Pharr Memorial Day: Large Leaderboard

We have a republic if we can keep it. The 2016 elections are historic. If anything has been made clear by the results of the recent presidential election, it is that the political, pundit class and the press underestimated the degree of anger and pain in the United States, and overestimated certain outcomes. They couldn’t see that straws in the wind were building a new house.

The Numbers (as of 11/18/2016):

130.5 million total votes reported (Michigan still not final)
Hillary R. Clinton won 232 electoral votes & 62,115,634 general votes 47.95 percent
Donald J. Trump won 290 electoral votes & 61,003,417 general votes 47.09 percent
Senate Seats:    Democrat   48   Republican   51
House Seats:    Democrat 193   Republican 239

Some Election Trends

The Reuters/Issues early exit poll found that 75 percent of respondents agreed that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and the powerful.” Only slightly fewer agreed that “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful” and, perhaps the kicker, 68 percent believed that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.” These statements capture much of the story of the 2016 Presidential Election.

They may conceal white resentment of the perceived advancement of Black and Latino people. But, they may also reveal the sentiment that has been there since the 2008 financial crisis laid bare the lies of power in the country and the world—when as protestors have chanted: “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out.”

Downward trends have been with us for decades: divergence of productivity gains from farmworkers’ incomes; the substitution of credit card debt for raises; the shift of good union jobs and the attendant slashing of the social safety net. But the past eight years sped all that up and made it impossible to ignore. The degree to which “recovery” has been recovery for only a few, and stagnant, and in decline for many more was misunderstood. It was this situation that brought many to the voting booth on November 8.

A Pew Research Center poll reported that 45 percent of voters 65 years and older believe the U.S. stands above other nations, which is the highest share of ages. Just 19 percent under 30 years says the same. By contrast 30 years and below are more likely to say there are other nations better than the U.S., this time 25 percent versus six percent.

Among those who said they are Republican or who lean Republican, 48 percent say the U.S. stands above all nations; 32 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans agree. Among liberal Democrats, 17 percent believe that the U.S. stands above all other nations; 22 percent say other nations are better than the U.S.

The winning candidate needs to view the electorate as individual people with real ideas, hopes and fears, and not just as votes. People who feel they can influence politics and government express greater confidence in the nation’s future than do those who say they have less ability to influence government. When people believe their votes count, and that they can influence government, their attitudes about government change.

People will vote for the person they believe will be the catalyst for change that benefits them. The person who really hears their needs and wants to help them and the country is less likely to bring negative feelings to a campaign. The voters become excited or optimistic when they feel a candidate is honest; speaks to them, and values them not just as votes.

Donald J. Trump Campaign Themes

Donald J. Trump stood out from the rest of the Republican Party willingness to say directly the kinds of things that usually mattered. His rants about trade, “draining the swamp” and dismantling the remnants of the welfare state got the public’s attention.  He echoed the outrage of the “deplorables,” giving them a place to direct their anger.

Mainstream Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign were unprepared to greet Donald Trump. When faced with Donald Trump’s campaign, they were in denial that was supported by polling data and enthusiastic anti-Trump press. Donald Trump surprised everybody but his supporters.

“Make America Great Again” was greeted with enthusiasm by thousands of people who swarmed to hear Donald Trump. The insistence by the Clinton camp that America is already great did not ring true with many Americans.

The Presidential Contenders

In the 2016 election, the desire for change was greater than the fear of risk. Hillary Clinton thought she was the change that would garner votes. She cautioned that people shouldn’t vote for Trump because, as she said in a speech in June in South Dakota, and many times during her campaign: “He is fundamentally unqualified for the job he is seeking and dangerously incoherent…he is unprepared and has a temperament unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.” That was Hillary Clinton’s constant message. Opposition rather than a vision with specifics.

Figuratively holding hands with President Obama throughout her campaign, Hillary Clinton constantly disparaged Donald Trump rather than painting a picture of specifics she intended to pursue. President and Mrs. Obama spent considerable time linked with Hillary Clinton during her campaign. They knew it was essential that she win — for the Democrats, for the country and for the President’s legacy. Her campaign emphasized her role in the Obama Administration. She needed his support and he needed her success to magnify his record.

Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump would be a dangerous change. She tried to get the voters to believe she offered wonderful change. On the other hand, many perceived that she would provide more of the same conditions they had been experiencing for eight years. Changing the gender at the top of a presidential ticket wasn’t enough of a change to deal with their anger and frustration. What was fascinating is that desire for the change offered by Donald Trump versus more of the same package of administrative policies in feminine garb was very, very strong.

