The crisis from the 2000 presidential election continued to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the voting public during the 2004 election and even the recently removed 2008 presidential election. To the outsider, the hanging chads and the recount after recount in Florida gave the impression that every person’s vote must count. However, everyone knew that it was one of those rare instances in American presidential politics that a single vote could actually make such a dramatic a difference. A single vote that could potentially give Florida’s electoral college votes to the winning candidate, and thus the presidency. When Florida and the presidency finally went to candidate George Bush, people were at least somewhat happy that the judicial and election systems of America had held its ground.
However, another interesting statistic left the Al Gore camp more perturbed. Candidate Gore had won the popular vote over George Bush. That means more people in the country had voted for Gore over Bush. But due to the electoral college system, Bush won the presidency. Mathematically speaking, each vote cast for Gore was actually worth less than one vote. Or, each vote cast for Bush was worth more than each vote cast for Gore. “This doesn’t seem fair”, the Gore supporters argued. Bush supporters responded, “Well, that’s the system for hundreds of years and it’s always worked. Stop complaining.”
Why did the founding fathers use an electoral college instead of a popular vote to determine the winner of the presidential election? In short, the founding fathers were skeptical of the will of the people or their ability to intellectually vote for the candidate of their choice. By inserting a safeguard, the electoral college, the founding fathers believed that if by that rare chance the will of the people was either misguided or that some populated region in America dominated the popular vote, the safeguard would protect American democracy.
Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska
Which leads me to why I think the electoral college, although in many cases a frustration and hints at unfairness, it is a necessary safeguard. Let’s look at one Senate race this year that could have used something like an electoral college. The Alaska Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Stevens and Democratic challenger Mark Begich.Ted Stevens was convicted of seven counts of making false statements and taking bribes worth more than $250,000 to make renovations on his personal home. The evidence was overwhelming. After the announced conviction, bipartisan calls for Stevens removal were prominent, reaching up to federal level, including John McCain and Barack Obama. Even the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin said at the time that he had broken his trust with the people and she planned to ask him to step aside. However, the news of the corruption did not affect Stevens attempt for an eighth term in the Senate as he won the Senate elections in November! This is a man who epitomizes the corruption in government and the Alaskan people still voted for him!!! He won by a 1.43% margin (roughly 3200 votes) over Begich. To make it more interesting, Sarah Palin switched her tone and declared that the will of the people had spoken and she would not ask him to step aside. In other words, she was okay with supporting the first felon elected to the US Senate in history!! What about the 46.61% of the people? Is the 48.04% that voted for Stevens the “will of the people.” It is not even a majority. However, the question that really needs answering is why did the people still vote for Ted Stevens? Had they no shame that they were electing a felon to the US Senate for the first time ever?
The corruption scandals associated with Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young. The inexperience and ethical issues of Sarah Palin. The hilarious attempt of Mike Gravel to win the Democratic primary. The Bridge to Nowhere. And finally, the “will of the people” voting for convicted felon, Stevens. What is going on in Alaska?? I just think the people there live their own merry little lives and are disconnected with reality or don’t care for it. If the presidential election was ran the same way Alaska is, this country would be in big trouble. Are you telling me that if McCain or Obama was convicted as a felon, that they would still win the general election?
This example clearly demonstrates that the will of the people or the ability of the public to vote with due diligence and conscience is not always dependable. The electoral college works for an overwhelming majority of the time. It is only at times of a close race that it has the potential to rear its ugly head. However, if a race is that close anyways, theoretically it won’t really matter who wins since there is no definitive will of the people.
In the case of Ted Stevens and Alaska, I wish the founding fathers put the electoral college into Senate races as well. But of course they wanted to separate representation at the federal and state elections. Then again, I don’t know if I would trust the electoral college in Alaska either.
