running). The hacked emails proved it, and the complete dearth of Democratic opponents (I’ll get to that in a second) in the 2016 only strengthened that fact. Had they had a more open primary and not essentially handed the nomination to Clinton 8 years ago, there might have been a better candidate to oppose Trump.
Bernie Sanders is a god damn disgrace. The one admirable thing he did was ignore the DNC’s anointing of Clinton and make a run at the nomination. The problem was BERNIE SANDERS ISN’T A FUCKING DEMOCRAT!!! The guy spent his entire career as an Independent and then decided that he wanted to run for president. Of course, no one, especially not someone who most closely identifies with socialism, is going to win the presidency as an Independent. So Bernie becomes a Democrat, throws his hat in the ring, proposes some vague proposals like jobs for everyone and free college and single-payer health care, offering no explanation for how to pay for it other than vilifying the corporations that employ pretty much our entire country, and the Millennials ate it up. Meanwhile, he rails against the superdelegates that have a huge hand in determining the Democratic nominee (admittedly another stupid process that needs to go away), and then, when he loses the popular vote in the Democratic primary he completely changes his tune and starts begging the superdelegates for their votes. In doing so, he convinced his supporters that Clinton was the devil and if they didn’t vote for her in the general election it wasn’t on their heads if Trump won. They’re wrong. Sanders is Trump without the appalling vitriol. Fuck this guy and any of his supporters who didn’t vote for Clinton.
There is a huge portion of people in this country who grew up in factory towns and expected to walk out of high school and be given a job simply by showing up. When those factories disappeared to areas that promised tax breaks or cheaper labor, they screamed about NAFTA (ignoring the impact of automation on today’s manufacturing process and workforce), while refusing to go to college or a trade school to better themselves. They didn’t care about the Democrats’ promise of free college because they never planned to go to college. They rant about Obamacare and handouts to people in the inner city while they’re taking advantage of Obamacare and the same handouts as the people in the inner city.
Trump spoke to all of those people. They listened to whatever spoke to them – “I’ll bring jobs!” “I’ll build a wall!” “I’ll ban Muslims!” “I’ll throw Hillary in jail!” “I’ll repeal NAFTA!” – and ignored the things that didn’t. The problem is that all of the things that didn’t speak to them are the things that threaten this country.
Trump, in promising to change libel laws and ban Muslims, has promised to piss all over the First Amendment. In promising to repeal NAFTA he threatens the economy of this country, as the increase in labor costs and tariffs he promises will raise the costs of pretty much every consumer good in this country (and also tends to ignore some of the core reasons jobs are going away that have nothing to do with NAFTA). In promising to build a wall, and, more importantly, deport millions of undocumented immigrants (call them illegal aliens if you want, it really just depends on what side you identify with), he ignores credo of The New Colossus that sits at the pedestal of the very monument to our country’s welcoming history (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”). How you feel about immigration in this country is entirely up to you, but unless you’ve got Native American ancestry there’s at least some level of hypocrisy in demanding that people stay out.
And more important than any of this is, in compiling his cabinet, he displays the rampant hypocrisy that ignores the needs of every one of his voters save the rich white men and women in this country.
But none of this matters. All I’m doing now is pointing out the obvious facts that every political pundit that didn’t have rampant right-wing allegiances have already pointed out.
Which brings us to the Electoral College.
The Electoral College needs to be done away with. The popular vote of the people needs to determine who our president will be. I’ve heard the argument that this will ensure that the candidates focus on the major metropolitan areas and ignore the heartland. I don’t buy it. Or perhaps more accurately, I need some detail from people smarter than me. The metropolitan areas will always be liberal, and Republicans are not going to change this simply by showing up. But they will swing some votes. There are plenty of Republicans sitting in New York City who want nothing more than lower taxes. And if the right can swing the major cities by 5, 10, 20 points, the Democrats will have to make up that difference somewhere. They’ll have to show up in the rural areas of our country, and they’ll have to care about their issues.
But the Electoral College is here, and as long as Republicans control the House and the Senate and the presidency it isn’t going anywhere. As such it needs to be used to the full extent of its purposes.
