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  • Last modified 20 days ago (July 3, 2024)

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Don’t be satisfied
with lesser of two evils

Every four years, we Americans fret and fume over an idea credited to James Wilson, a prominent conservative lawyer who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and later became an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Wilson was the Constitutional Convention delegate who insisted on adding “We” to “We, the people” in the preamble to the Constitution.

He also was a man of contrasts. A slave owner, he nonetheless opposed slavery. A strong advocate of everyone’s vote being equal, he nonetheless was a key mover behind creating the Electoral College to select our president.

Regarded as the principal architect of the entire executive branch, he wanted us to have one, clear chief executive who would be energetic, independent, and accountable.

He initially proposed direct election of the president, but smaller states — primarily slaveholding states — objected.

He then proposed the basic structure we have now — an Electoral College, the members of which would be selected however each state desired, with each state getting the same number of electors as it has members of the House and Senate.

Wilson never envisioned political parties. He apparently thought the Electoral College would function like the College of Cardinals does in the Roman Catholic church, meeting not to ratify one or the other of two predetermined candidates but to survey the political landscape and identify a man of the people who could cement the country’s many interests and classes and become a symbolic leader of the entire American populace.

Watching last week’s debate between an autocratic felon and a feeble liberal, conservative voters may be left wondering whether we should return to Wilson’s original ideas — direct election, which would penalize a small state like Kansas, or election by an uncommitted Electoral College.

Imagine what would happen if the Kansas Legislature allowed us to choose not just electors for Trump or electors for Biden but uncommitted electors — people of exceptional character and wisdom whose task it would be to identify the best, brightest, most truthful, dedicated, and unifying leader for our nation.

Yes, we’d have to fight backroom deals, but we might have a chance to have a president all of us could look up to.

At minimum, we need a “None of the above” choice that might reset the election and demand that both major parties come up with other nominees, which they should have done during the huge waste of time and money we called the presidential preference primary in Kansas.

As Kansans, our votes won’t really matter any more than mine did back when I lived in Illinois. Kansas will be a red state; Illinois, a blue state. How you or I vote won’t change that. Only when I lived in Wisconsin did my vote truly count.

This year, the only votes likely to make a difference will be those in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Those are the battleground states that our partisan Electoral College, corrupted from its original non-partisan intent, has created.

But the real problem isn’t the Electoral College. It’s money — specifically, unchecked advertising by political action committees supposedly independent of campaigns but clearly working in lockstep with them.

Complaining about the Electoral College is a bit like complaining how Hollywood seems unwilling to produce anything other than remakes or new installments of successful franchises.

We get the same old thing because those with money want to spend it on devils they know rather than angels unknown. And the echo chambers of social media and so-called news networks on TV make it incredibly hard for the angels to become known.

Changing this system isn’t a national issue. It’s a local one. State legislatures decide how Electoral College votes are awarded, and precinct committeemen and women decide how parties function.

If you’re unhappy with the state of this year’s presidential election, demand that candidates for those hyper-local positions do something about it. Politics may seem to be top-down, but it really is a grassroots operation.

Speak out, but speak to the people who are responsible, not just those like us who might complain.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified July 3, 2024

 

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