American so-called democracy is a mess. Some would say a joke. The votes are counted, allegedly, by black-box machines. Only about half the population bothers to vote. Of those naive enough to vote, most are brainwashed by big money into pulling the lever for one of the two totally corrupt major parties. If they accidentally elect someone with principles, like JFK or RFK or Paul Wellstone, we all know how that ends.
And then there is the Electoral College. Some complain that it isn’t democratic enough because it gives people in states with lower populations more voting power. Others say it has become too democratic, betraying the founders’ republican (small-r) principles. The founders didn’t want the people directly electing the president, for various reasons, some better than others. One of the better ones is that even then, the country was too big: Any election involving millions of voters becomes completely impersonal for almost all the participants. Almost nobody personally knows the person they are voting for, nor do they know anyone who knows that person, nor do they have meaningful input in the selection process.
Elections function best in small groups, where each person knows all the others and everyone can actually participate by talking face-to-face. If groups of, say, 20 to 50 people (the size of a platoon) met and elected someone to send to the next level of 20 to 50 people, which did the same, you could meaningfully elect the leadership of a group of about 30,000 people.
The Founders, in my opinion, erred in thinking that larger groups could be ruled democratically. They cannot. That is why the USA has always been a disguised oligarchy, not a democracy.
But the Founders at least recognized that people would “sort of” know their state legislators, so it should be them, not the millions of total strangers to each other, who should elect the President of the United States. Unfortunately today’s USA has grown so big that even state legislative districts comprise anonymous mobs, not neighbors who more or less know each other. So from where I sit, our only hope for achieving reasonably democratic governance would be massive devolution of power to local communities.
If Mary Maxwell lived near me, we could get together with our neighbors, outdoors, on the grass, with or without masks and/or distancing according to personal preference, and elect a potential village board president or zoning czar or what have you.
But can thousands of small groups of people all over America follow that process to pick a better presidential candidate than Trump or Biden? It sounds crazy. But it’s a whole lot less crazy than obediently casting one of a hundred million votes for one of the two anointed major party criminals and imagining that you are somehow meaningfully participating in governance.
-Kevin Barrett, Veterans Today Editor
The Grass Electoral College: Ignore the Parties and Choose a President by Using Common Sense
by Mary W Maxwell, LLB
In 2008, New Hampshire citizen Fred Hollander asked a court to rule on the presidential eligibility of candidate John McCain who was not born in the US. Hollander worried that his party, the Republicans, would be left without a candidate if there were a last-minute disqualification of McCain. The court dismissed Hollander’s efforts.
At the moment we have two candidates, Trump, age 74, and Biden, age 77, whose inability to unite a nation has already been on display for years. But the electoral college can step in and find brilliant other candidates. In 1788, Alexander Hamilton wrote, in Federalist Paper 68:
“It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person. … [The] election should be made by men … acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation …. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens … will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations. [Emphasis added]
Happily, Hamilton’s recommendations became part of the Constitution. But the make-up of an electoral college has been gradually altered by party politics. This year, the key dates to notice are: August 17-20, the Democrat national convention in Milwaukee, WI; August 24-27, the Republican convention in Charlotte, NC; November 3, the general election; December 14 for the Electors (of the Electoral College) to sign their ballots, and January 6, 2021 for those ballots to be counted openly in Congress.
No “deliberation” will have taken place! But it’s not too late for us to call for a make-believe “electoral college” that can meet somewhere – such as on the grass — and proposegreat candidates. To do so would be perfectly legal. I am calling it the Grass Electoral College to emphasize its outreach to any American who cares to nominate a new president.
I think many Dems will pull the lever for Biden, reluctantly, as will many Repubs for Trump. Satire-style videos on YouTube have mocked both men to an extreme degree, and many writers are making the case that criminal charges lurk, for both Biden and Trump.
One perfectly legal option is to do a write-in – at the polls you can pencil in the name of anyone. But getting a new president by that means would be cumbersome. I am arguing for a different approach here, based on reviving the perfectly-constitutional creativity of the electoral college.
Mass media has misguided the public to believe that the
electoral college’s job is to confirm the candidates who got nominated at the November election (which in turn reflected the summertime party conventions, which in turn reflected party primaries, more or less).
This year, the US Supreme Court ruled that it’s OK for states to instruct their Electors on how to vote on December 14th. But no state isrequired to instruct; 22 of them do not instruct. And the legislatures of the 28 “instructing states” could pass a law to free their Electors.
The Constitution never mentions parties (they are private). The Framers in 1787 envisioned only a “college” of persons, chosen within each state, who would put forth the name of a president and a vice president. It’s in Article II, section 1, and was expanded in 1804 by the Twelfth Amendment (after a fuss about Jefferson’s 1800 election).