Donald Trump won because he saw how much people wanted real change and how big a risk they were willing to take to put someone out of the political system into the White House.

A Pew Center poll found that 38 percent of voters said Trump was qualified; 35 percent said Trump had the temperament to serve effectively as president, and one in three voters said Trump was honest and trustworthy. Numbers like these in almost any other election would ensure failure—the kind of failure his opponent believed he would experience. Her goal was to disqualify Trump and convince voters his change was too big a risk.

Hillary Clinton was convinced that she should be the president, since she had worked her whole life to be prepared for the job, was the most experienced, and a woman. But the desire for change by the voters was bigger than any uncertainty Hillary Clinton could raise among the voters about Donald Trump. Four in ten voters said the most important character trait in deciding their vote was a candidate who can bring needed change to Washington. Of that group, Donald Trump received 83 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 14 percent.

Donald Trump scored an impressive electoral victory on November 8 after a campaign revealing deep divisions in race, gender and education that were as wide or wider than in previous elections (National Election Poll exit poll). This election shows that the past is no longer a predictor of the present.

Abolishing the Electoral College

Votes are still being examined. Many Democrats are upset about the possibility their candidate may have won even more total popular votes, while losing the election. As occurred after the 2000 election, people are taking aim at the Electoral College and want to replace it with a national popular vote. This would remove the indirect mediation of the electors’ votes and, more importantly, eliminate the power of states in choosing a president. Our Founding Fathers created the Electoral College in part to preserve the power of the states.

The Electoral College is the body that elects the President and Vice President every four years. The Electoral College process consists of the selection of electors; the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), retiring in January, has introduced legislation to amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and establish the principle of “one person, one vote” for presidential elections. A Clinton supporter, Senator Boxer said she had seen two elections where the winner of the general election did not win the popular vote. According to the Christian Science Monitor, she said that Donald Trump tweeted in 2012 that “The Electoral College is a ‘disaster for a democracy’. I couldn’t agree more. One person; one vote.”

Said Senator Boxer, Hillary Clinton is “on track to receive more votes than any other presidential candidate except for Barack Obama.” The Electoral College is “an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect modern society, and it needs to change immediately,” she added.

Donald Trump mentioned, during his November 13 appearance on 60 Minutes, that he still has issues with the Electoral College. He said he wasn’t going to change his mind simply because he won, explaining he would rather see it where you win with simple votes. But, later he tweeted: “The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different.”

An amendment to the Constitution is unlikely in the near future. It would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress, and three-fourths of states would then have to ratify the amendment within seven years. Already ten states and the District of Columbia have passed the National Popular Vote Plan.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the plan currently represents 165 electoral votes, meaning it needs states totaling 105 more votes to sign on in order to become the de facto means of electing a president. Others are hoping that state representatives will not vote for Trump when they meet in mid-December. Some people have begun to put pressure on the electors to not vote for Donald Trump.

The Value of the Electoral College

Many voters are surprised that when they step into the voting booth they are not electing a president; they are casting a vote for fellow Americans to be “electors”. Each state shall appoint a number of electors, in such manner as the legislature may direct, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress. These electors, appointed by the states, are pledged to support the presidential candidate the voters for whom they have voted. The Electoral College holds its vote the Monday after the second Wednesday in December following the election.

The Constitution provides for the U.S. presidential election to be a product of the states—thus employing the principle of federalism. Smaller states receive a slightly higher number of votes compared to their population than more populous ones, which detractors of the Electoral College claim damages the idea of one man, one vote.

The 2016 election is a perfect illustration of why the United States needs to keep this institution in place—regardless of whether one supported the winner or loser. Rising above the unhappy and heated voices, are two serious arguments: It is unfair that a person can take the presidency without winning the majority of national popular votes. The Electoral College emphasizes the states as opposed to the people in an undifferentiated mass, pushing candidates to only focus their attention on a few closely contested “swing states”.

Many say this system is unfair and that the total number of individual votes from all states is a more accurate gauge for who the president should be. But, would it be fair for the Chief Executive Officer to be mostly the product of a few urban centers in California, New York and Texas?

The Electoral College system was designed to ensure that presidents would have received support from a diversity of people around the country. Modern candidates connect with farmers in rural states, factory workers in industrial states, and software engineers in technology-dominated states. A president most consider the needs and opinions of people across the country instead of just the views of a few highly populated urban centers. The Electoral College ensures that the interests of “flyover country” in Middle America cannot be ignored.

