If you’re reading this on the day it is published, and if you are an American citizen, you’ll know that tomorrow is a big day in our country’s history, when most likely either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be elected president. If you’re reading this and you live in America but are not a citizen allowed to vote, then you’ll know this election is even more tremendously important.
I generally — that is, always — keep politics out of my blog. I keep my cards close to the vest when it comes to how I feel about various controversial issues. And I’m not about to lay those cards on the table in this post.
What I would like to do, however, is talk from my very non-political-scientist perspective about the nature of the American democracy.
So, like I said above, I am by no means a political expert. In fact, quite the contrary. As a code-loving, math-y statistician, I find the vagaries politics very hard to wrap my uber-logical mind around. Listening to political commentary on any media outlet, it baffles me when I hear announcers talk about how a candidate’s choice of outfit or body language or tone of voice impacts his or her popularity.
Like, maybe I’m just way too logical for my own good, but I can’t fathom that these ‘soft’ things about a candidate would make me want to vote either for or against anyone.
But that’s beside the point.
What I’m trying to say is, I am so far from being a political expert that it’s not even funny. I know the issues I support. I know the issues I disagree with. And I vote for a person based on their alignment with those things. Beyond that, the whole prospect of people wanting a candidate with whom they’d happily share a beer (seriously, that’s something people say here) leaves me with about as much of an understanding as that of the voting that elects a high school homecoming court. So much of it seems to come down to popularity based on style rather than substance.
Which reminds me of my high school AP American History teacher, who taught us about some presidential election in the 60’s, which I suppose was the first time candidates were regularly televised. Apparently one of the candidates wore loads of make up and had his hair done properly, while the other guy did no such thing and looked, well, less attractive on camera. Clearly not being a history buff, I don’t recall who these guys were, but what did stick out saliently in my mind was the teacher saying how the other guy’s relative attractiveness with wearing makeup garnered him more votes.
I suppose it’s not entirely possible to prove that makeup and sweet hair actually make people vote for him, but the timing and inference is interesting, to say the least.
Because, regardless of why people choose to vote for someone, I think it’s undeniably wonderful that we have the right to do so. Which is why the whole establishment of the Electoral College bothers me so damn much.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the Electoral College is the crucial step between everyday voters like you and me, and the decision for the White House. Each state has a certain number of delegates for the Electoral College, based on its population. The vast majority of states are winner-take-all, which essentially means that your vote doesn’t count if you’re not in a ‘swing state.’ I live in Tennessee now, which is most definitely a ‘red state’ (one in which the majority of voters are Republicans). If I choose not to vote Republican, one could argue that my vote essentially doesn’t count, since all of my state’s Electoral College votes will go to the Republican nominee.
In other words, let’s say for the sake of argument that Tennessee has ten delegates in the Electoral College. If 60% of Tennessee voters vote for Donald Trump and 40% vote for Hillary Clinton, then all ten of those Electoral College votes from Tennessee delegates will go to Trump, even though 40% of us wanted Clinton.
At the end of the day, it’s the Electoral College winner who wins the White House, not the popular vote. Which I find so damn unfair. I have lived in both red states and blue states throughout my life, and either way you look at it, it is incredibly demoralizing as a voter to know that I am really only going to the ballot out of civic duty, not because my vote will really count towards the Electoral College votes.
I am certainly not the only opponent to the College. Many others advocate for it to be abolished in favor of a referendum style presidential election. To be honest, I have no idea what sort of literal act of congress it would take to undo the College. Proponents argue that it ensures that voices of the least populous states are still heard. Frankly, I fail to understand how that would not equally be the case in a referendum style election.
Tell me, what do you think of your country’s electoral system? If you can vote in America, what do you think of it here?
Until next time,