Not Per­fect, but ex­cel­lent

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

In one of the more bizarre twists in this in­cred­i­bly bizarre year, Don­ald Trump now ques­tions the le­git­i­macy of bal­lots cast in an elec­tion that he won.

Faced with a re­count in Michi­gan that he op­poses, but that is al­most cer­tain to con­firm his vic­tory, Trump has once again taken to Twit­ter to rail about a “rigged” sys­tem — though ap­par­ently it’s rigged only in the states he lost.

What he re­ally seems to be re­spond­ing to is the fact that, though he is the pres­i­dent-elect, Hil­lary Clin­ton bested him by more than 2 mil­lion votes in the pop­u­lar tally. That fact has Democrats re­spond­ing as well, ar­gu­ing that the Elec­toral Col­lege sys­tem should, as Sen. Bar­bara Boxer pro­poses, be abol­ished, or as Sen. Bernie San­ders pro­poses, be re-ex­am­ined. We beg to dif­fer. Sup­pose pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates en­gaged in a na­tional elec­tion in­stead of one fo­cused on the out­come in each state: The air­waves would be even more in­un­dated with ads in a cam­paign waged al­most en­tirely in the me­dia. As it is now, can­di­dates have to learn about and re­spond to what’s go­ing on in the vastly di­verse states of the na­tion, and in their vastly di­verse pop­u­la­tions.

It’s no ac­ci­dent that the last time Congress de­bated abol­ish­ing the Elec­toral Col­lege, af­ter the nail-biter 1968 elec­tion, some of the strong­est voices of op­po­si­tion came from the few African- Amer­i­can House mem­bers and from Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tions lob­by­ing from the out­side. Though Jews make up only 2 per­cent of the Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion, an in­signif­i­cant num­ber on a na­tion­wide bal­lot, the num­ber climbs to 5 per­cent in all-im­por­tant Florida — enough to swing the state.

That story is repli­cated in state af­ter state with dif­fer­ent groups. African-Amer­i­cans might be only 13 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, but their votes gave Barack Obama his 2012 mar­gin of vic­tory in Ohio, Penn­syl­va­nia, Vir­ginia and Michi­gan. Geor­gia, now con­sid­ered solidly Repub­li­can, might soon be in play be­cause of the 29 per­cent of the vot­ers there who are black.

The grow­ing po­lit­i­cal clout of Lati­nos has been much her­alded, but they are still only 12 per­cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers na­tion­wide. It’s their strength in states like Ne­vada and Colorado that made them a force to be reck­oned with in this elec­tion, a force that could turn Ari­zona and Texas from red to pur­ple the next time around.

That flu­id­ity is an­other char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Elec­toral Col­lege sys­tem. Bat­tle­ground states in one or two cam­paign cy­cles can be­come safe states for one party or the other in later con­tests.

Look at bright-blue Cal­i­for­nia — it voted Demo­cratic only once be­tween 1952 and 1988. Or vivid-red West Vir­ginia, which was one of the hand­ful of states to go for the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee in 1980 and 1988. And Hil­lary Clin­ton’s solid “blue wall” crum­bled this time around. The ups and downs of the sys­tem are such that both par­ties have, at dif­fer­ent times, been al­leged to hold an “Elec­toral Col­lege lock.”

It’s be­cause of the Elec­toral Col­lege that shift­ing de­mo­graph­ics re­sult in shift­ing out­comes. It’s the ul­ti­mate de­fense against the “tyranny of the ma­jor­ity” that the Founders feared. De­signed to pro­tect small states against dom­i­na­tion by large ones, it has come to pro­tect smaller pop­u­la­tion groups from larger ones.

That’s not just true in terms of peo­ple, it’s also true in terms of pol­icy. Had the 2016 cam­paign been waged only in the densely pop­u­lated coastal states that can de­ter­mine the pop­u­lar vote, would the ag­grieved voices of the outof-work and out-of-sorts vot­ers of the rust belt been heard? Don­ald Trump is right that he paid at­ten­tion to their pain while Hil­lary Clin­ton took those vot­ers for granted, ig­nor­ing them while fo­cus­ing on turn­ing out mi­nori­ties and young peo­ple.

In 2000, when Al Gore won the pop­u­lar vote but lost the elec­tion, then-se­na­tor-elect Clin­ton called for the abo­li­tion of the Elec­toral Col­lege, adding: “We are a very dif­fer­ent coun­try than we were 200 years ago.” That’s cer­tainly true. But it’s also true that as Alexan­der Hamil­ton wrote then of the sys­tem de­vised to choose a pres­i­dent, “If the man­ner of it be not per­fect, it is at least ex­cel­lent ... It was also par­tic­u­larly de­sir­able to af­ford as lit­tle op­por­tu­nity as pos­si­ble to tu­mult and dis­or­der.”

This year we’ve had enough tu­mult and dis­or­der. We don’t need to tinker with the method of elect­ing our pres­i­dents to give us more, even if the win­ner calls it a “rigged sys­tem.”

Steve and Cokie Roberts can be con­tacted by email at steve­cokie@gmail. com.

WASH­ING­TON, D.C. — The Christ­mas sea­son has be­gun and folks across the Third Dis­trict are giv­ing of them­selves and their time for their fel­low Alabami­ans.

Each year around the hol­i­days, I like to take the op­por­tu­nity to high­light a few of the great works go­ing on across our area.

The fol­low­ing ex­am­ples are just a sam­pling of peo­ple giv­ing of their time and gifts this year.

On De­cem­ber 10th in Clay County, the In­ter Se Club of Lineville and Mod­ern Cul­ture Club of Ash­land will host the an­nual Soup Lun­cheon for DHR to raise money for lo­cal chil­dren in need.

In Ran­dolph County, the Pilot Club and the Roanoke Po­lice De­part­ment both par­tic­i­pated in Toys for Tots.

In April, Pied­mont High School se­niors in Cal­houn County par­tic­i­pated in a com­mu­nity ser­vice day called “Se­niors Help­ing Se­niors.” They spent the day help­ing with yard work, house­hold tasks and mi­nor re­pairs of homes be­long­ing to the el­derly in the com­mu­nity.

In Tal­lapoosa County, mem­bers of Vol­un­teer Con­nec­tions of Cen­tral Al­abama worked weekly through­out the year at the Alexan­der City Re­cy­cling Cen­ter, do­nat­ing ev­ery dol­lar earned

By Cokie Roberts and Steven V. Roberts

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