Good morning Everyone!
(Any mistakes in the following post are to be prefaced by the following mantra: “Mr. Moon taught me but I forgot.”)
Today we return to the travel diaries of the famous world traveler, Hester Ugg of Bowling Green, Kentucky. After her stop in ?istan, where we last saw her visiting with her friends, Ahmed and Vladimir, (See, 51 Governments and Then Some), she traveled to Turkey, Greece , Cyprus and Crete, then returned back to ?istan to visit with her friends once more before returning to Kentucky for college football season. (Many travel plans and family events in the South are scheduled around football season.)
As they sat down for tea (a habit Hester picked up from her travels through the former territories of the British empire), Vladimir and Ahmed greeted her warmly. Then the conversation turned to current events.
Ahmed, wisely: I see where the election in the United States has started.
Hester, recalling a “Ron Paul for 2016” banner she saw at a rally two months ago: Sometimes I don’t think the election ever stops!
Vladimir: I thought your elections were once every four years?
Hester: Oh Vladimir, it’s really too hot today to discuss politics, if you don’t mind.
Vladimir: I understand, dear lady. I will instead congratulate your country on having such well-educated presidents.
Hester, confused: I beg your pardon?
Vladimir, graciously: I understand from some of my readings that each of your presidents must graduate from a college before they can be president.
Hester: Well, our presidents, especially modern ones, do generally tend to have college degrees, but the last time I checked, they definitely don’t have to have one.
Vladimir, proud that he knows something about the United States that Hester doesn’t: Ah-ha! If that is so, then why does each president have to graduate from an electoral college before they become president?
Hester, mentally cursing the Russian language’s omission of definite articles such as “the”: They don’t. They have to be elected by the Electoral College before they become president.
Ahmed: I thought the United States was a democracy?
Hester, resigned to yet another grammatical and political tangle: Technically, it is a federalist republic.
Vladimir: Is there a difference?
Hester: Yes. In a democracy, everything is voted on by all of the people together. Each person has one vote. So, for example, if a new law about basket-weaving is needed, the law is proposed and sent out to all of the population to be voted upon.
Ahmed, confused: Why would anyone make a law about basket-weaving?
Hester: It’s just an example, Ahmed.
Vladimir: And a republic?
Hester: In a republic, each person has the right to vote for people who will represent him or her in a legislative or executive capacity. Large areas are broken down into smaller areas, each of those smaller areas are assigned a representative, and then the people in that area vote to chose the person that will be the representative. That representative then goes to vote or work for the people in his or her area.
Ahmed: Ah, but the president is the leader of your entire country, so that would mean that everyone votes for the president at once?
Hester: Not exactly. That’s where Vladimir’s Electoral College comes in. Each person votes for an elector from his or her area that is pledged to vote for a particular candidate. The electors then vote for the president.
Vladimir: Shouldn’t the results be the same between the two methods? If everyone votes for president through electors, then the person who gets the most votes will win, regardless?
Hester: Not always.
Ahmed: Then the United States can’t be a democracy!
Hester, annoyed: Ahmed, I already told you we are a republic. There’s a difference!
Vladimir: Why have a method of voting that would allow a person with less votes than another to win?
Hester: Well, there are people in the United States that agree with you Vladimir, and think we should do away with the Electoral College and simply go with a simple majority vote for president.
Ahmed, curious: What about you?
Hester: I’ve thought about it a lot, and I disagree with them. The current way in which we elect presidents ensures protections not only for the majority of people, but for minorities as well.
Vladimir: Do you really want to tackle civil rights today?
Hester: No, I’m not talking about discrimination, but providing protections for the rights of rural as well as municipal areas.
Ahmed: That’s about as clear as mud.
Hester: When the Constitution was created, there were thirteen states. The states with less people in it were concerned that the states with more people in them would simply be able to ride rough shod over them if protections were not provided. A great deal of the unique and great aspects of the United States Constitution come from the compromises that solved the small state/large state dilemma.
Ahmed: Wasn’t Benjamin Franklin involved in that somehow?
Vladimir: Of course. Benjamin Franklin was involved in everything.
Hester, ignoring the non-sequiturs: One of the compromises involved establishing two parts of Congress, the Senate and the House. Each state is allowed two, and only two, senators. In the House of Representatives, though, the number of representatives a state has is decided by the population of that state.
Vladimir, politely: Gesundheit.
Ahmed: I don’t think he understood.
Hester: For example, the state with the most people in it is California. The state with the fewest number of people in it is Wyoming. Both California, with its approximately 53 million people, and Wyoming, with its less than 800,000 people, have two senators each. However, California has 53 Congressmen, while Wyoming has one Congressman.
Ahmed: I understand all that, but what on earth does that have to do with the Electoral College?
Hester: Well, the number of electors a state has is also based upon population. California in 2004 and 2008 had 55 electors and Wyoming in 2004 and 2008 had 3 electors. When people go to elect the president, their vote is tallied district by district, so Wyoming’s district 1 can vote for candidate 1, while Wyoming’s district 2 will vote for candidate 2. In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, the candidate with the most districts gets all of the electoral votes of that state. So, for example if candidate 1 has 26 of California’s districts, and candidate 2 has 25 of California’s districts, then candidate 1 gets all 55 of California’s electoral votes.
Vladimir: Then what I said is true – the person with the most votes will still win the election.
Hester: Most of the time that is true, but not always. If a candidate takes, for example, 20 districts with smaller populations in a state, while the other candidate takes 19 districts from cities, then the candidate with 20 districts wins all of the votes for that state, even though his or her popular vote in that state is less. It’s happened four times in the history of the United States – 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.
Ahmed, confused: And you think that is a good thing?
Hester: Well, as I said, there are people who disagree, but as it stands, the system prevents a large urban majority from trampling upon the rights of smaller areas. This means that a presidential candidate cannot really expect to be elected by promising areas with large populations everything they want at the expense of the smaller populations. The candidate has to appeal to at least some of the smaller communities.
Ahmed, thoughtfully: I see your point, but I can see why some people would not agree.
Hester, taking a sip of her tea, which has had enough time to cool: Anyway, Vladimir, do you understand what I am trying to tell you?
Vladimir, firmly: Yes. Every president of the United States must graduate from THE Electoral College, not AN electoral college.
Hester, defeated: I knew it was too hot for politics today.
Have a great day everyone!