Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Electoral College

“The Electoral College”. What is it? Now, in order for me to explain this, you will have to try to remember all the way back to the last election. Remember what you saw on the news channels? Remember the slick red and blue graphic of America replacing the weather map and some media personality pointing to it telling you who was winning the presidential election based on how many blue vs. red states there were? Now remember- there were two numbers being counted almost every time you saw numbers being counted. One said “popular vote”, a term representing the vote of every single voter in the whole of America. This vote is the one that gives us warm and patriot feelings while we were casting it on election day at our local polling places. You know- the one that earns you a cool little sticker after. The other number we saw said “electoral college vote”, Which represents a complex number of electoral votes that each state has. This is the number that really matters.  This is the number that decides elections.  The electoral college is the political mechanism by which we elect our president in this country. Each state elects so called “electors” to cast votes for a candidate running for president. Each state is given a certain number of these electoral votes based on the population of that state. In total there are only 538 electoral votes cast. Electoral votes are the votes the presidential candidates are really campaigning for. The way each state elects their electors is different from state to state. However, most are elected by the different political parties at their party conventions. The tricky part about these electors is that there is not really anything stopping them from going rogue and not voting the way the people in there district voted. If this happens we will have what I like to call a “George Bush”.  A situation where the guy who got less votes wins office. In fact situations like back in 2000 when America voted for Al Gore but we got George Bush do happen. Not often, but they do happen. Like in 1824, 1876 and 1888, and now again in 2000! On these rare occasions when electors do vote against the vote of the people there never seems to be any accountability for the electors, they just seem to slip behind the scenes.

It’s an American tradition older than the SUV or Nato. The founding fathers created and institutionalized this system, and we have been using it ever since. However, the founding fathers did have three other ideas on the table while they figured out how to elect the president, and one was to have a popular vote.  Why did they settle on this extreme example of representative democracy known as the electoral college instead of a direct popular vote? At the time, it was seen as unmanageable to conduct such a vast project as well many of the founding fathers subscribed to political philosophies that political parties are "evil" so they wanted a way to check their power. We also have to remember that most people were disenfranchised. Out of those who could vote, most were not educated, so it was feared that a dictator could rise to power. These are all fine reasons to choose a system like the electoral college over the popular vote in their day, but we have to remember that we live in a brave new world, people! It’s the future our founding fathers couldn’t imagine. Complete with great and easy ways to count votes! In fact we can all watch the number of our votes go up on our very own magic picture boxes (T.V.s) It’s the information age and people are equipped with computers and search engines! We have mandatory public education from K-12 and a government class that is required by every citizen before they pass high school! If that doesn’t produce informed voters, I don’t know what else we can really do. This domestic policy also harms our foreign policy. When we contest to controversial elections in the world, foreign leaders like Russia’s Putin and Iran’s Ahmadinejad accuse America of being the ones with fraudulent elections. And who can really blame them?

We are taught to love this country from an early age, through daily chants to a flag, bright colors and fictitious stories about somebody jerking off under an apple tree, or not jerking off under an apple tree, I can’t remember which. I didn’t learn about the electoral college until I took a political science class in college. Most people have no clue what it is and are pissed off when they learn about it. It’s sad how many battles we are losing in this war of ideologies. Aren’t we all sick of giving our enemies such blatant reasons to hate us, and continue terrorizing us? Why can’t we just be the country that we teach our children that we are? Why can’t we the people elect our president? Why was it that in WWII we could resist torturing prisoners of war for information, but now we can’t? The electoral college is outdated and dangerous. Instead of Gore ushering us all into a new world of Greenpeace we, the freest country on Earth, got Bush- a president that we did not elect (the first time). Now we are broke and fighting three wars. I think we're all sick of seeing future presidents of the United States in some hick town pandering to who the fuck knows because the electoral college gives that ignorant son of a bitch more voting power than the rest of us.

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