American Exceptionalism is where a purported democracy, the inspiration and the “beacon” for civilization, can cast 4.1 million more votes for a candidate, but still wait on baited breath for a trickle of votes in a handful of states to figure out who is the duly elected Leader of the Free World.
Only in America would an election in which a candidate receives more votes than any in history, at 75 million and counting, and wins by what may turn out to be as much as 5 or 6 million and six percentage points, not be considered a landslide and a mandate for an agenda, but have to worry about recounts in a couple of states, a loss of a few House seats and a Senate leader with control of a shrunken majority, who vows to obstruct even his cabinet appointments.
This has been the pattern. And it is nothing to be proud of.
The Democratic candidate has won the popular vote in seven of last eight elections, yet still lost three of them, in 2016, by a head-spinning, unprecedented 3 million votes and even now, the fact that Biden could win 5 or even 6 million more popular votes than Trump does not seem to faze those who complain that 71 million are being “disenfranchised” (as if it is fairer to disenfranchise 76 million).
“Therein lies a more serious concern than partisan politics: the potential delegitimization of the United States’ democratic systems in the eyes of its citizens,” writes Maggie Astor in the New York Times.
She quotes Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank: “The more this happens, the more you get the sense that voters don’t have a say in the choice of their leaders. And you cannot have a democracy over a period of time that survives if a majority of people believe that their franchise is meaningless.”
This profoundly undemocratic pattern in a country that supposedly is based on the consent of the governed – of, by, and for the people, as Lincoln said – continues in all branches. In the Senate, a Republican majority has held tyrannical rule despite only “representing” 40 percent of the people; presidents elected by a minority of the governed have appointed two-thirds of the Supreme Court justices and a majority of federal judges through unscrupulous machinations of the Republican minority.
The election fraud that Trump is charging (apparently, only votes cast for him are “legal”) is in the ease by which voters can be blocked from polls, their ballots discarded without the ability to “cure” the error, the obstacles put in front of them to properly register, and districts gerrymandered so that politicians choose their voters.
The system puts states in charge of their elections, so the rules vary widely and would seem to violate the Equal Protection provision of the Constitution, but there can still be uniform minimum standards by the federal government (a Voting Rights Act!) to assure access to the polls, fair elections and fair counting.
There shouldn’t be a question whether ballots postmarked by Election Day can be counted until every vote is counted, allowing a criminal, conspiratorial Postmaster General to waylay boxes of mail-in ballots so they aren’t postmarked or even delivered in time (especially damaging in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan that their Republican legislators barred officials from even opening the absentee ballots until polls closed.
This opened the way for Trump, who has crusaded for months to discredit all absentee ballots from Democratic (urban) districts as “fraudulent” even as his colossal ineptitude has caused the coronavirus pandemic to surge, making voters have to choose to put their lives on the line in order to vote in person, so now he can argue claim these mail in ballots were cast after Election Day and should be discarded (most were mailed in weeks before).
The Electoral College is a relic of slavery – basically giving slave-holding states more representatives on the backs of people who could not vote – the need to compromise to convince small colonies (Rhode Island, Delaware) to join a federal system that would have been dominated by Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and their skepticism in populism. But population, demographics, and technology have changed.
And even those fallible Founding Fathers, who understood they were inventing a new form of government and needed to compromise to get something through, also realized they needed to adapt to change, so allowed for amendments.
Ending the Electoral College. which has truly passed its putrescent date, is a pipedream until stars are aligned with both houses of Congress and the White House firmly in Democratic control (expanding Supreme Court to rebalance after the right-wing coup also unlikely, along with Voting Rights and Fair Elections reform).
But states can act on their own to make the system fairer. There is the Compact, which pledges a state’s electors to the winner of the national popular vote (already states, mainly blue including New York, totaling 196 electoral votes have signed); states can also follow Maine and Nebraska and apportion their electors according to their state’s popular vote rather than the winner-take-all, or do what Georgia does and have run-offs if a candidate doesn’t reach 50 percent. (Not yet sure how I feel about ranked-choice voting.)
The argument is made that without the Electoral College, the smaller states (predominantly red) would be overwhelmed by the will of the few big (blue) coastal states.
So? What’s your point? As it is, the so-called Blue State coastal elites are reduced to 3/5 of a person, compared to rural Red States. Why shouldn’t New York City and San Francisco voters have equal say in their governance to Wyoming and South Dakota?
As soon as it appeared Pennsylvania went for Biden, crossing the 270-electoral vote threshold, people spontaneously went into the streets in cities across the country, breathing a collective sign of relief to have saved democracy by a dictator wannabe with no regard to the Rule of Law or free and fair elections.
Wait, there are still 70 days left for this dictator wannabe to do his damage.