My wife gave up voting in the General Election in 2000, and it’s all my fault. I had to go and tell her about the Electoral College, and after verifying the truth of what I told her (either as a consequence of our belonging to two different political ideologies, or my past preponderance for passionate and sometimes truth-stretching rhetoric) she came to the conclusion that her measly vote didn’t count. I tried to soften the reality of the current means of choosing our President by reminding her that a non vote was indeed a vote for the candidate she liked least, but she pointed to Article Two of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment and reminded me right back that the Electoral College appointees decides who will be leader of the United States. She suggested (rather vehemently, I might add) that we eliminate the Electoral College altogether and choose our President and Vice President by popular vote.
She effectively joined the ranks of a growing segment of society who feel the same way. In a poll taken by the Washington Post in 2007, 78% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans and 73% of Independents opposed the Electoral College. Even during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a number of members (primarily James Madison) saw the flaw of taking the election out of the people’s hands and argued against it, but the issue of slavery at the time caused the majority of Convention members to fear the slave-holding states would revolt. You see, Suffrage (the abolishment of slavery) was much more popular in the well-populated North, and a direct election by the people would take away much of the South’s leverage in blocking a candidate favorable to such an ideology. Another objection to not having the Electoral College then was raised by the smaller states who feared that the larger states would be able to control who would be President. Legitimate arguments… in 1787. Since then, there have been a number of General Elections where the Electoral College went against the popular vote and chose the President (such as in 1824, 1876, 1888 and of course in 2000). In essence, the Electoral College renders the popular vote irrelevant. Even though it’s happened only four times, it can easily happen again.
If a third-party candidate sweeps the hearts and minds of the people it will be all for naught, given the present system. For instance, I remember the furor Ross Perot caused as an Independent candidate in the 1992 election. His business-style approach and straight talk wooed many voters. Twice that year, leading up to the Election, he briefly held a majority of support in nationwide polls. In the end he received 19% of the popular vote, and many argue that the primary reasons he didn’t win the outright popular vote was because of poor campaign staffing and because at one point he temporarily withdrew his candidacy. Although Ron Paul did not win much of the popular vote in 2008 and 2012, he has won over a rapidly growing number of supporters with his Libertarian views. Some have even credited him with starting the grassroots Tea Party. The controversial Southerner George Wallace actually won 13% of the popular vote in 1968, but his racist platform became his downfall (along with the death of his wife Lurleen and an assassination attempt during his 1972 run for the Presidency). In 1896 William Jenning Bryant actually won 46% of the vote while running under the Populist Party, but was beaten by McKinley. Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party in 1912 gave the two-party system a run for their money. There actually has been a third party candidate elected President: Abraham Lincoln. When he ran as a Republican, the Republican Party was not a major presence on the political scene. Unfortunately, the Republican Party did such a good job that it eliminated all but the Democratic Party, and ushered in the present two-party system. Current opinion amongst pundits, talking heads and political strategists is that a strong third-party candidate now days only serves to take votes away from one of the two prevailing parties.
I personally think we should amend the Electoral College instead of eliminating it. The current two-party system is just one party away from a political monopoly, a one-party state susceptible to despotism, a dictatorship or pure Totalitarianism. In fact, doesn’t it seem that the Democrats and Republicans today are morphing into one big bureaucratic monster? It doesn’t look good for us, my fellow citizen. Here’s an idea: The Constitution gives the individual states power to choose their own electoral candidates. Why don’t we insist (via a Constitutional Amendment, of course) that the states delegate their candidates based entirely on the popular vote? Ten states (with a total of 136 electoral votes – over halfway to the 270 votes needed to enact it) have accepted and passed amendments supporting a national popular vote. Here are those brave states: Vermont, Maryland, DC, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Hawaii. There is actually a significant movement called the National Popular Vote which is pushing for passage of such an bill that would guarantee a majority of the Electoral College to the Presidential candidate receiving the popular vote. Many members of Congress support it, but given the current political retardation and incompetence, the bill has been pushed to a back burner.
I know a lot of folks want to just eliminate the Electoral College altogether, but realistically, there would be greater opposition to such a proposal than if we tweak it. The National Popular Vote bill will insure our voices be heard and our votes count. We all agree that our choices in the current two-party system have been between bad and worse, the devil or the deep blue sea, the fire or the frying pan. If your vote actually counted in the Presidential election, it may propel a strong leader from the Libertarian, Independent, Reform or Green Party to the White House. It may give the candidate that speaks for you and your fellow Americans a fighting chance. It would definitely be a valuable tool in our revolution against tyranny.
Write letters. Call. Bug your legislators. Knock on doors. Harangue your Google + circles and Facebook friends. Raise awareness among those around you. DO something, for goodness sake! A successful revolution depends on having enough people disillusioned by the plastic rhetoric coming out of the mouths of our current two-party zombies and actively working to dismantle them. A successful revolution demands and institutes change. I implore you to BE that change.