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The politics of protecting democracy in the age of ignorance


Practical Politics 

American democracy is truly in danger of dissipating this election season, most Americans seem to agree based on recent professional polling results. Although the reasons stated by those polled differ wildly, depending on political affiliation and other factors, one of the central reasons remains a fundamental misunderstanding by too many Americans of their own democracy in America.

This form of government, rather unique as democracies go, does not allow the candidate who wins the most votes, as a singular act, to become the POTUS. Most Americans, mainly because of faulty public education, have grown up in this country believing that false adage, "let the best one win the most votes."

Whether he was the "best" one or not, Donald Trump did not win the most popular votes cast in the 2016 election---Hillary Clinton did. He also did not win the most votes cast in 2020--Joe Biden did. In the contest with Mrs. Clinton, not winning the most votes cast in the presidential contest did not stop him from becoming the POTUS. That factor did not prevent him from being reelected in 2020. The deciding factor was what makes America's democracy unique in the world (only two or three other countries utilize the technique, though not in the same way). This is the arcane procedure called the American Electoral College.

This feature of American republicanism (really, a rather unique form of democracy), was added to the mix by the early framers of American government to try and prevent the northeastern part of the young nation from becoming the politically dominant part repeatedly because of the continued concentration of population in that area of the country. The Electoral College was invented to try to insure that even the least popular states would still have electoral standing in the votes for POTUS.

But that frankenstein addition now threatens to overwhelm American democracy as a whole. Because the American electorate is now unevenly divided for the most part into Red (republican) and Blue (democratic) states---that is, most of the voting age population in those states are reliably red or blue---American elections most often come down to which candidate can command the remaining state votes by small margins. Sometimes candidates win a state by 10 or 20 votes only. (That was what Mr. Trump meant in his now infamous call to the Georgia state election official---" I just need 11,010 votes, which is 10 more than I have.")

Currently, one wins the POTUS position by winning the votes in eight or nine states--the so-called battleground or swing states, even if one loses the popular vote overall. Winning by a handful of votes in those states allows a candidate to obtain the 270 electoral college votes needed to become the POTUS.

This system must be changed. It has gotten out of hand and has allowed a very undemocratic element to grow out of control for American democracy.

After the 2024 election cycle, the Electoral College system must be radically reimagined or simply excised from American democracy.  Otherwise, our current system of government will all come tumbling down soon and very soon. Donald Trump will not be the last maverick scofflaw we have to contend with. 

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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