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Cannibals for constituents and missionaries for dinner

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  • Politicians promise the moon and then it’s off to the next gig. To steal from H. L. Mencken: “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.”

Every four years, the inmates get to run the asylum in the United States. Welcome to the nuthouse. We the People, armed with ballots and sandwich boards, parade around and hope “our guy” wins — despite almost none of us knowing or caring how the electoral college even works. “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public,” wrote the famed journalist H. L. Mencken. Ouch, he was talking about me. Truth hurts, truth hurts.

During presidential elections, we bang the drums of change and give couch-lectures on all things politically relevant — budget, health care, energy or foreign affairs — and then we politely disregard all that and vote for our favorite candidate. After all, the U.S. presidential race is a popularity contest extraordinaire. In 1787, two years before he became president, John Adams wrote the following: Popularity was never my mistress, nor was I ever, or shall I ever be a popular man.

Things have changed since the powdered-wig era of Mr. Adams. These days, two years before candidates run they begin appearing on every television talk show they can grease their way onto: Leno, Letterman, Stewart, The View. They promise the moon, the audience applauds, and then it’s off to the next gig. Again, to steal from Mencken: “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.”

Cynics might say the U.S. electoral system relies on the madness of the crowd — and it does, but only to an extent. Our American forefathers were scared to death of the crowd; frightened by the rabble. They set up the framework of representative democracy to protect us from ourselves. It was a great, grand experiment — and it worked.

Every four to eight years, the most powerful office in the world changes hands without a drop of blood being shed. The most powerful leader on the planet simply packs his bags, goes home, and a new actor takes the part. The process is stunning in its consistency. For the rest of the world, consistent forms of leadership are usually accompanied by piano wire and electrodes.

Obama will soon be running against whichever Republican candidate spills out of the pack. It will be a circus; it always is. Candidates will be destroying each other or destroying themselves. Woodrow Wilson’s maxim, “Never murder a man who is committing suicide,” is surely the most commonly ignored campaign advice in U.S. history.

I suppose Mencken is probably right about my intelligence, but that’s OK. The U.S. presidential election is the greatest show on earth and I am blessed just to have a ticket. For now, I’m going to retreat to my couch and preach about pressing political issues — and then I’m going to vote for my favorite candidate.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

oldgulph (not verified)
on Feb 14, 2012

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored.

When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

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Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 17, 2012

The NationalPopularVote comment folk should be ashamed. This is obviously the use of a "canned" statement that has been sent to no telling how many places. The least they could do is properly understand the piece; it is more tongue-in-cheek than an attempt to make a political point. The best they could have done would be to have the decency to provide a proper response/comment, rather than fire off a "canned" statement. Crass and unprofessional.

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