Tomorrow is one of the most important days in recent American history. It is a day that will affect the short term prospects of America and the standing of America in the world for the next century. The events and actions of the past eight years have accelerated the damaging path the country has embarked on for the past thirty years. The irresponsible actions have left America crippled economically, politically, morally and psychologically. Both parties have been hijacked by the special interests of corporations, ideological groups and personal interests. The values in which America was founded on have been distorted. The decision made by America tomorrow will go a long way in determining if we continue this egregious path of self-destruction.
The debt at the national, local and consumer levels are not only due to the actions of the past eight years. The decision by the Supreme Court in 1978 (Marquette National Bank of Minneapolis vs. First of Omaha Service Corp.) to deregulate interest rate caps at the state level was the precursor to the inundation of credit cards and the mortgaging of personal futures for the present. Although Reaganomics has been credited with bringing the country out of the vitriolic stagflation of the late 1970s, it has had a long term effect that has eaten away at the fiscal responsibility of the federal government. At the core of Reaganomics was reducing tax rates by reducing government spending which in turn was achieved by reducing costs associated with regulation and social programs. However, unexpected costs from the burgeoning Cold War resulted in large trade and federal budget deficits. In order to cover such deficits, the government began borrowing heavily both domestically and abroad. This decision to mortgage the future of the country for the present instilled a belief that debt is good, even to other countries, such as China, Japan and India. America became a borrower nation instead of a loaner nation, which it had been for decades during its prominence.
The deregulation of these two critical issues are the main causes of the current economic problems. It instilled bad habits at all levels of society. Although quality of life continued to increase the past thirty years, it was mostly at the cost of the future. Both politicians and individuals began feeling entitled to such luxuries and expected it to last forever. However, as analyzed by Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), it is this infectious mindset that causes great societies to fail. This country is at that critical juncture. Do we reinstate the values, sacrifices and hard work that made this country great or do we continue down this destructive path?
In addition to the present economic and ideological problems that endanger the quality of life of America, there are many massive elephants in the near future that can derail any sense of comfort in the nation. A fundamental restructuring of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is required in the next one or two presidencies before the effects of the baby boomer population cripple the flow of aid from the system. The high quality of life has left Americans lazy, fat and indifferent, and the medical costs associated with treating related diseases and health issues threaten to destroy the already broken health-care system. The super-highway system that supported the rise of American power is also the bane of the country’s dependence on foreign oil and its lavish automobile lifestyle. Furthermore, the infrastructure of America is crumbling and poses a danger to the lifeblood of a large country like America. A massive government infrastructure initiative is required within the next twenty years. The only question will be where does all the money come from? As globalization continues to redistribute the wealth and power of the world, the education system and America’s ability to compete are also being tested. American children continue to fall behind other countries at all levels of education, from middle school to college to graduate school. This country has been able to sustain its technological competitiveness partly through the immigration of top-level students from countries such as China and India. However, the current backlash on immigration coupled with the increasing prestige of other countries’ higher education systems, begs the question of how America will sustain its technological edge? Corporations and special interest groups as super-humans continue to eat away at the fabric of America. Their selfish narrow-minded view of profit and ideology permeate all levels of society, from individuals to the government. Ideology has especially polarized the country into two hardened stances, secularity versus ideology. The effects of this has left the country fearful and suspicious of each other. Finally, the effects of the internet and other entertainment-related technologies cannot be understated. Although they have created luxuries beyond anyone’s belief and increased the free flow of information, they have also created a schizophrenic society of 24 hour media frenzy and questionable freedoms of morality. The neutrality of journalism and the mental well-being of society are at stake. Coupled with the constraints of global warming and moral responsibility, the above problems must be faced responsibly.
These problems will definitely be difficult to face and resolve. Most of these have been simmering for years, but have been effectively ignored. However, what has always made America great has been its ability to come together as a country and sacrifice for the greater good of the country and the world. The sacrifices by this country during the Civil War and World War II for the greater good cannot be forgotten. Although society was simpler and less polarized then, the country must come together once again to face the unprecedented wave of issues that threaten to send America down the road of self-destruction.
