Part 5. The Suicide King
What would be the stupidest mistake President Obama could make?
1. Start a trade war with China.
2. Start a new cold war with Russia.
3. Attack Iran with nuclear weapons.
4. Give more money to the rich.
5. None of the above.
Be careful, we’re talking stupid -- incredible, appalling, blow-your-hat-in-the-creek stupid -- not cataclysmic.
The envelop, please.
The correct answer: 5. None of the above.
Only a Second American Revolution can resurrect the polity, i.e., the hybrid political system of oligarchy and democracy moderated by a large middle class. The 200-year-old polity created by the Founding Fathers and admired throughout the world died in 2008-2009, crushed under the weight of billions of Bush-Obama dollars doled out to America’s hyper-rich. Today, our system is an oligarchy with democratic blue smoke, mirrors.
The Second American Revolution is a double-edged sword. One edge cuts the political power of the oligarchy, the other revives democracy.
As the chief executive, the president is the point-man of America. That means the White House is the precise spot where both edges of the Second Revolution sword must come together.
At the tip of the sword and president as point-man, we have the tipping point. Sharp, tiny, incise, the end of the tip is the Electoral College. The College makes and breaks presidents, American democracy, too.
Oligarchs love the College. They invented it; it is their hole card. If the little people out there, in a fit of barnstorming stupidity or outright madness, vote for Fidel Castro for president, the College can stop him from taking office.
Tragically for the country, that hole card is no ace. It is the King of Hearts, the suicide king.
Any system that doesn’t recognize the popular vote as final is not democratic. It’s just that simple. As for those who believe otherwise -- who sniff in their Cloudberry liqueur how the Electoral College is a check-and-balance mechanism, “a great compromise” of popular votes and state autonomy -- I must defer to the immortal words of Johnny Cash:
Dream on, dream on
see you on
the movie screen.
The King of Hearts, it turns out, isn’t limited to males.
To resurrect the polity with a new balance of oligarchy and democracy, the democratic component must be revived, strengthened. The Electoral College is the acid test. A Second American Revolution that does not close down the College is a Second American Revolution that aborted.
* * *
A reader asked what instantly enters my head when I hear the words "Electoral College."
Instant answer: "The Blivet Trick."
Background: the Electoral College vote, not the popular vote, directly elects the president. The College is provided for in the Constitution, Article II, Section 1, and the 12th Amendment.
The College is based on congressional districts plus senators. Thus, New Mexico, which has three congressional districts and two senators, has five Electoral College votes.
The calculation for the nation is simple. 435 (representatives) + 100 (senators) + 3 (Washington; D.C.) = 538 total Electoral College votes.
Because every state automatically has 2 senators, the senate part of the equation is locked, settled. Political battles are fought over congressional districts. They are based entirely on population -- warm bodies counted by the census every 10 years.
What it comes down to: if your state increases by slightly more than 700,000 people, that number will give you a new congressional district -- and hence one more Electoral College vote.[i]
I have designed many electoral districts from congressional districts on down. By far, the worst knock-down, drag-out fights occur over school districts. Congressional districts run a close second. In both cases, you are in mean-as-snakes territory.
Until-death-do-us-part wars over electoral turf are not new. In the late 1700s the Founding Fathers could not agree on how to elect the president. The sticking point: the rich Southern planters were unhappy with all proposals. They looked around and saw their states were short on population. "Real" population, that is ...
There were plenty of slaves. In 1790, slaves were 39% of the population of Virginia, 43% of South Carolina.[ii]
Unfortunately for the planters, slaves did not count for electoral purposes for the same reason dogs were not accounted: they could not vote. Slaves and dogs could not vote because they were -- as any Southern planter would happily inform you -- subhuman.
If only there was a way slaves could be counted as humans but not "really," the planters' dilemma would be solved.
This "compromise" resulted. 1 slave = 3/5 of a human being. That way, the South could puff up its population number, get more congressional districts, and consequently have more Electoral College votes -- all without giving slaves the right to vote.
The deal was cut, the impasse broken, the Constitution passed. But there was a terrible price to pay. The Southern planters forced America to live in an as-if world -- to act as-if the 3/5 formula was right, true. In accepting the unacceptable, a diseased window opened. It created a draft.
I have often wondered when The Great Compromise, which high school teaches us is the holiest of holies, turns into the compromise of greatness.
3/5 human? Really? What we have here is not a failure to communicate but a classic, textbook example of The Blivet Trick.
