Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Electoral College

In case you were wondering, the Electoral College isn’t going anywhere soon, despite petitions flying about the Internet to get rid of it.

The Electoral College is part of the U.S. Constitution. And the U.S. Constitution is hard to change.

And it’s hard to change for a good reason: Make it easy to change, and any simple majority could put anything it wanted into the document.

Don’t want flags burned? Amend the Constitution to make it illegal.

Want abortion outlawed? Amend the Constitution to make it illegal.

Remember, if you make it easier to amend the Constitution to ease passage of your pet ideal, you make it just as easy for your ideological opponents to do that very same thing.

Here’s how it works: Either two-thirds of the House AND two-thirds of the Senate have to propose an amendment, or two-thirds of the state legislatures have to propose an amendment.

Two-thirds. That is 67 senators. That is 290 representatives. That is 34 states. And that’s just to get the nation to say, “Whoa, Hoss. Somebody wants to change the Constitution.”

To actually get the change into the Constitution? The bar is higher.

Three-fourths of the state Constitutional Conventions or three-fourths of the state legislatures have to approve the change.  That’s 38 states.

To effect change to the U.S. Constitution requires something we haven’t had in this country in a long time: Coalition-building. That same coalition-building that the Founding Fathers thought they were putting into place when they determined the Electoral College, rather than the masses, would select the president.

Because in a Constitutional Convention, the fact that California has 57 members of Congress to, say, Idaho’s six, means nothing. You want one state, one vote? That’s what you get when you try to amend the Constitution. Small states have just as much power as big states.

You want fair, big states? Go to the carnival. Because fair is as fair does.

So you want a change? Ya gotta build a coalition. Ya gotta talk to the red states as well as the blue states. Because even in the earth-shattering election of 2016, there are only 30 red states – and a good handful of those are barely pinkish. And there are only 20 blue states. No matter how you stack it, that doesn’t make the 34 to propose an amendment, and doesn’t come close to the 38 necessary to shoehorn a change on through.

So, coalitions.

And that means talking to each other. Finding out what each other wants. And – this is a dirty word in politics these days, but it’s gotta come into the mix – compromising. And I mean the kind of compromises that makes both sides go away a little mad, not going away thinking they just pulled the wool over the fuzz’ eyes.

So, Sen. Barbara Boxer, your attempts to introduce a bill right now to amend the Constitution to get rid of the Electoral College? Ain’t going nowhere. It’s white-hot right now off of Hillary Clinton’s electoral loss to Donald Trump. You haven’t built any coalitions. You’ve only talked to the same people over and over again in your echo chamber. Your beau geste is dead on the vine.

And that’s a good thing. Because we shouldn’t be changing the Constitution willy-nilly. It should be done by consensus, not in the heat of defeat.

Because if you want white-hot redemption, this is what you’re going to get:

You don’t want that? Then slow down. Build those coalitions. Convince a lot of other people you’re right. And that means not just convincing people you already know agree with you. That means convincing people who think you’re wrong at the outset. That means getting out of your echo chambers. That’s going to be a long process. Probably over a few more election cycles. Don’t want to wait that long? Well, shoulda started years ago, then. Because, Democrats, this is the second time this century you’ve had a candidate win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College. If you didn’t want that to happen again, you should have started that coalition-building back in 2000 and not waited until 2016 when it happened to your candidate again. Because fool me once, shame on you. 
Fool me twice, shame on me, as the cliché goes.

Also: You can whine about gerrymandering in states that “keep” Republicans in control. Or you can work, over long grueling years, to reverse the damage, not by whining “it’s just so unfair!” but by convincing the people who live in those gerrymandered districts that it’s unfair. Granted, that’s going to take a lot longer than whining. But it’ll lead to winning. And that coalition-building we’ve heard so much about but forgotten how to do.

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