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.”


Taffy Pull

taffy1The recipe I was following called for molasses, not a usual ingredient in my cooking. But the moment I stirred the required substance into the batter, the aroma took me back to summers in New Jersey and the salt water taffy Aunt Jennie and Uncle Bill would send my brother and me during their annual vacations in Atlantic City. The molasses-flavored taffy was not the first I’d reach for; it seemed a grown-up thing, but I was always surprised that I liked it.

Legend has it that a taffy seller whose stand was doused by a surprisingly large wave coined the term “salt water taffy.” It’s not, as I thought as a child, made with water from the sea; that, I realize now, would be pretty gross.

(Not long ago, my daughter and her husband visited California’s Catalina Island where she purchased salt water taffy to bring to me. “My mother will say this is not the real thing,” she told him. And she was right: I did say that, and it was not. That taffy was in round pieces in various different colors, their flavors a mystery until you tasted them. The taffy from Atlantic City, particularly Fralinger’s® (“Sea Air and Sunshine in Every Box”) was oblong in shape with the flavor printed on the label wrapped around it.)

I mentioned to my daughter the sensory experience that a tablespoon of molasses provided to me and wouldn’t you know, on my birthday she presented a large, very heavy box and told me to unwrap it. Thinking it might be some new electronic device I would struggle to master, I tore off the wrapping to see FIVE POUNDS of salt water taffy from Atlantic City. Considering the age of most of my friends and the ways in which they baby their dental work, this might very well be a lifetime supply of taffy for me.

But it was a sweet thought (pun intended) and particularly welcome now that beleaguered Atlantic City is in the news again. The city is broke and unable to pay its police, firefighters and other public employees, and Gov. Chris Christie is refusing to grant any emergency monies to help.

In 1975, shortly after Ed and I moved with our two daughters from California back to New Jersey, we took a drive to the Jersey Shore, stopping in Atlantic City so the girls could see the real-life places they knew from the Monopoly® game. (I’ll never buy Baltic Avenue again!” one wailed.) As for me, seeing the dilapidated condition of this once-fabled city was depressing and enough to convince me to vote in the next election to approve casino gambling. “It can only help,” I reasoned, “providing much-needed jobs and tax funds to repair crumbling infrastructure.”

So what happened? A lot of big casinos opened and closed or went bankrupt. Donald Trump went through at least four of them all by himself. If you read the early casino commission reports, gambling in Atlantic City was a boon. So how come the city is broke?

A few years before leaving New Jersey this last time, we visited a friend in nearby Ocean City who suggested we might like to take a look at Atlantic City. Because we hadn’t been back since casting those pro-casino votes long ago, we were indeed interested. We headed for the formerly Trump-owned Taj Mahal, walked through its gaudy interior, shook our heads at $100 slot machines, and ate lunch in one of its cafes. Afterward, we drove around a bit to view the surrounding neighborhood. Not far behind the Boardwalk-fronting line of glittering casinos, the city still looked much as we remembered it. Poor old Atlantic City.

Still makes the best salt water taffy though.