What have we learned?

geowashingtonFor better or for worse, the election is over. I think it is time for reflection, but not an autopsy. There has never been an election like this one. Our republic has been tested. We came through the storm and now must assess the damage. We all have reason to be dissatisfied with the process even if not the result. We have a President-Elect without a mandate, probably the worst kind of election outcome. The majority of votes were cast against him, if not in favor of another candidate. People claiming this is some sort of water-shed or revolution will be disappointed. If there was ever any real intention to “drain the swamp” we would have seen massive turnover in Congress.

In the end, this is what years of indoctrination via talk radio and conspiracy theories and self-defined victim status produces…they reached a tipping point. They become too stupid to know how stupid they are and that is a very paranoid place to be. It’s not just being uninformed, it’s being intentionally misinformed and willingly misled. We have seen that in other countries and it never ends well. In the face of this stupidity, it is our duty to preserve our republic and support our true values as a nation and our constitution.

There is an incredible level of ignorance about how our country and our government works. When I was in school, we could not graduate without completing two classes in civics. One was related to the state constitution and how state government worked. If the student didn’t pass the state constitution test they could not advance to high school. In high school there was a civics class that covered the US constitution and another mandatory test required for graduation. That requirement no longer exists. The Founding Fathers created a remarkable document in the US Constitution and it amazes me that most people, including the President-Elect, have little or no knowledge of its contents. Powers and duties of the three branches of government are specifically defined. Political parties are not covered in the original constitution because they did not exist. They developed more like private clubs than an arm of the government and they can make their own rules and do pretty much what they want. Every four years we have people who are astounded that there is an Electoral College made up of state Electors who choose the President and that these Electors are not bound to vote as their state voted.

The media voices are trying to explain the election outcome as if there are deep festering wounds in America that have been ignored for too long. Somehow it is America’s short-sightedness that is to blame. Many of those festering wounds are self-inflicted by hate groups. When you talk to the Trump supporters they all claim to be victims…it seems very chic to claim to have been victimized by one group or another. If there is no one group to blame for the victimization than it all must be Obama’s fault. These are fake, self-defined victims – they have been told repeatedly that they are being preyed upon by Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, welfare recipients, and illegal aliens…anyone who is different. They are being told this by people who are actually preying on them: the Rush Limbaugh types, the TV evangelist millionaires, the NRA, and Fox News. At the end of your sobering conversation, the poor, victimized Trump fans will climb into their Lexus or wannabe Humvee and drive away.

In this campaign there were, for the first time in recent history, foreign efforts to influence the election presumably in an attempt to discredit our republic and the democratic process. Those foreign efforts failed. One major strength of our system happens to be the orderly transfer of government as a result of an election. This will happen in January and by then much of the smoke will have cleared and we will have a better understanding of how things will go. Another strength is our election cycle — a President serves for four year terms. We have Congressional elections in two years so those with voter’s remorse or those who are opposed to the way things are going have an opportunity to change the members and direction of Congress. We have a Constitution that clearly lays out rights, duties and limits on power.

The current reaction to the election outcome is extreme on both sides and it could probably not be otherwise given the rhetoric and partisan rancor over the past year and a half. Over half of the electorate opposes the new President-Elect. He faces fraud and racketeering court cases before he is even sworn in.  I would not be surprised if he is hounded out of office by resignation before the end of his term or is impeached – our constitution provides for that. At any rate, he will likely face fierce opposition at every turn if he manages to stay in office for four years.

As we reflect on the process of selecting a President, I think it is important to consider at least one change. Our presidential election process is much too long. It is much too costly. It is much too divisive. The lengthy campaign tends to accentuate our differences and allows special interests and clever manipulators to sacrifice our civility and drive wedges into the natural fault lines that run through our society. We are not a homogeneous nation, nor were we ever meant to be. We are a nation of differences — race, ethnicity, religion, education, politics and gender to name a few major examples. Fault lines turn into fractures if there is enough pressure and our election process, lasting well over a year and a half, is causing too much damage. What can a voter learn in a year that they can’t learn in eight weeks if they are seriously following a campaign? In this day of lightning-fast communication and almost non-existent privacy the public knows within minutes what a candidate says or does. There are people making money – getting rich – over the course of our drawn out election cycle and there are states vying to be the earliest primary or caucus state. Why would it be relevant to be conducting a primary or caucus in February? This year there were six states with primary or caucus dates in February so campaigning started months before. If state caucus dates were in July and there were four regional primary dates in August and party conventions in early September, the entire actual final campaign could take about eight weeks. There would be months less of name calling, lies, charges and counter charges. Would the quality of candidates improve? I think it would because the process we have is not an incentive to run for office.

Another issue that we need to address is the Electoral College. This is the second time in five elections where the majority of votes were cast for the losing candidate. We harp on the concept that every vote counts and then the Electoral College shows that is a lie. I formerly supported the concept of the Electoral College as sort of a safety net for the process. After two apparent failures in recent history and an apparent expressed willingness by some electors to be “faithless”, voting for a different candidate, we need to get rid of it. That will take a vote of Congress and a constitutional amendment. It has been tried before and comes up short but not in recent times. An attempt to abolish it in 1934 failed to pass by two votes in the Senate in order to pass out of Congress and on to state ratification. I am not optimistic about abolishment – it will take a long time – but I think it is time to try.

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