Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mutiny at the Electoral College

I'm trying really, really hard to imagine Senator Barbara Boxer as a reasonable person. I'm so sorry that I can't. I see that she's very upset that her beloved relative and cherished candidate Hillary Clinton, didn't make the cut. Sure, Clinton won the popular vote by about 947,000 votes if you go by the latest tally at CNN (some sources were projecting a Clinton win by more than 2 million votes). But she didn't win at the Electoral College.

Boxer is so upset that, in a lame duck session of Congress, she has introduced a bill with an amendment to the Constitution to end the Electoral College. From CNN Politics, we have this gem from Boxer:
"In my lifetime, I have seen two elections where the winner of the general election did not win the popular vote," Boxer said in a statement. "The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts."
Say it ain't so, Barbara! This is from a woman who apparently flipped off Sanders supporters at the state Democratic convention in Nevada, though Snopes would have us believe otherwise. An index finger raised in defiance? Really? She also claimed that she felt threatened for her safety. Why? Because of her unbridled support for Clinton? I think it was a bit more than that, Barbara. She supported one of the most unloved candidates in history when we could have had Bernie Sanders.

I have to wonder if she's not just grandstanding with her latest bill. She's not running for re-election since she is retiring at the end of this term, so maybe she's serious about this. Boxer's bill contains a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would have the election for president decided by popular vote rather than the Electoral College that we have now.

Still, even with that longshot bill in the queue (she won't be guiding it to passage after January 3rd), word on the street is that there is a plan underway to use the Electoral College to ditch both Trump and Clinton to choose a "compromise candidate". Here is a video to explain in a few minutes how that might work, however remote the odds might be of that actually happening:



I have to admit, after watching that video, that it would be a demonstration of supreme arrogance for the Electoral College to just vote for someone else on December 19th. Who is under consideration? John "Contract on America" Kasich, a Republican candidate who lost to Trump in the primaries. He's seen as a serious and reasonable person. I'm not so sure I'd want him in the White House given how things are going in his neighborhood. Have a look at the economy in Ohio and see if you'd want that, too.

I don't like the Electoral College either, but I made my concerns known long before this election. The Electoral College was created before the days of the internet, at a time when the people who wrote the Constitution felt that only the most informed people should decide who will be president, like white male landowners. Now we live in the information age and most of us can do our own research. Yes, I think we can go with the popular vote now.

Going back to that video, the idea is that the Electoral College can defy the voters and just vote for someone else. There appears to be some support and organizing for a plan to get them to vote for a compromise candidate, not Trump and Not Hillary. I believe that if they were to vote for someone else for president, and they have the right to do so, they would only grease the slide towards the eventual abolition of the Electoral College.

I find it ironic that the Democrats loved the idea of the superdelegates for many of the same reasons that are used to justify the Electoral College. But their love persists for the Electoral College only to the point that the Electoral College does what they want. Now that they see Trump as the winner of the election, fair and square, the Electoral College is a problem.

The odds of the Electoral College voting for someone else besides Trump or Clinton are remote at best. In my research, I've found that historical analysis of the Electoral College finds few "faithless electors". Faithless electors are people who vote for someone other than the person determined by the popular vote of their state. Where there have been faithless electors, state governments have passed laws to curb the possibility of that happening again.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has provide this analysis of the Electoral College. Their article explains how the Electoral College works and also provides guidance on how states can affect the way their electors vote with state level legislation. It's a very good civics lesson for those who want to know. I wanted to know, so I read it.

One other thing that popped out at me while reading their analysis is the following statement:
Nov. 8, 2016: Election Day, when voters in each state will select their presidential electors. The names of electors are not on the ballot in most states. Rather, when a voter casts a vote for a presidential candidate, s/he is also casting a vote for the electors already selected by the party of that candidate. If a majority of voters in a state vote for the Republican candidate for president, the Republican slate of electors is elected. If a majority vote for the Democratic candidate, the Democratic slate of electors is chosen. (emphasis mine)
This is news to me. I didn't know that with my vote for president I am casting a vote for the electors that will go to the Electoral College in December where they will cast their final vote for president. Another question comes to mind. What happens if I voted Green Party? Apparently not much since there weren't enough votes to send a Green Party delegate to the Electoral College to vote.

While researching this article, I looked around for pros and cons for the Electoral College and I found this article by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC National Clearinghouse on Election Administration. Kimberling's enumerates the following points in favor of the Electoral College:
Proponents of the Electoral College system normally defend it on the philosophical grounds that it:
contributes to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a distribution of popular support to be elected president,
enhances the status of minority interests,
contributes to the political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system,
and maintains a federal system of government and representation. (emphasis mine)
Political stability, huh? I'm not so sure that's where we're headed judging by the way things are going. I put the most concerning point in bold because that to me shows that the Electoral College was designed to encourage a two-party political system here in the United States. I would even go so far as to say that the primary reason it is so hard for third parties to get elected to anything in this country is the tendency for a two-party system to have so much influence on federal politics.

If we want to do away with the two party system that we have now, elimination of the Electoral College seems like a step in the right direction. I think the Europeans have been doing just fine with multiple parties vying for leadership roles and, contrary to popular belief, they actually get things done.

In my article, Duocracy vs Coalition Government, I compared the progress seen in the European Union to the political constipation we've had to endure here in the United States. They have a great public transportation system while we lumber along in our cars to work. Why? Because they could agree that government should be funding public transportation. Coalition governments tend towards progress at a faster rate than duocracy.

There is one other feature I like about coalition government. Progressives will always have somewhere else to go if they don't like the incumbent party. In other words, it's very difficult for dominant parties to maintain a lock on power. To me, that means that all political parties have incentive to compromise rather than to block.

The duocracy we have here is not a democracy since all political power has been handed to two political parties that can collaborate and collude to exclude other political parties and other points of view. We already know that they work hard to keep third parties out - just look at how hard it is for the Libertarian or Green parties to get any air time. Political stability doesn't necessarily mean progress, and political stability is in the eyes of the beholder.

The duocracy has disenfranchised millions of voters by excluding third parties and the Electoral College does this by design. If Barbara Boxer is upset about the outcome of the election, she has only herself to blame. She's been a Senator for the state of California since 1993, but has done nothing to change the system until now.

I'm with you, Barbara. I'm up for getting rid of the Electoral College. I'd love to see third parties have more influence in American political life, too.
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