This was dramatically demonstrated this year. President-elect Trump drew support of a huge numbers of people in states across the South and Mid-West, while Hillary Clinton gathered massive majorities across the most populous states of California and New York. Without an Electoral College, candidates would have little incentive to appeal to people outside the most populated coastal states. Hillary Clinton was defeated because she couldn’t win the support of enough voters in the once Democrat-dominated Rust Belt that had supported President Obama in two previous elections.

State results also debunked the second major argument for abolishing the Electoral College, that candidates would only spend time campaigning in a few essential swing states. President-elect Trump succeeded in defeating Hillary Clinton because he was able to garner a number of states, e.g., Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that had voted solidly Democrat for over a decade.

This is not a new phenomenon. California used to be a Republican state until the late 1980’s, and Texas used to be controlled entirely by Democrats. Major election shifts have happened throughout American districts and will continue to do so as population shifts and political parties change. Demolishing the Electoral College shouldn’t be based on the outcome of a particular election.

Our system of government has had a remarkable success rate in transferring power from one presidential administration to another. This year, some protestors have clustered to denounce the President-elect. Some have even called for the Democrat-dominated California to secede from the Union. With the exception of 1860, Americans have found a way to maintain an incredible record of political stability for over two centuries—in large part due to the Electoral College. It would be foolish to abolish that system for the sake of one side that didn’t get what it wanted this year.

Post-Election Crowds and Demonstrations

Getting what you want is the impetus for crowds of shouting people that have gathered around the country, especially on college campuses — which are notorious locations for such events. Sometimes bussed to the locations, some agitators have allegedly been paid to protest. Some of them previously participated in “black lives matter”, “occupy Philadelphia” and other recent issue marches. School children have been urged to rally against the elections and against the person declared the winner. The people urging them to participate included teachers and parents. Thanks to the current education system, the children’s knowledge of history and civics is too weak to put what they are being told into perspective.

Media interviews have often shown people using the same “script”. When asked to explain their issues, the “groupees” cannot do so; rather, they repeat their original mantra. These protests are like the “happenings” of the 60’s. They have organizers who skillfully create followers to riot and intimidate onlookers. Violence and property loss can often be by-products.

Just a theory, but rioters are often dedicated, frightened, and uninformed. Their lack of information is educational as well as cultural and social. In the case of the young or recently arrived residents, Barack Obama is the only president they have really known. They don’t understand transition of power. They don’t understand the U.S. process of government. They have been told by the media, group leaders, parents, and teachers to fear the new president. They have been told he is going to deport their families; that women cannot have control over their bodies; that gay people will be hounded and same sex marriage will be abolished, and many other alarming things that he will do—and all before he has even been sworn in. They have been told that the election was stolen from the rightful winner, Hillary Clinton, who was a dream come true — a concept related to the earlier belief about Barack Obama.

Lack of truthful communication and accurate information are prevalent in our society today, allowing these situations to occur. We have freedom of speech and lawful assembly in this country, but we are missing mutual respect and an understanding of the Constitution.

Government Stability from the Electoral College

After much debate and compromise, Framers of the Constitution created the Electoral College to provide stability to the process of picking presidents. Though the winner of the total national votes typically assumes the presidency, that vote failed to determine the winner in the following four elections: 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000.

The Founders wanted to empower democratic elements in the American system, but feared a kind of pure, unrestrained democracy that had brought down great republics in the past. As students of history, the Founders feared the destructive passions of direct democracy, and as recent subjects of an overreaching monarchy, they equally feared the rule of an elite unresponsive to the will of the people.

The Electoral College was a compromise—neither fully democratic nor aristocratic. It was designed to satisfy each state’s demand for greater representation while attempting to balance popular sovereignty against the risk posed to the minority from the majority rule.

In addition to balancing the protection of individual rights and majority rule, the Founding Fathers attempted to create a “federalist system” that will keep most of political power reserved to states and locations. The American presidential election system was also designed to empower the states, not just the American people as an undifferentiated mass.

Sometimes an issue will stimulate calls to abolish the Electoral College, which escalated after Republican George W. Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore in the thoroughly contested 2000 election. Al Gore narrowly won the national popular vote, and many of his supporters protested that the system—even without the Supreme Court stepping in—was unfair.

The Electoral College has been an instrument of stability for two hundred years. Dismantling it could do enormous damage to the United States. Though the rules of the institution may seem strange, it is carefully designed. Learn why a fence was built before tearing it down.

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