Tomorrow begins that choice. Tomorrow the country decides which path to take, one of sacrifice for the greater good or one of continued wantonness. Tomorrow begins the day where America can begin reinstating the values that made this country so great. A country of uniqueness not found anywhere else in the world. A melting pot that protects individual rights and helps others at times of need. A constitution so strong that the thought of a revolution is unfathomable. The land of opportunity and openness. A land of thousands of parks and natural resources. The separation of church and state and the freedom of religion. The land of the best medical care and higher education system. A land of tolerance and hope. And the land of the free and the home of the brave…
Whomever you vote for tomorrow, please think openly and clearly. Without any bias of age, race, religion, and fear, think who will be better for America. Who will lead America towards a path of redemption and strength. A path that requires sacrifice but cherishes American freedoms. A candidate that realizes that what America needs now is a problem solver with pragmatism and humility, and not one fixated on idealism, intolerance and fear mongering. Look closely at your choice, and know that when you go home afterwards, there will be a better America tomorrow. A better America for yourself and your family, and also for its great citizens of today and tomorrow.
Sociology works in interesting ways. Most people are simply interested in going about their lives in some habitual way. They are afraid of major changes and do not want to draw attention to themselves. We see this with all aspects of life. In NFL football, most players just go about business. Some of the most amazing players probably didn’t get enough press because they are too normal. This group includes Marvin Harrison of the Colts, and Barry Sanders of the Lions. However, the select minority get the most press and popularity because they are loud, brash and opinionated. This group includes Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Warren Sapp. Everyone has been through this going through school. The class clowns, bullies and pretty girls and jocks draw all the attention.
Moderates need to learn to speak!
Which brings this to society in general. Most of America are moderates. Neither strongly conservative or strongly liberal. They just want a decent life that includes a nice paying stable job, a nice supportive family, be as healthy as possible and live in a nice safe neighborhood. I like to think I belong in this group although I tend to want to voice my opinions every now and then. But even as I’ve started this blog I’m slightly uncomfortable ripping on either conservatives or liberals. This type of moderate lifestyle is perfectly fine in normal lives, but it becomes a problem during presidential election years. The majority of Americans, whom are moderates or centrists, get completely drowned out by the extreme left and extreme right. So what happens instead is that the direction of this country is always decided by extreme and minority views. The middle simply gets hijacked by either side. The moderate Republicans get hijacked by the ultra-conservative evangelicals of the right that screams of fear mongering, idealogy, and emotion. The moderate Democrats get hijacked by the ultra-liberals of the left that screams of anything goes individuality regardless of morals. Our country is becoming completely divided because of these two totally orthogonal views. The moderates, who are the majority, have no voice. We are quiet. We fall into the chatter of the minority. We get emotional and for a few months we lose touch with logic.
What happened to good ole logic and pragmatic problem solving? Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our middle class is shrinking. Our national and personal debts are through the roof. Our country has major economic catastrophes on the horizon to deal with. Our education system is one of the worst of the industrial countries. Our cities are handcuffed by assault weapons. We are losing the war on drugs. Our earth is getting destroyed, regardless of global warming. Our population’s obesity is the highest in the world. Our infant mortality rates are one of the highest.
Seriously, shouldn’t we be concerned with these problems and our backyard before worrying so much about ideology and going to war? Wake up America. This election should not be about breaking barriers or making history by electing the first African-American or the first female. This election should not be about pro-life/pro-choice and pro-gun/anti-gun. This election should be about fixing America in a pragmatic way. Whoever is the best candidate for that, regardless of party.
This is why I believe this two party system is destroying America. It is leaving the voice of the moderates and the majority of Americans out of the loop.
This is the problem with the Democrats, as I see it as an independent. They really have a problem getting their act together and uniting as a party. The past eight years has given Democrats countless opportunities to take advantage and expose the incompetence of the Bush administration. When angry voters overwhelmingly put Democrats into the majority in Congress in the 2006 elections, a huge opportunity was wasted to show that they can make decisions favoring the majority of Americans. Instead, nothing has gotten done the past two years under Nancy Pelosi, and the approval ratings of Congress is at or lower than George Bush’s.