Nebraska and Maine excepted, the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College allows someone who loses the popular vote for president to be elected anyway, by winning the Electoral College vote. That operation was performed three times: Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000. Attention: all three were Republicans.
What is far more important, however, is that 20 other presidential elections were so close that the popular vote loser could easily have won the White House.
For example, in 2004, George Bush handily beat John Kerry by 3 million votes. Bush won 286 Electoral College votes to 251 for Kerry. 270 are needed to win. That means if Kerry had won Ohio with its 20 Electoral College votes, Bush would have won the national popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote and the presidency.
Talk about an interesting development. The oligarch tool that put Bush in office, the Electoral College, would have kicked him out. Only one irony can top that one . . .
By the way, Bush beat Kerry in Ohio by 118,599 votes. Had 60,000 people switched to Kerry, well, you can be sure Kerry thinks about them. Chances are, your nearest university football stadium holds more people. (If you ever watch the Florida Gators play at home, look around. The stadium seats 88,000 people.)
As for President Obama:
The tale of the tape. He trounced McCain by close to 10 million popular votes, and 365 to 173 Electoral College votes. That margin was simply too big for McCain to overcome, right?
Of the seven billion people on earth, the United States president has the best access to information. Or, so you would think ...
Here is something President Obama will never see. None of his golf course buddies or White House or campaign staffs will show it to him.
In 2008, a shift of fewer than 523,000 votes in the "right" places would have made McCain the winner.
McCain fell short of the presidency by 97 Electoral College votes. One way (among others) McCain could have acquired them.
Step 1. Find a group of states McCain lost with at least 97 Electoral College votes:
North Carolina 15
New Mexico 5
Step 2. These are Obama’s margins of victory in popular votes over McCain in those states:
North Carolina 14,177
New Mexico 125,590
Step 3. If one half plus one of those voters for Obama had switched to McCain, we would be looking at President McCain today. That’s right -- the old guy.
Here are the additional votes McCain needed to win those states:
North Carolina 7,089
New Mexico 62,796
Total: 522,301. That was the magic number of switch voters needed to defeat Obama in the Electoral College. More people live in Montpelier, Vermont.
In popular votes, Obama was out of reach for McCain. In Electoral College votes, Obama could easily have been had. Please note that George Bush carried all 7 states cited above in 2004, so in giving them to McCain the above calculation is not demanding the impossible.
The last major vestige of slavery in our Constitution, the Electoral College is a spectacle that should have been shut down years ago. It is the dead hand of the dead past.
As for the magic trick that hand continues to perform, by now you get the idea.
The Blivit Trick is the attempt to shove 10 pounds of horse shit into a 5-pound bag. Ken Lay of Enron ("Our liquidity is fine. In fact, it's better than fine. It's strong."); Bernard Madoff ("In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules."); Herbert Hoover ("Prosperity is just around the corner"); creators of the Electoral College -- all were erstwhile practitioners of The Blivet Trick. They and their followers were stuck with it. That is what happens when you live in an as-if world.
As-ifness and The Blivit Trick are joined at the hip. They are genetically endemic to the King of Hearts.
It is frequently said that because his father came from Kenya, Barack Obama completely missed the Black historical experience in America. I disagree. In truth, he has right now a more direct link to slavery than 99.9% of American Blacks. How is that possible?
As Alexis de Tocqueville observed, a slave thinks with the brain of his master. If that insight is accepted, every second that the master oligarchy’s Electoral College exists, President Obama is a slave.
Otherwise stated, any Black who doesn’t seek to suppress the Electoral College is no Black.
President Obama had better do what he was elected to do: not write children’s books but be America’s point-man and get rid of the Electoral College before it gets rid of him. If the pigeons come home to roost on the College cafeteria in 2012, we will witness simultaneously the bottom of the as-if contradiction to which the Electoral College relegated America and the pinnacle of political stupidity in world history.
That stupidity -- NOT that he was America’s first Black president -- would be Barack Obama’s legacy.
It is more than a remote possibility. To shut down the Electoral College requires a Constitutional amendment. Given the 2008-2009 change of America’s political system, President Obama isn’t going to start seriously that amendment process; neither is the house or senate.
Conclusion: the oligarchy need not worry for a single second that the College will graduate, disappear. Its endowment is sumptuous, safe.
Nevertheless, oligarchs and the rest of us would do well to get a deck of cards.
Look closely at the King of Hearts. It’s hard to tell what happened. Did the King commit suicide or was he assassinated?
[i] The population number to form a house district keeps going up because the population keeps growing and the number of congressional districts is fixed at 435.