Monday, November 28, 2016

Should we scrap Electoral College for popular vote?

TV host Billy Bush was the passive partner in that bus-ride conversation where Donald Trump bragged about being able to grab women by their p---y.   Bush just played the sidekick enabler, snickering and egging Trump on to greater bragging.

For that, Billy Bush lost his job.   And Donald Trump got the most powerful job in the world.

Life ain't fair.

Hillary Clinton appears to have gotten nearly 2.5 million more votes than Donald Trump;  yet he is going to be president.  That certainly doesn't sound fair, on the face of it.  So should we change the electoral college system?

Some would argue that it was designed to keep just such an unqualified person like Donald Trump from being elected by an uninformed, zealous crowd of populist voters.   In the late 18th century, there was virtually no mass communication.   It was assumed that the average voter was not an informed voter.   So they gave party elders (all men, of course) the last word.

But times have changed.   Today there is no lack of information and no excuse for being uninformed.   And yet the majority of today's voters may be less correctly informed than every before.  The problem we have is way too much misinformation, lies, and false news about trivia and not enough factual news about real issues and policies.

Depending on what TV and radio stations a person listens to, they may never hear anything opposing the lies and distortions that they regularly consume.  What's lacking is sober analysis and judgment.   I don't mean an artificially "balanced and neutral" news, where both sides have to be presented without informed challenges.   We need what journalists and pundits used to do;   but now they either just read the news someone else wrote, or they slug it out in a talk-all-over-each-other panel without any clarity or resolution.

Clarity, deeper analysis of the issues and policies, and knowledge of the larger picture:  isn't that what the electoral college is supposed to provide, if the people are not informed?

Another consideration is that, if we had only the popular vote, we would have a different kind of election campaign.    Instead of ignoring the "safe" red and "safe" blue states and concentrating on the "battleground" states, candidates would campaign in the most populous areas, i.e., urban centers -- with an even greater emphasis on reaching the most people possible, meaning even more TV ads and less real time, personal contact with voters.  Is that a good thing?   The small towns and rural states would then be ignored.  Trump himself pointed this out when he said that, if the contest had been for the popular vote, he would have campaigned very differently, spending time in different places.

So it's not quite so simple, after all.    But, IMO, the system didn't work the way it's supposed to this time.   But is it the system?   Or is it a byproduct of the wide chasm between the two major political parties that overshadows policies and proposed solutions in favor of power politics and blind party loyalty?

It's a myth that electors are informed people of principle voting their best judgment;  rather, it's a cauldron of sharply divided, deeply partisan politicians voting along strict party lines trying to keep their party in power.  So it's not doing what it was meant to do;   but a simple popular vote might not either, if we continue such campaigns of disinformation and emphasis on trivia, rather than true policy debates.

So should we keep it and try to fix it?   Or scrap it for a simple popular vote?    I'm not ready to decide;   we need more sober analysis of data from past elections.   And we need to get rid of the gerrymandering of the states and congressional districts.   And we need to get rid of voter suppression;  make it easier to vote, not more difficult.   And we need to make sure Russia -- or some other country -- doesn't interfere with our next election.    Then let's also look at the structure of our system and see if it needs to be changed.


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