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The United States Is Not a Democracy. Stop Telling Students That It Is.
When our students only learn about this exceptionally strange system from their corporate-produced history and government textbooks, they have no clue why this is how we choose our president.
Published on Wednesday, November 18, 2020
photo above: Students deserve an explanation for the origins of the Electoral College. (Photo: Geoff Livingston via Flickr)
WN: The subtitle could also be: Stop Telling The World That It Is.
Anyone who remotely has been paying attention these last five years knows the United States and democracy, while not mutually exclusive, have a great gulf fixed between them.
The article highlighted below takes us all the way back to the founding fathers to show that from the outset it was in no way a genuine representative democracy (with only white male landowners–and slave owners at that (only three-fifths (brutalized) human also at that)!–allowed to vote), though self-declared to be the first in the West. Just as Alexis de Tocqueville‘s early 19th-century declaration of “American exceptionalism“, though latched onto in particular since U.S. president Ronald Reagan widely embraced it, mainly showed only violent conquest exceptionalism: towards other peoples and states in the way; in its original sin of slavery. It came to mean embrace of:
- liberty based on, equality before the law, individual responsibility, republicanism, representative democracy, and laissez-faire economics;
- a kind of Messianism such as discussed in (my book reviews of) Captain America and The Armageddon Factor;
- belief that America’s history and world mission make it superior to all other nations on earth.
But in reality it has ever been a gargantuan scam on the scale of a P.T. Barnum (who in the 19th century 🙂 said of Trump: “The bigger the humbug, the better [deplorables] will like it.“)–or a Trump, whose entire life sadly may be summed up in two words: Con Job–or one: Con.
When U.S. voters cast their votes in the 2020 November election, an unchecked pandemic raged through the nation, uprisings against racism and police violence stretched into their eighth month, and new climate change-intensified storms formed in the Atlantic. The reactionary and undemocratic system by which we select our president was an insult to the urgency of the moment. Although the most recent tallies show more than 5 million more people voted for Joe Biden than for Donald Trump, thanks to the Electoral College, it took several days to learn who won. To the relief of many, it appears that this time — unlike 2000 or 2016 — the candidate who got the most votes nationwide also won the election.
When our students only learn about this exceptionally strange system from their corporate-produced history and government textbooks, they have no clue why this is how we choose our president. More importantly, they develop a stunted sense of their own power — and little reason to believe they might have the potential to create something better.
To review: A voter in Montana gets 31 times the electoral bang for their presidential vote than a voter in New York. A voter in Wyoming has 70 times the representation in the Senate as a voter in California, while citizens in Puerto Rico or Washington D.C. have none. The Republican Senate majority that recently confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, was elected by 14 million fewer votes than the 47 senators who voted against her confirmation.
But for whom was the Electoral College a solution? Many of the 55 White men at the Constitutional Convention worried about giving too much power to the people. Alexander Hamilton said the masses were prone to passion and might use their vote unwisely. Of course, both passion and wisdom are highly subjective terms. James Madison listed the “wicked schemes” inflaming the people to act so unwisely: “A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property. . .” Madison called voters advancing their own economic interests wicked, but referred to his brethren — insulating their own wealth and power in Philadelphia — as “enlightened statesmen.” The Electoral College was a “solution” to the bankers and plantation owners in 1787 but looked like exclusion if you were a poor indebted veteran in western Massachusetts, an enslaved person in Virginia, or a Hitchiti [tribe now extinct1] person fleeing land-thieving White settlers in Georgia.
After Charlottesville, the dream of an exceptional nation marching among others, our disagreements in tow, died a quick death. Was the dream fraudulent to begin with? . . . Time is your friend, a doctor told me after a recent wound refused to quickly heal. I would like to believe so. But how do we heal when my newfound hope in this country is mirrored by a neighbor’s hopeless despair?”–Gary Shteyngart in POLITICO Nightly, November 19, 2020
Please click on: The U.S. Not A DemocracyFootnotes