How?

obama-and-trump

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

Appreciating Obama

ObamaA liberal could learn to love ostensibly conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks. In the face of the craziness that is the current Republican primary season, I have found his columns much less skip-worthy than previously. Today’s, for example, is titled “I Miss Barack Obama.” Whoa!

Admitting there are many of the president’s policy decisions with which he disagrees and aspects of the presidency that have disappointed him, Brooks nevertheless gives Obama and his administration considerable credit for their class act.

“Over the course of this campaign,” he writes, “it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.”

The first and most important, he says, is “basic integrity. The administration has been “remarkably scandal-free” unlike previous administrations on both sides in which scandals have occupied time and effort that could have been more productively spent on governing. “(Obama) and his wife,” Brooks notes, “have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards.”

A second trait Brooks admires in the president is his “sense of basic humanity,” pointing to Obama’s visit to a mosque where he “looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting (Muslim Americans’) place as Americans. He’s exuded this basic care and respect for others time and time again,” he writes.

The third Obama trait Brooks cites is “a soundness in his decision-making process.” Having spoken over the years to many members of the administration who may have been disappointed when the president didn’t take their advice, he said, “But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.”

The fourth trait is “grace under pressure.” Even though he feels that “overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws,” Brooks says, “a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis.”

And finally, Brooks adds, is “a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.

“People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike any current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.”

The columnist concludes, “Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.”

Amen.

Lost in the Parking Garage

I wish I could say this was the first time I ever did this: riding in a golf cart with a nice young man named Jeff as we try to find my parked car. First time in this particular garage, however.

“What kind of car is it?” Jeff asks.

“A Volkswagen Passat wagon,” I answer. “Dark brown but everyone thinks it’s black.”

“They’re nice cars,” he says. “My mom used to have one. Not the wagon, though, the sedan.”

“Yes,” I say. “We’ve had quite a few of both. But they’re not going to make them anymore.”

“I guess you’re right,” he says. “Are you sure you parked on the fourth floor?”

“Pretty sure. And when I pushed the lock button on the clicker thing here, I could hear my car beep.”

So we ride up and down the aisles pushing the clicker and listening for the beep. At one point a colleague of Jeff’s stops to lend advice.

“No,” he says, “don’t push the lock button. Push the panic button. Hold the thing up high and hold down the panic button.”

We can hear my car’s distress…somewhere. And suddenly, many car alarms go into panic mode together. Pandemonium reigns throughout the garage for a few moments.

Jeff decides the car might be one floor below or one floor above, so we try those places, and finally on the FIFTH floor, we see my car. I’d already told him about the stickers on the back window that read “Yes, I voted Obama” and the new one, “Proud Democrat.”

“I just put that one up this morning,” I say. “I thought maybe people should know I voted for Obama and I’m glad I did.”

“My Mom’s a Democratic legislator,” he says and he tells me which state.

“Well, tell her hello from me and say you rescued a ditsy old lady Democrat today in the parking garage.”

“I will,” he says. “Glad I could help.”

By this time the free parking ticket is no longer valid. I have to pay $3 to get out of the place.

 

All the News You Can Absorb

“Wow! What a week for the news.”

That was how I’d planned to start this post. Until I read Gail Collins’ column in Saturday’s New York Times. “Ed!” I wailed. “Gail Collins stole my lead!”

Collins wrote: “Wow, Supreme Court – what a week…” And after some comments on Republicans’ reactions, she added “The Roberts Supreme Court is on a roll. Gay marriage, national health care and a surprising vote of support for the Fair Housing Act. Great job, guys!”

president at eulogy 2My “Wow! What a week…” was intended to be followed by acknowledgement of the momentous Court rulings, followed by my admiration for the dignity and grace with which the families in Charleston, SC handled the horrific killing of their loved ones in the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and wind up with my delight for the masterful eulogy President Obama delivered at the funeral for that church’s pastor. And the fact that he broke into singing “Amazing Grace.” Rachel Maddow’s program on MSNBC turned the entire second half of the newscast to uninterrupted video of the president’s speech which commentators are now calling “one of his presidency’s most impassioned reflections on race.”rainbowhouse

If I’d left the newscast that night and made my way to my desktop computer to write what I’d planned, then Gail Collins would have had to steal from me. But instead, I convinced Ed to join me in watching a streaming of “The Butler,” a film I’d watched the night before, even though at two hours in length it might strain my husband’s Friday night endurance. “It’s about the times in which we’ve lived,” I urged him. The movie was inspired by the real-life story of Eugene Allen, a longtime butler in the White House who is played in the film by Oscar winning actor Forest Whitaker. We both watched it, me for the second time, transfixed.

And now today’s paper tells me that my church, the Episcopal Church, has elected an African-American man for the first time as its presiding bishop. Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina succeeds the current presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who was the first woman to lead the 1.9 million member church, the U.S. body of the Anglican Communion with 80 million members worldwide. As such, Jefferts Schori was the first woman to lead an Anglican national church.

We have indeed lived in transforming times.