Now two months after Hillary Clinton dropped out of the primary race, and still 25-50% of her 18 million supporters have not united with the rest of the party behind Obama is completely absurd. What makes it even more preposterous is that many plan to vote for John McCain instead.Considering how the two-party system dominates American politics, this is in essence suicide or at least sleeping with the enemy. Maybe it’s because there isn’t one or a few defining issues that unite the party (like the Republicans have), I don’t know. The McCain camp and Republicans must be enjoying this. However, this is really making them look bad. From a third person perspective it looks like:
1. They are a bunch of sore-losers. Get over it, the process was followed. Obama can do whatever he wants in choosing his VP.
2. This is what makes politics look bad. Everyone knows campaigns are partly a popularity contest, but this just makes it too obvious.
3. Yes, Hillary had the best chance for a woman to become a primary candidate, but don’t blame the process for her not winning the primary. Don’t blame Obama for Michigan and Florida not following party rules. Move on…
4. If the Democrats lose the election, especially after the past eight years, the Hillary supporters that voted for McCain out of spite must be partly to blame.
5. This makes independents and centrists disenchanted with the Democratic Party.
6. At least give some credit to Obama. There’s no entitlement. He earned it. He ran a perfect campaign. He understood the way caucuses worked. He used the internet to perfection.
I honestly cannot believe that at this point in the election process, the polls are that close. It shows how united the Republican Party can be. It shows how the Dems still haven’t united as a party. It shows how the independents are seriously considering McCain.
One thing that Obama has going for him that everyone has stopped mentioning is the age issue. The past three elections in which an elder politician has ran against a younger more energetic politician, the younger one has won. Bill Clinton beat George HW Bush in 1992. Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole in 1996. George W. Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004. If the Dems get their act together, especially at next week’s Democratic Convention, this trend will continue…
UPDATE 08/28/08 – Oh my god, this is so annoying me. I am watching CSPAN, right after Obama’s speech, where they have callers call in. At least 1/4 of the callers are still harping that Clinton did not get selected as the nominee. One caller says that Hillary’s speech was so much better than Obama’s tonight. Jeesh, people!!! Move on!! It’s now about Obama versus McCain!! Hillary has moved on (well, at least publicly), and is fully supporting Obama. You should too! Move on!!!!
The presidential race has not been as exciting as the Democratic primary race between Obama and Hillary. With the public inundated with Obama news the past 3 months, there are signs of Obama-fatigue in the public. This has allowed McCain to take the first lead ever in the Reuters/Zogby poll. McCain’s 46% to 41% lead over Obama is more about Obama-fatigue then McCain making a huge comeback. This is dangerous territory for Obama. What has always been his strength is the excitement he has brought to the political arena as a newcomer and bringer of change. However, if the public starts seeing him as “old news”, then he must find some way to invigorate the party and independents. His best and possibly one of his last chances at doing that is the upcoming vice-presidential selection. Names such as Biden, Kaine and Bayh would help in certain demographics but would not provide the excitement or unity that the Democratic party needs so bad. The only name that would do that is Hillary Clinton. Although there is still bad blood remaining from the primary race, making such a move would mean so much to the party. It would unite the party and bring the remaining Clinton supporters off the sidelines or out of the McCain camp and back into the fold. It would also show that Obama really is about making the right changes and is not afraid to select anyone. Hillary still seems like a long shot, but Ralph Nader, the independent, believes that is exactly what will happen.
With rumors of McCain possibly picking a non-typical Republican, such as abortion-rights supporters Joe Lieberman or Tom Ridge, the view of McCain as a maverick might be evoked once again. Although McCain might turn off the strong evangelical Republican base if he does that, he would attract independents and even Hillary supporters. Obama must go on the offensive now, after a month of McCain attacks.