I was as appalled both about Trump’s candidacy and his election as any straight white man who has a decent job and makes a fair amount of money. But short of sharing opinion pieces and news on Trump’s latest appalling act on Facebook and ranting about the election on the internet, I did literally nothing. I didn’t give money. I didn’t put out a yard sign. I didn’t volunteer. There’s only so much complaining I can do. I suspect that’s the case with many of us who are so outspoken in our outrage. The simple fact is that “we” lost. The popular vote doesn’t matter today, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
I voted for George W. Bush in 2000. And when it was revealed that Al Gore won the popular vote I said that the Electoral College needed to be abolished. As you can imagine, after the results of this election, I wasn’t exactly defending the process. But it is the system we currently have. And it’s time that the Electors exercise the powers that the Founding Fathers provided them in proposing the Electoral College in the Constitution. The must ignore the will of the people. Or, depending on how you look at it, follow it.
The fate of our nation is now in the hands of the 538 people their states have assigned to vote for the presidency. More specifically, the fate of our nation is in the hands of 37 people who represent the difference between the 306 electoral votes Trump won in the election and the 269 (or fewer) votes that would send the fate of the presidency to the House of Representatives. I’ve previously argued that putting the presidency in the hands of those 37 people is absurd.
I’ve changed my mind.
I’ve changed my mind because Trump has loaded his cabinet with billionaires who don’t care about the people he told he would help. With an EPA director who is suing the EPA. With a Secretary of State who has extensive ties with Russia. With an Energy Secretary who previously proposed shutting down the Energy Department. With an Education Secretary who promotes education policies that benefit the wealthy and have no basis in promoting better education for our country. With a strategist who, if not a white supremacist himself certainly has no problem giving a huge platform for the white supremacist movement.
I’ve changed my mind because it’s abundantly clear that the Russians hacked our election. And that the reason this wasn’t brought to our attention during the election because the current administration didn’t want to provide a voice to a man who was already claiming that the election was rigged.
I’ve changed my mind because it’s possible (if not probable) that the FBI is Trump’s Gestapo. Because it’s been shown that James Comey’s completely unprecedented actions regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails – an investigation that, remember, brought zero charges against her – directly influenced the outcome of the election.
I’ve changed my mind because Trump has shown that he has and will continue to ignore his intelligence gathering arm. That he will question their findings if it doesn’t suit his opinions based on nothing. Keep that in mind when Russia decides they want to expand their presence in the Ukraine beyond Crimea, or continue to prop up a dictator in Syria.
I’ve changed my mind because I think Trump is a pawn for Vladimir Putin. Trump admires Putin’s control of his country, control which includes the murder of journalists and the violent oppression of homosexuals. I loved the concept of the movie Salt, which found the president of the U.S. being shown to be a Russian sleeper agent. That concept isn’t particularly entertaining as a realistic possibility.
Hillary Clinton will not be president. Even if 37 Faithless Electors can be found to change their vote away from Trump, they are not going to change it to Clinton. And I’m fine with that.
A Republican will be president. I find their policies toward minorities, immigrants, Muslims, women, and homosexuals to be generally abhorrent. But I don’t find them dangerous. I don’t find myself contemplating ways our president can become a literal dictator if John Kasich or Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush were to become president. I’m ok with a Republican president.
I’m not ok with Donald Trump. The man is a fascist. The man is dangerous. We have learned enough since the election for it to be brutally obvious that our enemies hacked our election because Trump was a more appealing president, or worse, that he was a flat-out puppet.
I’ve gotten over my temper tantrum that came after the election. I’ve moved beyond believing that we need to trust our system and toward believing that we should put the fate of our nation in the hands of 37 people. I’ve moved beyond believing that any person who voted for Donald Trump was an idiot, although that has admittedly been a difficult realization to come to.
Donald Trump will almost certainly be president. But until that happens we need to do everything we can to stop that from happening. And that means we need to put our nation in the hands of 37 people. And I’m ok with that.