This month’s Internet Express column by Irene McDermott is rife with information on how to resist the encroachments of the new administration. If you agree with the underlying principles, the column is a must-read and a please-act entreaty. If you do not, well, I, for one, believe you should keep a watchful eye out as a diligent citizen of both the United States and the internet for incoming facts and at least resist fake news. To help with the latter function, I can recommend the March/April Internet Express column, “The Fire Hose of Falsehood: Fake News and the 2016 Presidential Election” (pp. 27–29).
But what else can you do? What could or should all citizens work for? Two improvements come to mind. First, offering all Americans real choices in selecting their congressional representation. Second, electoral college reform so that the winner of the popular vote actually gets the job.
In regard to the first, Ballotpedia, an objective and reliable source, reports:
Elections were held for all 435 U.S. House seats in 2016. Heading into the election, Republicans held a majority of 246 seats to Democrats’ 186, while three seats were vacant pending special elections. In the vast majority of those races, the party of the winning candidate was all but decided before anyone even filed to run. Bal lotpedia predicted that only 23 of the 435 House races (5.3 percent) would be truly competitive in the general election.
In some cases, congressional districts had only one candidate offered; in many cases, the alternative was merely a placeholder, there only to offer the appearance of choice, though no one expected a serious campaign.
The current political turmoil has had one good outcome. Many more people are stepping up to the notion of running for office, from local positions to state legislatures to congressional seats. The new politicization of social media has turned up a lot of new opportunities to identify potential candidates and put them in touch with potential supporters. In this regard, state legislatures are very important, both for fostering experience in new political players and in reducing the influence of gerrymandering. Clearly, most legislators might choose to continue to support any form of district design that favors their party, but, on the other hand, in such politically divisive times, more legislators might figure that they could win in a fair fight, especially if they came into the arena with the reputation of making the fight fair. Lines of thought, but it would be good for the country to have more honest and competitive elections, wouldn’t it?
Speaking of good for the country, electoral college reform attempts date back practically to the country’s founders. For a history of efforts and their impact (or lack thereof), read, “The Electoral College Votes Today. But Politicians Have Been Trying to Reform It for Decades” by Lily Rothman (TIME, Dec. 19, 2016; time.com/4597833/electoral-college-donald-trump-challenge). For more detailed guidance, try history.com/topics/electoral-college. My favorite quote from the TIME article comes from political scientist James MacGregor Burns: “It’s a game of Russian roulette, and one of these days we are going to blow our brains out.”
The latest big push for electoral college reform comes at the state legislature level rather than a constitutional amendment. As described on its website (nationalpopularvote.com):
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. … It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes (CA, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA). It will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes. It has passed at least one house in 12 additional states with 96 electoral votes (AR, AZ, CO, CT, DE, ME, MI, NC, NM, NV, OK, OR) and been approved unamimously [sic] by committee votes in two additional states with 27 electoral votes (GA, MO).
In 2001, Hillary Clinton called for a bill for a national popular vote for president. In fact, Donald Trump referred to the current system of electing the president in 2012 as “a disaster for a democracy ... a total sham and a travesty.” Well, that sounds like a unified front! Speaking of good reads about current times, check out a reputedly anonymous Facebook posting, called “Making America great again!”: meta.ath0.com/2017/02making-america-great-again. It salutes the political turmoil for activating the American body politic in 24 ways. My favorite is No. 24: “Now, more than anytime in history, everyone believes that anyone can be President. Seriously, anyone.”
One way or another, find the truth and work for a better world. Avoid falsehood. For example, try a new app called Hoaxy (hoaxy.iuni.iu.edu). It’s a step in the right direction.