Nov. 15th, 2016

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I’ve had so much to say since this election, but this hasn’t felt like the right place to say it, for two reasons: one is that as far as I can tell this site is mostly read by people of like mind who are already thinking the same things, and the other is that everything I need to say is being said by others, usually better.

But there are a couple of things I wanted to note down. One is that as far as I can tell, the Electoral College is a useless and antiquated system and should be abolished (not just because of this election; I’ve been complaining about them for a long time). I don’t think I need to explain how it works, but someone else-internet asked why it worked that way, and what the advantages are, and I might as well save what I wrote there (tl;dr: AFAIK, there really aren’t any).

I read Thomas Jefferson’s original reasoning – at least the reasoning he admitted to – in his own letters. Remember that news was much less of a thing then than it is now. He believed that if people elected their own government, they just wouldn’t do a good job, because they wouldn’t have enough insight into the candidates to know who would be a good President. But if they elected the best, smartest people they knew, and those people used their best judgement, we’d end up with a much better person in office. (He may have thought differently after Adams was elected, given their relationship at the time!)

Caveat the first: You will note that the current system isn’t anything like what Jefferson envisioned, since electors are no longer expected to use their judgement.
Caveat the second: I suspect Jefferson had some other motivations he didn’t discuss in those letters:
The practical one: President and VP are the only offices everyone across the country votes for, and that’s a lot of votes to count by hand. I suspect that voting for local electors made the counting much simpler.
The immoral one: how many electors a state gets depends on the size of that state – and if you remember the 3/5 Compromise, that meant that slave states had a greater effect on the election than their voting population actually warranted (hence the number of early Presidents from Virginia).

The other thing you will notice is that not one of the reasons cited above applies today. We all know a lot about the candidates by the time of the election, and electors aren’t supposed to use independent judgement anyway; we have computers to count; and all non-felon adults of sound mind can vote. So I do agree with the people calling for the dismantling of the Electoral College.

So why do some people want to keep it on the argument that it protects less-populous states? Each state has the same number of electors as it does Congresscritters (Senators plus Representatives). Therefore, no state has < 3 electors, since all states have 2 Senators, and each state has a number of Representatives proportional to its population, with a minimum of 1. Therefore, states with a very small population have a disproportionate influence on the vote. Which would make sense if you were Thomas Jefferson and thought that farmers were inherently more righteous than businesspeople (well, businessmen, if you were Jefferson). Some problems with this: The District of Columbia ALSO has three electors, and thus the same disproportionate influence as those hardy sons of of the soil. And who thinks giving the most political city in the US some extra clout is a good idea? If you are in sitting at a bar somewhere in France or Japan or Ethiopia, and you ask someone from Missoula or Grants Pass or Tulsa where they're from, they're almost certain to say "America", or "the US" if they want to be precise. (One exception: Texans tend to start with "Texas" and only admit to being part of the US after that.) Only when you get talking in more detail do they identify which state they're from. We started out as a union more like the EU, and there's no doubt that we still have some strong regional identities, but while, say, Arkansas might not want to be overruled by New England, I don't think they care much if they have more or less votes than Tennessee or Vermont by Massachusetts. I think we've gone beyond the need to filter national elections through the states - that's what Congress is there for, to protect local interests. Also, logically, the disproportionate power of rural voters is offset by the winner-take-all system, in which all electors for a state go to whoever got the most votes. This means, for example, that a state like Oregon, which has 4 million people with over half of those in metro Portland and another big chunk in Eugene, still votes blue despite most of the state (by land area rather than population) being red (check out the map on this page).

So basically as far as I can see, the only possible advantage to anyone at all in the Electoral College system, is that it gives the people who like to shout about states’ rights something to shout about.

(I didn’t really answer the question as to what the real advantage of the system is. As far as I can see, there isn’t one.)

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I promise not to talk about the Electoral college in this one, or even about the election itself except obliquely.

