I have been trying to write this article for quite some time. But every time I attempt to write its thesis sentence, I become physically ill, feverish, nauseated—and then I vomit. Here I go again. I’ll be right back . . .
Phew! I just took an hour and loaded up on antacids, aspirin, and liquid courage. So I will now attempt to write the thesis sentence yet again: President-elect Trump was right. Shit, I’ll be right back. Writing that turns me into a wretched dog, and it’s coming up yet again . . .
On the bright side, I have lost weight because of all the vomiting every time I ponder that fact. That he was right about one thing: Our election system is rigged. Yep, it truly is. It always has been. Since its conception and inception by our forefathers long ago, it’s been a rigged system. They knew it then. We know it now. We have always known it. And We the People have refused to fully correct it.
Correct what? you may be pondering.
First, we need to accept that our electoral process has had a much longer history of disenfranchisement than inclusion. Remember Susan B. Anthony and the suffragette movement? Women were denied—by law—the right to vote, and to smoke, and to drive, and to drink, and to have credit, and to own property, and to provide for their children’s well-being when husbands disagreed or upon divorce; hell, they were even refused the right to enjoy sex. At one time a voter had to be a white male landowner: E pluribus unum—my ass! More like from a select few comes one.
Our electoral process has a historical darker side other than just the disenfranchisement and marginalization of women. It has an institutionalized exclusionary and racist past that reigns to this very day. Our electoral system was sired by Father Exclusion. We need to correct that shameful fact: that our election system for the office of the president was born out of the systemic, endorsed, de facto law of the land, from disgraceful exclusion and racism.
“Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player,” and I did not write this song. In fact, I am not alone in the belief that the “electoral college is a disaster for a democracy,”1 a quote direct from President-elect Trump himself. Just like his statements about draining the swamp, building the wall, appointing a special prosecutor to jail citizen Hillary Clinton, making America great again, ad infinitum, he’s backed off that statement. The hypocrisy naturally makes me ill, but, more troubling than that, it simply makes me sad.
It’s sad to think that as we proclaim the rule of the majority—by the people, of the people, for the people—it is nothing more than hyperbolic bullshit when it comes to the highest office in our land: the presidency of the United States of America. That office has been granted immunity from majority rule, from the majority of voters’ votes, wishes, desires, dreams, and hopes for a better America. Instead, the presidency is beholden to its exclusionary and racist past.
Trump was born into an exclusive and racist family—and into an exclusive and racist business. His family, its businesses, and he were sued in 1973 for such behavior.2 He spewed racism on the campaign trail of 2016. He was endorsed by white supremacists whom he did not repudiate. His reward for his despicable campaign is that on January 20, 2017, he will be granted access to the Oval Office by an Electoral College system born and maintained by exclusion and racism. Poetic justice?
There is too much history of exclusion, misogyny, and racism in President-elect Trump’s past for him to be capable of shedding the proverbial leopard’s spots. No, there will be no turning over a new leaf when it comes to the president-elect. Nope. None. Nada! It’s sad . . . so very sad. The horrid reality of the origin and maintenance of our exclusionary and racist electoral system, and why the good Right White People will hold on to it until we pry (or take) it from their cold, dead hands,3 is a cesspool shrouded in pseudo respectability, disingenuous honor, and treasonous tradition—and We the People are culpable.
We should be embarrassed by the Electoral College. Five times in our nation’s history and twice in my lifetime, the Electoral College discarded the majority of votes as though they were disposable diapers (necessary for appearances but useless after put into service). We ought to be embarrassed by the fact that five times candidates for the office of president, with the losing margin of votes, were declared kings and given the keys to the White House, all the while proclaiming our democracy as the shining example of majority rule, when in fact the Electoral College is nothing more than chicanery designed and maintained to ensure that “they” don’t get too uppity. They uppity? Yes. They, back then, were the “Negroes.” Now “they” are the urban city dweller, who constitute the vast majority of minority voters. The large urban cities are not in Iowa or New Hampshire, both of which play pivotal roles in politics and elections because of their scheduled primary dates for national elections. That is a scheduling system that gives the Right Whites prominence in deciding front-runners for the highest office of our land. Just like the Electoral College, it too needs to be abandoned and tossed into “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies”4 and deceptions.
President Obama recently hypothesized that, if allowed to seek a third term, he would have won the majority of votes: “I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I—if I had run again and articulated it—I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.”5 I believe that too, Mr. President. I surely do. But Hillary Clinton won the majority of votes in 2016, and look where that got her—walking her dog in the woods. Just like the Mafia’s “Commission” could not have cared less about the desires and wishes of the majority of its members, the Electoral College is obtuse with regard to the majority of voters’ wishes.
This historical spotlight now shining on the exclusionary and racist Electoral College is provided by none other than the aforementioned reality show host Donald J. Trump, who gave both place and voice to hate and racism (and to xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and misogyny) during the 2016 election cycle; there’s that poetic justice I previously referenced.
As Yale constitutional law professor Akhil Reed Amar writes in The Constitution Today, “The Electoral College was designed at Philadelphia and was revised in the wake of the Jefferson-Adams-Burr election of 1800–1801 to advantage the slaveholding South.”
Many history books will tell you that the Electoral College was devised by the founders because they feared that the electorate was too ill informed to make the decision themselves. But there’s plenty of evidence to show that protecting the institution of slavery—and not a fear of low-information voters—motivated the decision.
As Amar points out, Northern politician James Wilson made the case during the Constitutional Convention for directly electing the president. But Southern slave owner and future president James Madison shot down Wilson’s idea on the grounds that Southern states “could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.”
Madison was referring to the infamous “three-fifths compromise,” which allowed the South to count each black slave as three-fifths of a person for determining how much representation that state got in the nation’s capital. If the president was directly elected by voters—a category that was limited at that time to white property-owning men—then the South would have less say in electing the president. Only by relying on the Electoral College, with its electors allocated using the skewed math of the three-fifths compromise, could the South maintain a strong voice in selecting the president and protecting their interests. That’s why, as Amar writes, the Electoral College “was an integral part of the odious pro-slavery three-fifths compromise.”
Years later, it would become even more apparent that slavery was a key reason for preserving the Electoral College. After an Electoral College fiasco in the election of 1800—yes, the one you remember from the Hamilton soundtrack—Congress passed the Twelfth Amendment, revisiting the concept of an Electoral College.6
God better bless America, because we are doomed unless We the People make her change her ways . . .
Copyright © 2016 – Hunting For Thompson – All Rights Reserved
4“History’s Unmarked Grave of Discarded Lies.” George W. Bush’s Presidential Speech to Joint Session of Congress, September 21, 2001. Fordham University website. 21 September 2001. Web 30 December 2016.
Copyright © 2016 – Hunting For Thompson – All Rights Reserved