Tag Archives: U.S. Constitution

The Good, the Bad, the Ferguson

America’s pretty messed up right now.

We’ve got vitriolic divisions on racial lines, political lines, ideological lines, religious/non-religious lines… We’re divided on so many fronts, I still find myself unable to pledge allegiance to the flag. Why should I? It’s not true. One nation? Sure, even if a lot of people want to secede. Under God? Well, that’s definitely questionable. Indivisible? The only way we as a country could be indivisible right now is if we’ve already divided ourselves so much that we can no longer be divided. And we seem to be nearly there. With liberty and justice for all? That statement seems almost as laughable as “indivisible,” especially in the light of the events of Ferguson, Mo.

If you have no idea what events I’m talking about, go ye forth and seek ye a friggin’ newspaper and a house that isn’t under 6 miles of rock. The problems in Ferguson are so layered and numerous and ridiculous that one would THINK, as a nation, we could finally see eye-to-eye on something with only a few freak outliers in the data. I mean, we’ve got excessive, militarized police blowing responses out of proportion. We’ve got an unarmed, non-violent (at LEAST in that moment) person WHOSE SKIN COLOR OR CRIMINAL RECORD SHOULDN’T MATTER dead without a good explanation. If he was a criminal, he was executed without due process, a Constitutional right. We’ve got the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the press getting hampered by cops, not to mention the violations of the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments. And you’d better believe that 2nd amendment wouldn’t get upheld if a Ferguson protestor legally had a gun. We’ve got proof of this sort of activity happening all over the country for YEARS without appropriate punishments. We’ve got scientific data showing a decrease in police brutality and harassment claims anywhere cameras are required to be in cop cars or on their person. We KNOW, without a doubt, that there needs to be change. Race shouldn’t even be an issue.

But, no. Nothing’s ever that simple. See, too much has happened. There have been riots and looting. Those are bad, so Michael Brown deserved it. He may or may not have stolen cigars. Therefore, he deserved it. Oh, and he’s black. Which makes a difference. Because when you’re black, if you’re not an honors student planning to attend Harvard with a spotless record, a 4.0+ GPA and have never smoked, drank, had sex, owned a gun or hung out with another person of color who is less “perfect” than you, then you’re going to be demonized. This guy says all of this much more poignantly than I can, so I suggest you read it.

I was born extremely lucky. I reached into the lotto bowls of race and gender and got white male. As a man, I will tend to get preferential treatment over women when it comes to being hired and paid. I have a far lesser fear of sexual assault and rape. As a white person, I don’t have to worry about being treated as a stereotype. I don’t worry about being frisked. If I were to commit a crime, I’m likely to spend far less time in jail than a non-white person. And if I get randomly killed by police, at least I won’t get my name dragged through the dirt postmortem.

But do you know what the worst part of this all is? Nothing will really change. People will pretend it’s an isolated incident, like Eric Garner choked to death in New York, like Rodney King in California, like Trayvon Martin in Florida, like Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, like Michael Bell in Wisconsin. It was a fluke. It wasn’t a symbol of larger problems. They weren’t perfect people, so they deserved it. They goaded the cops. For goodness sake, we’ve got a crowdfunding campaign in support of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Brown, and you can see how many people are apparently GLAD the boy got shot. Because blacks kill blacks and no one complains? Because he was a thug anyway? Excuse after excuse after excuse.

Nothing will change because we allow it to stay the same. Because we choose to see people as different and lesser than the rest of us.

America is going to be one of the most disastrously failed experiments if we let this keep happening, but there’s too much pride, ego and ignorance blinding people to that fact. Hopefully, I’m wrong. Hopefully, Brown’s death will ignite a spark of change for the better. Because we desperately need it before we burn.

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Why Your Vote Probably Doesn’t Matter

Talking last night with a friend that currently lives in Texas, the subject of the next election came up. Partly because she was watching the GOP debates and openly weeping, partly because I’ve talked about politics far more often than I realized on this blog. Anyway, as the open weeping may lead you to guess, she’s not exactly likely to vote for a Republican candidate. But being that she now lives in Texas, I had to laugh at her and point out how completely pointless her vote is, especially with a Texas governor as a front-runner.