I’m going to have to go back to my doctor, I think (my GP). Lately my blood pressure has seemed to be up, when it was taken at the dentist, my work physical, and today at the dermatologist. It had been high for a while and my Dutch doctor put me on meds; then when we came back, my doctor here didn’t think I needed them and took me off them, and my blood pressure indeed seemed to be lower. I thought it was probably due to changing from oral birth control to Implanon or possibly to coming back to a country where I mostly understand what’s going on around me. Now I’m on Nexplanon, not Implanon, but I don’t think they’re chemically different; my diet and activities haven’t changed much in the last couple of years. The only things I can figure are either that the Lisinopril built up in my system, and worked for a long time after I stopped taking it (which it’s not supposed to do); the thyroid meds this doctor put me on have raised my blood pressure (which it’s not supposed to do); the marathon training has resulted in overtraining (which I’m not seeing other symptoms of) … or the election. I’m wondering if restricting my Facebook diet would be therapeutic.

The other thing the election has done for me is to make me realize how much of my personal moral system is built on my childhood reading – I think Little Women is probably the best example and biggest part of that except for the very few places where it directly contradicts the Jewish morality I was taught (which is, literally, about two places in the book – the reference to the “best life ever lived” and Jo’s vision of immortality as a “blessed truth”). I do truly believe that any individual should be continually trying to make herself a better person – “better” in the moral sense. That’s a fairly wide category for me and probably slops over to the physical: stronger, tougher, more practical, more capable, kinder, more honest, more reliable. I believe in the value of work and the importance of duty (luckily, the 1970s milieu in which I grew up rescued me from ever thinking I had a duty to be conventional or ladylike, no matter what Jo March was told. And I believe in the duty to make the world better around you, as agreed by both the Jewish tradition and Alcott’s Transcendentalist thought.

All of which is what’s pissing me off with a lot of Trump supporters, because “I got mine and nothing else matters” or “I’m good enough as long as I’m not actively causing harm (I myself, with no responsibility for my friends or fellow travellers or allies)”. They’re affronting not just my specific moral beliefs that human worth is not dependent on the color of your skin or who you love, how well all your parts work, which specific parts you have, or what God you believe in, but also my whole moral code.

I wanted to check my feelings, so I had that discussion with my husband the other day (not a Trump supporter either – I don’t think I could bear it if he were). He doesn’t believe at all in the imperative to make yourself better, just to avoid causing harm to those around you, though he does agree that maybe people to have a responsibility to improve the world around them. So apparently I can live with that in at least some cases – as long as the person is NOT actively causing harm, or allying himself with those who do.

Little Women wasn’t the only book that formed me, but so many of the old children’s books seem to have similar morals, even as they put slightly different stamps on them (E. Nesbit’s Socialism, for instance). And maybe it’s because I get so many of the moral from children’s books that I don’t think fighting a good fight should be drudging or dreary. (It’s symptomatic that the English ones definitely tended to favor the Cavaliers over the Roundheads! Wrong, but Wromantic.) Anyway, the best idea I’ve seen yet to get rid of the divisions that led to Trump’s getting votes from close to half of the people that bothered comes from Thomas Hughes, in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Just widen the focus a little; he’s talking specifically to young men who want to enter Parliament, but this applies to men and women of all kinds, not only wannabe politicians.

I’ll tell you what to do now: instead of all this trumpeting and fuss, which is only the old parliamentary-majority dodge over again, just you go, each of you (you’ve plenty of time for it, if you’ll only give up t’other line), and quietly make three or four friends—real friends—among us. You’ll find a little trouble in getting at the right sort, because such birds don’t come lightly to your lure; but found they may be. Take, say, two out of the professions, lawyer, parson, doctor—which you will; one out of trade; and three or four out of the working classes—tailors, engineers, carpenters, engravers. There’s plenty of choice. Let them be men of your own ages, mind, and ask them to your homes; introduce them to your wives and sisters, and get introduced to theirs; give them good dinners, and talk to them about what is really at the bottom of your hearts; and box, and run, and row with them, when you have a chance. Do all this honestly as man to man, and by the time you come to ride old John, you’ll be able to do something more than sit on his back, and may feel his mouth with some stronger bridle than a red-tape one.

Just address a wider audience and substitute more modern concepts of diversity – race, sex, religion, orientation, ability, etc – for “the professions and the working classes”, and you have the seeds of a real solution. (When he says ” riding old John”, he means John Bull, as personification of the government or the nation, and isn’t talking about ruling individuals that way. I think.) And it’s fun! Become a better person just by making new friends – and listening to them. How pleasant a study is that?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


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