Monday, December 19, 2016

Now They Went and Did It

The official vote of the Electoral College will apparently be:  Donald Trump 304, Hillary Clinton 227, Colin Powell 3, John Kasich 1, Bernie Sanders 1, Ron Paul 1, and Faith Spotted Eagle 1.  What is wrong with this picture (apart from the outcome)?

One of those talk-show panels on Sunday was discussing this Electoral College vote--they all agreed that the human element should be replaced by a strict point system.  Yes, that would remove the embarrassment of the votes for the five recipients who were not Presidential nominees; however, I think embarrassment is exactly the feeling we should have about this antiquated, anti-democratic, randomizing system we use to select our President.

The question of whether our Founding Fathers preferred the Electoral College to a national popular vote is way off-base:  there was no popular vote for President in most states until much later.  It was not even considered.  The Electoral College system proved itself unworkable by the second contested election, in 1800.  After that, they fixed some of the obvious flaws in that original formulation, but it really hasn't gotten better.  Look up the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, 1960, 1968, and, most recently, 2000, 2004, and 2016 (of course).   In all of them the Electoral vote outcome differed sharply and meaningfully from the popular vote outcome, and in five of them, completely opposed it.

I support that legislation, driven by states, to make a binding compact that their states will cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote--once 270 states' worth of electoral votes agree to it. I support it, even though I hardly believe it's foolproof, because it's the only route that seems possible right now--the Republicans have now convinced themselves that the Electoral College is their new best friend, the only protection against rule by the urban elite mob, even though just months ago, the talk was of the Democrats' "electoral college lock".

I credit the Republican strategists for recognizing that the Blue Wall was not impenetrable; the evidence that the Upper Midwest was vulnerable was present, as the margins have been very small in several states in recent elections (though consistently in the Democrats' favor).  Pennsylvania, the state most decisive in the result (along with Florida), was the huge surprise, the bridge too far that had been the Republicans' impossible dream in several recent elections.

Of course, radical that I am, I advocate pulling the thing out by its roots and going with the popular vote, but with a twist.  All voters would get to select their first and second choice of Presidential ticket.  If no candidate gets a majority, the two top vote-getters would have an "instant runoff":  only those two would remain in the contest, and  second-choice votes would be allocated to them, from among those votes that did not go to them in the first round.

As for those who agitated to overturn the result from Election Day, it was always a bootless exercise, one that had no chance and little justification.  Even when the result, equally tainted, was much closer in 2000--Bush won by two electoral votes --there was no chance of changing the outcome. No mere elector would take the responsibility to overturn the system--We are stuck with The President for the 46%.

The next vain effort will be the one to try to convince VP Joe Biden and the Democratic Senators to suspend the rules in that moment before the new Senators will be sworn in and vote for Merrick Garland. I'm not familiar enough with the Senate rules to know how it really works (definitely not like that), but I feel the Democrats do owe Garland a motion for a vote, one which will be blocked--it should have been done long ago; however, that kind of mischief on that day can never work.

What About Aleppo? 
The question which was Gary Johnson's downfall in his pretension to be a serious Presidential candidate will not go away.  60 Minutes had a segment on Friday about the "White Helmets", the trained volunteers who try to dig out survivors in Aleppo, Syria when their houses are destroyed by Syrian/Russian bombs. It was truly heartbreaking to watch, and one can only feel sadness for the civilians being killed so barbarously in this Civil War--though Civil Wars are always like this, to be honest.

It was rather pathetic to see our UN Ambassador Samantha Power take the Syrians and Russians to task--"Is there nothing that can shame you?"--or to hear President Obama declare that the blood of these people is on the hands of Syria and Russia.  And yet we do nothing about it.

Well, someone did something about it, today.  A Turkish man killed the Russian Ambassador to Turkey at an art gallery in the capital, Ankara, shouting out that his act was revenge for Syria and Aleppo.  I can't endorse the violent response to violence, and I don't know whether  the Ambassador's deeds themselves provide cause for revenge, but I will say this:  atrocities such as those committed by the Syrian government and its allies have consequences.  President Assad's day is coming, and others should also be subjected to punishment for their war crimes.

It appears that the slaughter may be nearly over;  there is a truce now which is permitting the evacuation of civilians.  Where they go, and what awaits them, people don't seem to be saying; at this point, though, we are just praying for this to end.  Unfortunately, in Syria this will then give way to the next slaughter, and the one after that.  Meanwhile, the civilian hostages in Mosul are starving.

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