And, just like that, I made myself a little sad. Because, frankly, that realization is distressing.

I’ve no doubt that the majority of people reading this understand how voting for the President basically works in relation to the Electoral College. What it basically boils down to, with exception of Maine and Nebraska, is that the popular vote of each state is how the entirety of the electors for that state will vote. In Maine and Nebraska, the electoral vote is broken up into districts, so electors will vote as their district dictates. The Electoral College as an idea was created in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, and then refined by the Twelfth and Twenty-third Amendments.

Most likely, you know the general gist of all that. The specifics are a bit unnecessary and convoluted. It boils down to not being a vote based solely on the popular vote. But surely that shouldn’t be trouble, right?

Except that three elections, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush’s 2000 election, were reached without a popular vote plurality. The vote of the college overrode the votes of the people in those three instances. That sounds like something that should be prevented from occurring, don’t you think? In fact, let’s look at the most recent election.

129,391,711 people voted in that election. A bit over 1/3 of the nation’s population. President Obama raked in 69,456,897 votes, almost a full 10 million votes over Senator McCain. A somewhat close race, but 10 million votes is a decently wide margin. Obama held 53.68% of the vote, a distinct plurality.

Then we look at the Electoral College. Out of 538 electoral votes, Obama grabbed 365 of them. That’s 67.84% of the electoral votes. Instead of being ahead by 7 percentage points, in the Electoral College, Obama was looking at a landslide 36 percentage point differential.

That’s a rather stark difference.

And, according to Wikipedia, a “2001 Gallup article noted that ‘a majority of Americans have continually expressed support for the notion of an official amendment of the U.S. Constitution that would allow for direct election of the president’ since one of the first-ever public polls on the matter in 1944”.

With the American public wanting a change, with the obvious flaws the college can have in disparity between itself and the popular vote, why the heck won’t Congress let an amendment changing the college significantly or all-together eliminating it pass?

It’s a rather depressing look at the cynical side of politics. The reason the college still stands today is two-fold, in my opinion. First, the college makes strategy easier.

If someone is running for president, you can start playing the American landscape as though it were a Risk board. You have to conquer certain countries to make the entire continent an easier takeover. Or, in America’s case, you spend most of your time and effort and money in specific states that may be on the fence about who they’ll vote for. And those are the only ones that matter. Most states don’t see a single glimpse from a presidential candidate during election season, because you know how that state will vote. Here in Alabama, we’re going to vote Republican. That’s pretty much guaranteed. So why bother to excite the Democrats trapped in the state? Their votes won’t affect the Electoral College.

Further, it makes talking easier. If you’re talking to an entire state, you can make a speech about the general affairs of the state. If the college were split up the way Nebraska and Maine handle it, you’d have to woo each district to your cause. You’d have to know enough about each district to know what they want to hear. And districts are far less predictable in comparison to states. A state-by-state electoral vote is just easier on the strategy.

Then, you have the second reason for the college: The media. If you’ve ever watched a news station on election night, you know how crazy they get. They whip out the high tech gear, the play by play analysis of what each candidate needs to win to secure victory, et cetera. If things went by the popular vote, that would all be gone. There would be no calling the election until pretty much ALL of the votes were in. There’d be no major possibility for drinking games based on who wins what swing states. There’d be less possibility for fanfare and hooplah. It just wouldn’t make very interesting television. And if you don’t think the media has a strong effect on elections, you may not be paying much attention to how this GOP primary-hunting season is shaping up.

It’s a little ridiculous how America is still trapped by this idiotic, vote-stealing system. Unless you live in the right state, your vote isn’t likely to matter. Being a Democrat in Texas or Alabama, or a Republican in California or New York, seems to mean that voting is practically pointless. Yet everyone encourages people to vote. Go out and do it, you can make a difference!

If only Congress would let that actually be true.

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