Is the electoral college past its time or is it just not doing its job? How about a parliamentary system?

NOTE: I continue to have great reservations about Donald Trump becoming president, although I realize it is all but a done deal (current challenges aside). Time Magazine has named him Person of the Year. But that is not necessarily good, it just means he has had the most impact — and I cannot argue that. Adolf Hitler made Man of the Year in 1938. And I will say that despite the more distasteful aspects of Trump (his bullying, his ignorance, incivility, sexism, acceptance of bigotry if not his own bigotry itself, to name a few) sometimes when I read about what he is doing I wonder if there could be some positive aspects to his chaos theory-driven method that seems at times to displease all political factions — right and left and middle and Democrat and Republican. I know as a former professional journalist it is said if both sides of an issue think you have written an unfair story then you probably have done your job correctly.


Either the electoral college has outlived its time or usefulness or maybe it is not being conducted properly so that it can be useful.

The Founding Fathers thought in terms of a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy. They were afraid that factions would take over and one group of citizens would seek advantage for themselves at the expense of others. Better to have elected representatives who represent the people as a whole run things, that was the idea. Unfortunately I think the way it works out is that the elected representatives as often as not represent factions or special interests at the expense of the people as a whole or minorities.

The framers of the Constitution provided for a system of electors chosen by each state to cast votes for the presidential election. Supposedly the people’s desires are to be considered by the electors, but the electors, being wise men (or women too nowadays) have the final say and responsibility as the final filter against the unworthy or unqualified, or too dangerous.

The thing is, the way it has evolved all the electors do is rubber stamp what the people voted in each state. All but two states, Main and Nebraska, allot all of their electors (the number based on the size of their congressional delegation) using the winner take all (electors) system. Seldom does an elector vote any other way, although he or she could. There is a movement afoot currently to get electors pledged to Donald Trump to not vote for him. Electors could face penalties for breaking pledges or state laws in doing so, but as I understand it all this has never been tested in court.

If an elector cannot vote his conscience, then what is the purpose to have electors?

The electoral college system has allowed smaller population states to have as much or more power to elect presidents than the larger ones.

(In addition, in the days of slavery the southern slave states wanted to have some equalizer over northern free states who had different economic and social interests.)

Yes, it is ironic that an original fear was that the larger more populated states would hold sway to the detriment of the lesser populated ones. Not necessarily true, especially in 2016, or in 2000 (Bush v. Gore). We have now seen two elections in recent times where the candidate with the most votes does not win (Al Gore and then Hillary Clinton).

To make matters worse, we now have a president-elect who in any other time in our history or at least in my lifetime would have been seen as wholly unqualified for office due to his lack of experience and knowledge, insulting manner, recklessness, unabashed disregard for the truth (actual evidence means nothing to him), his luring or tacit acceptance of racist organizations to his side, conflicts of interest between personal and government business, and sexism, and more.

There is a recount going on in battleground states but it is being challenged and does not have much chance of changing anything anyway, even by the admission of those who called for it.

And as I mentioned earlier, there is also a movement to get pledged electors to not vote for Trump, the president-elect. I doubt there is a chance there will be enough of them to change the outcome (although, as I must note, my record of political predictions is maybe something like 0 for whatever).

As far as I know, in all of this Mrs. Clinton still has no chance to win — she has lost. Possibly the election could go to congress —  or the high court?

It seems a bit late in the game, even though the electors don’t vote until Dec. 19.

But I ask again, if the electors are not free to vote their conscience, why have them?

It would take a Constitutional amendment to completely abolish the electoral college and that would be difficult. There is at least one scheme floating around that involves a compact between the states to circumvent the electoral college, but there are questions as to the constitutionality of it and whether enough states would agree.

I have not formed an opinion on whether we should keep the electoral college. It seems it is true that if we simply went by majority vote, then candidates for president would just go after votes in the high population states to the detriment of the smaller ones. But as said before, now they concentrate on battleground states. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

But if we are talking about change, why not figure out some way to get beyond the stodgy old two main parties? Maybe Mr. Trump is a step in that direction, but a perilous one for sure, it seems.

Should we look to a parliamentary system where there could be more than just two political parties vying for or sharing power? I think it would be useful to have more points of view because despite the labeling of the Democrats as left of center to left and the Republicans as right wing, over the years the elites from both parties have seemed to have agreed an awful lot, maybe to the detriment of the majority and minorities among the populace. That is kind of what led to the improbable election of what appears to be a demagogue of the first order who has scant knowledge of the world beyond his gold-plated chairs and tables and sinks and luxury golf courses.

But the U.S. has built a history around strong presidents or at least the need for strong presidents to lead the executive branch independent of the legislature.

But back to the electoral college. Trump’s actions and his demeanor portend danger for the public and the world. Certainly responsible electors should take note and vote accordingly.

p.s.

And this is Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day. Pearl Harbor Day and 9/11 remind us all of the need for someone fit and responsible to be at the helm and ready to act and act correctly at a moment’s notice. And unlike in the days of Pearl Harbor (1941), in this fast-paced world, with instant electronic connectivity and nuclear weapons, we don’t have the luxury of time and two oceans that can still form a defensive barrier.

 

 

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