Subsequent federal legislation set the date on which the Electors must meet, as the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December. So, in 2020, it’s December 14.
As of now (July), no state Electors even exist. When citizens go to the polls on November 3, they will choose them. How so? In a few states, the Electors’ names are right there in black and white on the ballot, but for most states the election of Electors is “implicit.”
This means that, if a majority of citizens in your state pull the lever for Trump, the Republican party will, in its own private way, find people to send to the Electoral college on December 14. Note: the whole nation’s Electors do not meet together. In 1787 that would have meant traveling on foot or by horseback! The Grass Electoral College canmeet across borders, but to stay constitutional, it MUST hand its proposed list of candidates to state Electors. OK?
The media tries to keep the Electoral College hush-hush. They never mention it — other than to say it is “elitist” and should be gotten rid of. But it need not be elitist; its choices could be anti-elitist. Amazingly, Ron-Paulishly, anti-elitist.
The Need to Win 270 Electoral Votes
The question that will get asked on the morning of November 4 is: “Which candidate, if any, got 270 electoral votes?” Every TV station will be showing a map of the US with “blue states” (Democrat) and “red states” (Republican) and the number of electoral votes that each provided.
Constitutionally, low-populated Wyoming is entitled to a paltry 3 Electors – one for its 1 congressional district and two (like every state) for its 2 senators. High-populated California gets 55 Electors because it has 53 congresspersons and two senators.
The “magic number” of 270 electoral votes, as the basis for winning the presidency, comes from the fact that the House of Representatives has 435 members, and the Senate has 100, and residents of the capitol territory, DC, get 3 votes. This totals 538 electoral votes. A majority of that means 50%, namely 269, plus one. Thus, 270.
It’s possible to come out first in the popular vote but second in the count of electoral votes. On November 8, 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (she got 2.8 million more votes than Trump). Trump won the presidency because he got 304 electoral votes (to Hillary’s 227).
Most states (but not Maine or Nebraska) use a “winner takes all” method of deciding who won that state’s electoral vote. In 2016 the majority of Californians pulled the lever for Hillary, so all of the 55 Electorsfor that state went to their in-state “college” (in Sacramento) and voted for her. I assume that the Democrat Party of California designated 55 people to be those Electors.
The Nominating Conventions
“What about the nominating conventions held in summer?” I hear you ask. Don’t they create legally binding rules within each state as to how to pick the names to be listed on the November ballot? I don’t know the laws of every state, but these conventions (held by the two big parties and any small party that wants to have one) are private affairs. “Delegates” meet,” create their party’s platform and pick a presidential candidate and a VP candidate. (Remember Sarah Palin?) By the way, it is not kosher for a VP to be “ticketed in.”
Note that the term “president elect” is technically not correct when it is used immediately after the November polls close, since “the people” don’t elect the US president – the Electors do. Even after theDecemberdate, we still don’t have a “president elect.” That can’t occur until January 6 when the new Congress – specifically the president of the Senate – opens and counts all 538 Electors’ ballots.
If no one received 270 votes, no problem; the Constitution’s 12thAmendment says: “… if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three … the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote…”
Would You Like To Audition for the Role of President?
Let’s get responsible this year. We need fabulous candidates. An unofficial committee could receive CV’s from interested persons and then invite them in for an “audition.” Just imagine recruiting a man or woman for this high office without the help of the media, the parties, the Supreme Court, or deals done in backrooms. Just imagine triggering the old gray matter into action. Wow.
Phone a friend today and start to do something. The Constitution is fully on your side in the matter of choosing a president. You can arrange a teeny-tiny Grass Electoral College, or a huge one. Please be loyal to the parchment, strictly. While it may seem fun to nominate the leaderly Dr Rashid Buttar, or the brilliant prison-reformist Shaun Attwood, don’t do it – they were not born in US. The Constitution also gives a minimum age of 35, OK? Never sacrifice the Constitution “for just this one time.” Never.
Note: I am old, I don’t want the job of coordinator, but if you’re dead-serious interested, you might contact me at [email protected] gmail.com. I could at least hold your hand. Hey, don’t be afraid! This is America! You can create. You can find a dozen superb candidates.
Better start now, though — the day grows late….
Dr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist is one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror.
He also has appeared many times on Fox, CNN, PBS, and other broadcast outlets, and has inspired feature stories and op-eds in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, and other leading publications.
Dr. Barrett has taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin; where he ran for Congress in 2008. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, author, and talk radio host.