Electoral College belongs on history’s ash heap

As the Nov. 2 election nears, the possibility looms once again that the popular vote winner will not become president because he lacks an Electoral College majority. Democrat Al Gore’s margin over George W. Bush in 2000 was more than half a million votes. But the U.S. Supreme Court halted the vote count in Florida, awarding all 25 of the state’s Electoral College votes to Bush. Bush was “selected” by a 5 to 4 Supreme Court majority, a decision

rubber-stamped by the Electoral College.

According to the U.S. Constitution, the state legislatures appoint electors equal to the total number of senators and representatives following a presidential election. In this “winner-take-all” system, the candidate with the largest popular vote gets all the state’s electoral votes no matter how close the popular vote.

Furthermore, every state has two U.S. senators and at least one representative. This means that sparsely populated states have more clout than heavily populated states. In 2000, 13 small states with a combined 18 million population had Electoral College votes equal to California with its 34 million people. Twelve times in U.S. history, including 2000, the Electoral College has chosen a president who did not win the popular vote.

The New York Times calls the Electoral College a “ridiculous setup which thwarts the will of the majority, distorts presidential campaigns and has the potential to produce a true constitutional crisis. There should be a bipartisan movement for direct election of the president.”

We would argue that the “constitutional crisis” is already upon us. There is a direct tie between Bush’s seizure of power in 2000 (a very American coup) and the Bush doctrine of preemptive war, and his wars on democratic rights and the people’s living standards. Let us start the process of depositing the Electoral College on the ash heap of history where it belongs.

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It’s about the movements

In December 2001, LTV steelworkers pitched tents in Washington and spent days lobbying to save their health care and retirement benefits. For the first time in the modern labor movement’s history, doors were slammed in their face. Bush was not home.

That’s the ultra-right.

In March 2003, an illegal war based on lies was launched against a nation that posed no threat to the United States.

That’s the ultra-right.

On Martin Luther King’s birthday in 2003, the White House filed a legal brief opposing affirmative action. On King’s birthday this year, Bush appointed a federal judge who is hostile to civil rights.

That’s the ultra-right

These are just three examples of the countless despicable, thuggish actions of the ultra-right group that controls Washington. This behavior has galvanized a united opposition movement that this country hasn’t seen in decades.

The grassroots groups that are springing to life span a broad range of issues, ages, racial and ethnic groups, and class outlooks. They include “movement groups” and more “mainstream” individuals and organizations. They share one patriotic mission: defeat Bush because he is a danger to our democracy, to our livelihoods, to the world. It’s the American people’s responsibility to put an end to this lawless regime. And they are rising to the challenge.

There are some who would rather focus on an individual candidate’s shortcomings or dislike for a political party.

But this struggle we’re engaged in is not about any individual candidate. It’s about the growing movements for peace, economic justice, democratic rights and security, that will change the political landscape.

One labor leader hit the nail on the head when he said, “There may be a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, but the working class lives on that dime.”

We need that dime to move forward. We need to break the back of the ultra-right. That’s a reason to vote. That’s a reason to fight. That’s a reason to say, “It makes a difference who gets elected this November.”