By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360
Donald Trump said the election was “rigged’ in favor of Hillary Clinton.
The “rigged” system made him president-elect.
Hillary Clinton got more votes than Trump did. But she came up short where it counted: in the electoral college.
Billionaire Trump should thank the nation’s founders–well-heeled and powerful white men–for creating the electoral college. Their aim was to make sure that only guys like them could be president.
Barack Obama snapped the string of white presidents. It’s back together with Trump.
Most of the nation’s founders –especially Alexander Hamilton–didn’t believe ordinary citizens could govern themselves. They made no bones about it.
Trump, a rich New Yorker like Hamilton, chose not to model his campaign after the founder, who became the country’s first treasury secretary.
Instead, the ex-reality TV star, emulated 19th-century circus showman P.T. Barnum who supposedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Trump donned baseball caps and claimed to champion working stiffs.
He railed against outsourcing. He demonized trade deals like NAFTA and TPP. Yet Trump has made money hand-over-fist selling a line of duds manufactured in Bangladesh, Honduras, China and other cheap labor countries, according to The Washington Post.
The big beneficiaries of his tax plan are rich people, says NPR.
Trump likes anti-union “right to work laws.” He has battled tooth-and-nail to keep his Las Vegas hotel workers from unionizing. On the minimum wage, he’s flip-flopped more times than a hooked Kentucky Lake bass in the bottom of a johnboat.
Yet Trump collected votes in 49 percent of union households, according to CNN exit polls.
On other hand, ultra-elitist Hamilton was openly contemptuous of ordinary citizens.
“The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right,” according to Hamilton. Thus, they had to be checked by wise and experienced “landholders, merchants and men of the learned professions.”
Hamilton favored the electoral college–and a king elected for life.
Anyway, Clinton became the fifth White House hopeful to win the popular vote but not the election. The last such loser was Al Gore in 2000. Besides Clinton and Gore, the other presidential candidates who won the popular vote and lost the election, were Andrew Jackson (1824), Samuel J. Tilden (1876) and Grover Cleveland (1888). Coincidentally, they were all Democrats.
Meanwhile, everybody who helped draft the constitution in Philadelphia in 1787 was from the colonial aristocracy; many were slaveholders. Yet there were proposals to elect the president by popular vote (of white men), historian Howard Zinn pointed out in a 2000 interview with Democracy Now.
Every proposal was shot down. Hamilton and many other founders feared an “excess of democracy.” They argued that “people who are intelligent, people who are educated…important people in the community” ought to control the government, explained Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to the Present. In other words, only the elite counted.
The electoral college remains a relic from a period in our history when only white men of property could seek office and vote. They ran businesses, industries and everything else of importance in society.
Elitism was evident even in supposedly egalitarian (for whites) frontier states like Kentucky.
In addition to sanctioning slavery, the Bluegrass State’s first constitution, written in 1792, created a system in which electors chose the governor and state senators, according to A New History of Kentucky by Lowell H. Harrison and James C. Klotter. The 1799 constitution tossed out the electors, the historian added. (Kentucky remained a slave state until the 13th Amendment ended slavery in 1865.)
The electoral college has, though the years, survived multiple moves to get rid of it. At least 700 amendments have been proposed to modify or abolish it; no other attempt at constitutional reform has been greater, according to Fair Vote, “a non-partisan, 501(c)(3)h non-profit organization that seeks to make democracy fair, functional, and more representative.”
Fair Vote favors repeal.
Trying to deep-sixing the electoral college through a constitutional amendment isn’t likely to work, The Baltimore Sun editorialized. “It would require either a two-thirds vote of both chambers of Congress or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures just to propose such an amendment, and then it would need to be approved by three-fourths of the states.”
The editorial pointed to a different path. “Ten states plus Washington, D.C., have enacted legislation that could lead to a system that leaves the Electoral College intact but ensures that it deliver the presidency to the popular vote winner. This national compact stipulates that as soon as states comprising a majority of the Electoral College — 270 votes — sign on, each will award its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Constitution allows states to allocate their electors as they choose — the winner-take-all system is not in the Constitution, and Maine and Nebraska have already abandoned it, choosing to split their electoral votes based on who wins in each congressional district.”
So far, only Democratic-majority legislatures have endorsed the plan, starting with deep blue Maryland, which Clinton carried.”…Yes, we endorsed the idea then, not just now that the candidate we supported, Hillary Clinton, has won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College,” the Sun editorial said.
“But the idea has gotten some traction in places like Oklahoma, a state so red that no presidential candidate pays it any attention, and in some swing states, including Colorado and Nevada. The 11 jurisdictions that have signed on total 165 electoral votes, nearly two-thirds of the necessary total.”
With the Republicans flipping the House of Representatives, the Kentucky General Assembly is redder and more reactionary than ever. Hogs will fly before GOP lawmakers agree to scuttle a system that made their man the next president.
The Sun isn’t sanguine about red states hopping on the anti-electoral college bandwagon.
‘Notwithstanding the fact that President-elect Donald Trump called the Electoral College ‘a disaster for democracy’ in a 2012 election night tweet (he evidently thought at the time that Mitt Romney would win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College, though he wound up losing both), we don’t expect Republicans to take up the cause until one of their nominees suffers the fate of Ms. Clinton and Al Gore. It’s only a matter of time. Had John Kerry convinced 59,301 George W. Bush voters in Ohio to support him instead, he would have taken the presidency in 2004 despite losing the popular vote by 3 million.”
Nonetheless, the paper said the electoral college “is no way to pick a president, and we can fix it. A petition on change.org calling for members of the Electoral College to vote for Ms. Clinton rather than Mr. Trump got more than 2 million signatures in under 36 hours, but if people really want change, they should lobby their state legislators to support the Electoral College compact.”
A MoveOn.org petition calls for the abolition of the electoral college. “Voters currently living and voting in a ‘red’ or ‘blue’ state are disenfranchised, because their vote doesn’t matter. Eliminating the electoral college means: no ‘swing’ states getting all the attention and all the campaign stops and all the empty campaign promises. The electoral members are selected by the two main political parties, Republican and Democrat, disenfranchising all other voters, independent, Libertarian, etc. End it now.”
I put my cyber John Hancock on the petition. You can, too, here.