Against the Electoral College

A New York Times remembrance of Senator Birch Bayh draws attention to a cause near and dear to his heart: Elimination of the Electoral College.

Between 1966 and 1970, Senator Bayh led a vigorous national campaign to abolish the Electoral College and elect the president by a direct popular vote.

He was far from the first to try. Our system of presidential electors — an antidemocratic relic of the late 18th century — has been targeted for reform or abolition roughly 700 times, more than any other part of the Constitution. No one has ever come as close to eliminating it as Mr. Bayh.

[ … ]

In a remarkable speech on May 18, 1966, Mr. Bayh said the hearings had convinced him that the Electoral College was no longer compatible with the values of American democracy, if it had ever been. The founders who created it excluded everyone other than landowning white men from voting. But virtually every development in the two centuries since — giving the vote to African-Americans and women, switching to popular elections of senators and the establishment of the one-person-one-vote principle, to name a few — had moved the country in the opposite direction.

The author James Michener served as an elector in 1968, the year that George Wallace hoped to use the Electoral College as a lever to protect segregation, and ended the experience convinced that it was a hidden mousetrap in the Constitution — and that someday it would trip. He wrote a book all about it.

In 2016 it did, because the Electors refused to do what the Electors are supposed to do — protect the Republic from a cheap demagogue skilled in exploiting the resentments of the struggling.

The most important business before the country is putting Donald Trump out of office, and the second most important job before us is correct the Constitution so that an anachronistic provision within it can’t be exploited to undermine it.

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Warren out front?

A Web poll at Mother Jones finds that Elizabeth Warren presently leads the Democratic clutch of wannabes.

Warren is among the smartest and most accomplished Democrats running, and has a well-documented record of working to narrow the grotesque income inequality that now characterizes this country; she is the genuine-article brainy, middle-class champion that Donald Trump pretends to be. On the downside …

  • She is a woman, and that precludes forever the support of some percentage of voters.

  • She is Harvard faculty and that, too, precludes forever the support of some percentage of voters.

  • The Pocahontas thing — the dubious Native American heritage; it’s there, but only in the way that all of us are mongrels. There is no evidence that it ever held cultural significance for her, though she was happy to traffic in the advantages it offered.

Can she beat Trump? I don’t know, but I also don’t think that Trump will be the 2020 Republican nominee. There is no mistaking the sleaze and corruption and borderline madness that surrounds Trump — and the Mueller report, whatever it says, isn’t going to relieve that; almost certainly, it will document cooperation between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign, and Trump’s ongoing obstruction of justice is a matter of incontestable public record.

The House will probably take-up impeachment after the summer recess, the Senate will probably convict — and Mike Pence is such an obsequious weenie that his grandmother could probably thrash him. Unless the Republicans come to their senses and nominate somebody like John Kasich, which is unlikely, the 2020 election ought to be a gimme for the Democrats.

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Dismal theology-related tweet of the day

AARGH …

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How much blood is enough?

The religious violence that afflicts so much of the world has finally arrived in New Zealand, a country whose name is almost an idiomatic invocation of peaceable friendliness, as in “To hell with all this, I’m moving to New Zealand.”

No more. Even there, the creeping sickness that is the strange reactionary pastiche of conservative Christianity with white nationalism and fascism has made an appearance; this time, on the order of 50-Muslims were killed while peacefully worshiping.

Aeons ago — like, 2-database crashes ago — I wrote a blog post entitled “The End of Deference” in which I argued that it was time to stop deferring to Holy Men, to stop pretending that they possess special cosmic knowledge, to stop pretending that they are the keepers of virtue — to face the reality that they are at best no better than idiots and in the main no better than cynical parasites whose life’s work is the degradation and exploitation of others.

I was not wrong then, and I am not wrong now. Niagaras of bloodshed is enough.

Enough. Enough, enough, enough. It is time past for the decent, educated grown-ups of the world to call an end to the goddam fraud of religion.

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Quote for the day

I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race.

Gore Vidal

It is the unreasoning belief of religion itself that must be considered disreputable — not Judaism, Christianity, or Islam per se, for they all make the same demands of their followers: belief without evidence or even against evidence (or, faith), and blind obedience.

Once reason and character have been breached, anything is possible — and the Abrahamic monotheisms, one and all, strive relentlessly toward undermining both. That’s the point of Albert the Pious’ complaint that it’s audacious to question the Bible, and that’s the point of celebrating Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Religion is a leftover from humanity’s infancy, and I am glad to see it dying.

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