How?

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How did the person many called the best qualified ever to run for president get defeated by the person many called the least qualified ever to run for president?

How did the candidate whose campaign was waged with class and integrity lose to one whose campaign was laced with insults and lies?

How did the FBI director get away unscathed with injecting – in violation of FBI rules – an ambiguous statement about an ongoing investigation just 11 days before Election Day only to amend it 48 hours before balloting with the equivalent of “never mind.”

And finally, how did the candidate with the most popular votes lose to the one with the fewest?

hillary-clintonI don’t know the answers to the first three questions, but I do know the answer to the last one: the Electoral College. According to the Los Angeles Times, in November 2012 Donald Trump himself tweeted, “The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy.” For once I agree with him. So did Hillary Clinton. In November 2000, according to The New York Times, the then newly elected senator from New York said, “I believe strongly that in a democracy we should respect the will of the people, and to me that means to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president.”

The New York paper also noted the irony that “after months of railing against what he called a ‘rigged’ election, (Mr. Trump) has become the unlikely beneficiary of an electoral system that enables a candidate to win the race without winning over the most voters.”

We are the only country in the world with such a cockamamie system, yet another legacy of our history of slavery that continues to bedevil us. The LA Times explains that the system “is part of an agreement between states, including Southern states that had more slaves than free men who were eligible to vote.” Fearing that the more heavily populated Northern states would dominate those in the South, the framers of the Constitution came up with “a compromise that divided power based on counting the ‘whole number of free persons’ in the state as well as ‘three-fifth of all other persons.’”

The paper goes on to state, “Thanks to this infamous deal, the Southern states were bolstered and given more seats in the House of Representatives as well as more ‘electors’ who selected the president…The Civil War ended slavery and the three-fifths deal, but the electoral system survived as the method for choosing the president, in part because the Constitution is very hard to change…”

There may be another way, however. A petition making the internet rounds describes The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), an agreement among several states and the District of Columbia to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It doesn’t kick in until states and territories whose electoral votes reach a combined total of 270 signed on. So far, 10 states and the District of Columbia with a combined electoral vote total of 165 have joined this effort.

In the meantime, what do we do? Take comfort in the graciousness of Mrs. Clinton’s concession speech? In the equally gracious way President Obama welcomed to the White House the man who demeaned and tried de-legitimizing for more than eight years? Take pride in showing the world the way a democracy does it?

Or, perhaps, take heart in David Brooks’ laugh-inducing conclusion to today’s column: “After all, the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think.”

Photos: bbc.com, biography.com

Happy Birthday, Uncle Walter!

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The person once voted “the most trusted man in America” would be 100 years old today. If he were still alive, what would the universally respected journalist Walter Cronkite have to say about the insanity of the current presidential campaign?  It’s almost over and yet, one fears the insanity will continue no matter the outcome. If Hillary Clinton wins, the thrill of electing the first woman president will be soured by Republicans’ vows to block her nominations and policy proposals just as they have for our beleaguered current president whose election was also thrilling. And if her opponent wins? It is impossible to contemplate.

You can get an idea of what Cronkite would think today by checking out how Google is celebrating the birthday. www.poynter.org/2016/todays-google-doodle-celebrates-walter-cronkites-100th-birthday/437626/

As a respite from the campaign’s ugliness, I re-read It Can’t Happen Here the 1935 book by Sinclair Lewis, a harrowing account of how otherwise perfectly nice men and women can be lulled by complacency into believing outrageous lies and finding comfort in what they perceive as someone who will be a strong leader and protect them. Even though I was barely alive then, the book made me realize how Nazi Germany happened.

Now I’m re-reading Edge of Eternity, the third book in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy. It follows five intertwined families’ lives in Europe and the United States from the 1960s through the 1980s. I did live through those times, and yes, they were tumultuous, but we got through them.

Will we get through the next era? After an election that has seen, as Paul Krugman writes in today’s New York Times, “almost all our political norms get destroyed,” can we put things back together? They’re now threatening impeachment before the woman has even taken the oath of office. “Can anything be done to limit the damage?” Krugman asks and answers, “It would help if the media finally learned its lesson and stopped treating Republican scandal-mongering as genuine news.

“And,” he adds, “it would also help if Democrats won the Senate, so that at least some governing could get done.”

Four more days.

Is It Over Yet?

Masochist that I am, I watched every single candidates debate so far in this already interminably long presidential campaign. Both parties. Even those featuring the so-called undercard or which Rachel Maddow snarkily and delightfully refers to as “the kids’ table.” Strangely enough, those candidates, whose low poll numbers had relegated them to that position, seemed to make more sense than the ones on center stage. Not that I’m going to vote for any of the Republicans but still, it makes you wonder why many with the most experience and apparent decent judgment are the ones being forced to drop out. If they didn’t know it before, the rest of the world must think we’re crazy.

So the voting begins with the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. And then there will be more debates and more voting and finally 313 days from now, on Nov. 8, there will be a general election and the United States will have a new president. And poor, beleaguered Barack Obama will be able to take the gray hair we all gave him off to a well-earned retirement.

Happy New Year!