November 6th, 2012Top Story
Democracy is not very hard to understand. Its simplicity is a big part of its appeal. One citizen, one vote. Even representative democracy, necessary for unwieldy, far-flung populous nations like ours, is pretty easy: the candidate who gets the most votes wins. Representatives represent the will of the people.
To the extent that this is not true, a political system is not democratic. Like America's, for example. That's why need to stop twiddling our thumbs, and abolish the Electoral College, already. And the U.S. Senate, while we're at it.
Can you BELIEVE that after the 2000 election fiasco, we still haven't gotten around to abolishing the Electoral College? What the fuck is wrong with us? It's been 12 fucking years, already. We are the national equivalent of a guy who never got around to fixing that old fuse box that electrocuted his child, because he was too busy sitting on the couch playing XBox. For twelve years. We have seen the disaster happened, and yet we are too paralyzed by a sense of inertia to fix the problem. We, collectively, are pitiful.
Why? Why? Why has the Electoral College not been abolished in the past 12 years? Or, for that matter, in the century prior to that? While we were working on women's suffrage and ending literacy tests at the polls and passing the Voting Rights Act, it might have been beneficial to slip in one extra line there, at the very bottom, abolishing the Electoral College as well. Because the Electoral College does nothing but pervert democracy, shift our nation away from the "one person, one vote" standard, and effectively disenfranchise many of us. There is absolutely nothing good about it.
Fine, the god damn framers of the Constitution created the Electoral College as a compromise, at a time when there were only 13 states and only white men could vote. Fine. Too late to go back and re-argue that. It's a historical relic. The fact that it still exists is outrageous. Here is how the US president should be elected: by national popular vote. Whoever wins the popular vote is president. Each vote counts equally. All of us, as Americans, are presumed to be equally important. In a popular vote system, all of our votes are also equally important. But not in the Electoral College system. It is a system in which we—the majority of us!—accept that our votes are not really important.
Here are the five most populous US states: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois. Of those, only Florida is considered a "swing state" in this election. That means that the four other most populous states—and their citizens, and their needs—are effectively ignored by the presidential candidates during their campaigns, as a result of the realities of the Electoral College system. If we had a popular vote, the candidates would campaign most frequently in the most populous states, because that is where the most people live. WHICH MAKES BASIC FUCKING LOGICAL SENSE. "Oh, but what would it mean for Iowa and New Hampshire??" It would mean that Iowa and New Hampshire have less impact on our national elections than do California and Texas, because FEWER PEOPLE LIVE IN IOWA AND NEW HAMPSHIRE. Which makes perfect sense. Our representatives represent people, not lines on a map.
And while we're at it, let's abolish an equally undemocratic institution: the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives awards representatives based on population. The U.S. Senate, insanely, awards two representatives to each state regardless of population, meaning that each citizen of Wyoming and Vermont has almost 60 times the proportional representation as a citizen of California. It means that the 684,000 citizens of North Dakota are awarded the same amount of political power as the 25,675,000 citizens of Texas. It means that each resident of Montana has twenty times more voting power than me, a New Yorker. It is outrageous and, like the Electoral College, it effectively serves to take power away from the majority in favor of the odd geographic minority. It is plainly undemocratic. And, like the Electoral College, it is only tolerated because it has been a custom for so long that most people have never even considered its implications. It is assumed to be a timeless and immutable feature of the United States of America, like Old Faithful. In fact, it is a virulently unfair manmade practice, the result of a centuries-old power grab, which has persisted for far too long. Like some other unsavory American practices that any student of American history can name.
This election day, ask yourself: why is it that my vote probably doesn't mean shit? And then ask yourself: wouldn't it be nice if my vote did mean something? And finally: wouldn't it be even nicer if everyone's vote meant exactly as much as everyone else's vote? You are evil, Electoral College. You are pernicious and unfair, U.S. Senate. One day, some day, we should take a little time to realign our system with our ideals.
Image by Jim Cooke.