My breaking point came just after 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. I was slumped in my recliner, senses dulled by seven hours of Election Night blah blah when I startled myself with the realization that I was listening to two TV talkers dissecting the potential role of Nebraska’s Second Congressional District in the 2020 presidential election.
Yep. There I sat, watching a discussion some congressional district in Omaha that has its very own special Electoral College vote and is positioned, perhaps, to determine who will become our next president.
A congressional district in Nebraska? If that’s not an indictment of the Electoral College I don’t know what is.
Please don’t assume that this is my first rodeo with the EC. I could tell you stories – like the one about Election Night 2000 when Sibyl Marshall and I got so excited about Tom Brokaw calling Florida for Al Gore that we piled into her car and were tooling down I-40 toward Nashville to watch history unfold. By the time we hit the Roane County line, the news on the radio had turned ominous, and we took the Crab Orchard exit and slunk home before we had a clue about the hellscape of hanging chads and rioting frat boys and President G.W. Bush that awaited us, thanks to an assist from the Supreme Court.
Gore got 543,895 more popular votes than Bush, who got the keys to the White House and commenced to declare war on half of the Middle East and get ticked off at anyone who refused to join us (remember Freedom Fries?)
Which reminds me of an old Electoral College joke:
Q: What do they call the popular vote in the French presidential election?
A: The vote.
I grew up in this most Republican stronghold and used to hear them praise Baker v Carr, the Tennessee-bred Supreme Court decision that cemented the principle of one person, one vote and gave the GOP the foothold that they would use to take control of the state. So, it has been jarring to hear these same Republicans defending the Electoral College (mostly, I suspect, because it has been very, very good to them).
Which brings us to 2016, when Hillary Clinton got nearly three million more votes than the guy who beat her.
And although Donald Trump’s not somebody I’ve ever voted for, this is not personal. I’ve read EC’s ugly history (it had a lot to do with protecting the rights of the landed gentry to enslave human beings), so I’m not ashamed to admit that I loathe the Electoral College.
So, when I heard that my grandson, Joe Joe, 13, who lives in San Diego, had learned about the Electoral College and he doesn’t like any better than I do, I had to phone.
Joe Joe was named the seventh grade King of Pi on Pi Day last March (it’s a math appreciation thing and he won a contest to see who could remember the most digits of pi). The prize, of course, was pie – apple, blueberry and raspberry – which he shared with his classmates.
It was a good day.
Joe Joe likes to solve problems, so he’s been thinking about ways to make the Electoral College more equitable.
“I’m thinking about taking the most populated state – California – and mixing it with the least populated state. Say, if California has three million people and Hawaii has one million, so you let Hawaii’s votes count for three times as much to make it more fair.”
Joe Joe hasn’t worked out the formula yet, but he’ll get there. So consider this a warning:
The jig is up, Electoral College. The King of Pi is coming for you.
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.