Holes in Our Democracy

The Electoral College

There have been 58 presidential elections in the United States.  The first was in 1788, and the most recent in 2016.  Five times (8.6% of the time) the winner of the U.S. presidential election did not receive the most votes, thanks to the Electoral College.

1824

Andrew Jackson 151,271 41.4% Democratic-Republican
John Quincy Adams 113,122 30.9% Democratic-Republican

1876

Samuel J. Tilden 4,286,808 50.9% Democratic
Rutherford B. Hayes
4,034,142 47.9% Republican

1888

Grover Cleveland 5,534,488 48.6% Democratic
Benjamin Harrison
5,443,892 47.8% Republican

2000

Al Gore 51,009,810 48.4% Democratic
George W. Bush
50,462,412 47.9% Republican

2016

Hillary Clinton 65,853,516 48.2% Democratic
Donald Trump
62,984,825 46.1% Republican

The Electoral College needs to change or be abolished, and the national popular vote should determine who is elected president.  Why should “winner takes all” in each state continue to prevail?  This isn’t a ball game.  As it is now, a candidate gets 100% of the electoral votes for a state whether they got 80% of the popular vote or 50.5%.  Each state’s electoral votes should be apportioned based on the number of popular votes each candidate got.  Every vote should count equally, no matter what state you live in.

Proportional Representation

In the U.S. Congress and the state legislatures, if the Green Party, for example, is supported by 10% of the electorate, then they should have 10% of the representation in the legislative body.  Proportional representation ensures that all popular viewpoints in the electorate have representation in our government, and prevents any one political party from ever having too much power.

Ballot Measures

Rather than always voting for people who are supposed to represent you and your interests, but often do not, wouldn’t you rather vote on the issues themselves?  We should all have a chance to vote more often on ballot measures, even if they are only directional in nature.  I have no doubt, for example, that we would have stricter weapons laws in this country if we the people were ever given the opportunity to directly vote on the matter.

 

Divided America

We have quite the dilemma.   In the broadest sense, we have two very different views of the role of government, science, economics, education, and world view.  There seems little hope of reconciliation until, I fear, some catastrophe of epic proportions befalls us.  Closed minds do not change easily.

There is more than enough blame for how we got to this point to spread around, but the media certainly deserves to be singled out as fueling divisiveness rather than letting the facts speak for themselves and building bridges of understanding.  Our TV nation hasn’t helped, either.

A recent example of this schism: President Barack Obama.  To many, he was one of the best presidents we have had in decades: intelligent, articulate, dignified, thoughtful, and hopeful.  To others, he was one of the worst presidents in history.  I happen to be in the former camp.  I predict that history will be kind to Barack Obama.  Very kind.

Presently, there is an uneasiness and anxiety across this country that during my 60 years in the U.S. is unprecedented.  Where do we go from here?  Increased civic engagement at all levels is crucial.  As is a media that educates rather than agitates.  Perhaps living separately, but in harmony, is the best way to demonstrate a better way to live, interact, and govern.

Many a time I have found myself wishing we could peacefully divide into two countries: one for the conservatives, and one for the liberals.  That way the conservatives could finally have the kind of laws and governance that they desire, and the liberals theirs.  But this is impractical because too many people would have to move.  What about at the state level?  Some states would be “liberal” states, and others “conservative”.  Well, we already have this to a small degree, but there are big differences in political persuasion even within a state.  Once again, too many people would have to relocate.

What about an expansion of the “sanctuary city” idea?  Though currently defined as safe havens for undocumented immigrants, sanctuary cities could become places where liberals and progressives could live and work largely free of conservative doctrine and laws.  One challenge to this approach, however, is that cities are largely subject to state and federal laws.

Finally, at the smallest level, one always has the opportunity to form or join an intentional community.  Though, once again, that community would be subject to state and federal laws, as well as local ones.  There is also the challenge of economies of scale.

I would like to live in a country where science and reason inform public decisions and laws rather than religion, dogma, superstition, and “fake news”.  A meritocracy where education and critical thinking is valued and encouraged for all citizens, regardless of their ability.  Where taxes are higher because they provide free education and universal health care, and less is spent on the instruments of war.  Where guns are a privilege requiring extensive training and vetting, not a right.  A post-capitalist society where government strongly regulates and at the same time supports businesses, and always strives to equalize economic opportunity for all citizens.  Utopian?  Perhaps.  I have no doubt that many of us could live and flourish in such a society.  The question is, will it work for everyone?