Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Electoral College 101

Our United States Supreme Court has twice ruled during presidential election challenges, in the cases of Moore v. Ogilvie (1969) and Bush v. Gore (2000), that: “the idea that one group can be granted greater voting strength than another is hostile to the one man, one vote basis of our representative government.”

How does the Electoral College method for choosing our president fit into that “one man, one vote” concept?

When our founders wrote the United States Constitution, our nation had just finished wrestling our independence from Britain, which was then the most powerful nation on the face of the earth.

The men who wrote our Constitution knew that the greatest asset in gaining our freedom had been our unity, and they could see that our greatest future threat would be our own internal conflict. Accordingly, everything they wrote in the Constitution was specifically put there to keep us united as a nation.

Prior to America’s Independence, no nation in the world had ever chosen its leadership with a fully representative democracy. In Scottish clans or African tribes, Chinese dynasties or European kingdoms, new leaders had always been imposed upon the people by royal succession or military conquest.

Having Constitutional direction for choosing our congressmen and senators was important, of course, but we had been using the representative method and democratic process to elect our local leaders from our earliest colonial beginnings.

Creating, however, a peaceful process for the people to democratically select a representative leader to preside over the nation as a whole was entirely unique in global history.

Our founders knew that constant checks and balances would be needed to keep the future accretions of power and acids of personal prejudices from undermining the structural and moral integrity of our nation.

Their foresight and wisdom showed them that without checks and balances these United States would cease to exist. The Electoral College is perhaps the epitome of our check and balance process.

The writers of the Constitution were keenly aware that they were creating a political revolution every four years, but with the intent that the revolutionary tool for regular and sequential changes of power would be ballots, not bullets.

For the American experiment to work and remain true to its core values, the founders saw that each state and each voter must know they all have a full and proportionate say in the selection of the president as a national leader.

With all that in mind, the founders created a process in the Constitution at Section 1 of Article 2 that says: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…” This group of Electors has become known as the Electoral College.

Even though over 125 million individuals voted in the November 4, 2008 presidential election, they were actually selecting the 538 electoral votes which were then cast on December 15, 2008 by the Electoral College.

Because every state has two senators, each has two Electors regardless of the state’s size, but the Electoral College also gives proportionate weight according to population because it gives one Elector for each U.S Representative. Thus, the smallest population state, Wyoming, has three Electoral College votes, while California has 55 votes because it has two senators and 53 representatives.

In California, Barrack Obama got 7,342,729 individual votes which comprised almost all of his entire 8,481,030 national margin of victory over John McCain. For that, Obama got all of California’s 55 Electoral votes.

In Wyoming, McCain’s margin of 65% of the vote equaled only 160,639 votes but it still got him three Electoral votes.

The Electoral College is thus much more a quantification of the expression of our national consensus than it is a mere calculation to determine the majority of our individual votes.

That consensus has helped keep us the United States even after the grueling battles of selecting forty-four different presidents.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Exodus 20 Candidate Selection Tool

The polls say that many of the likely voters in the presidential race are even today still not firmly settled on a candidate, and there are probably many more undecideds in the congressional and senatorial races.

The Bible has provided us with a simple 10-step Exodus 20 checklist to determine which candidate would really be best for us over the long haul.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Which candidates are more likely to help us as a nation adhere to the idea that there is only one God and He is the God of the Bible?

“You shall not make for yourself an idol.” Which candidates will help us remember that God is a vastly superior provider, protector, and great physician than any bank, battalion, or health care plan could possibly be?

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” Our national motto is “In God We Trust”. All global political atlases and directories identify the United States as a predominantly Christian nation. Which candidates will conduct our national policies (and their own personal life) so that they are not an insult to God’s name?

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” In the Bible at Malachi 3:13-15, God said, “You have said harsh things against Me. You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty?’ ”

Which candidates will encourage us to remember that the death of our honoring the things of God is the death of our honoring God?

“Honor your father and mother.” It is so much easier to keep this commandment if we actually have a father and mother rather than two mommies or two daddies, and if we keep the same father/mother set all through our life. Which candidates will help us to remain faithful to God’s models for marriage and family?

“You shall not murder.” Every day of the year, 3,287 babies are aborted. Sixty-seven percent are black, Hispanic, and other minority babies.

Yet for those innocent 3,287 babies, the laws on our books permit them to be killed at any time during the 9-month pregnancy.

Which candidates would affirm that we are all created in His image and that “We are all endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”? Which candidates recognize the simple truth that if a baby doesn’t have the right to life, the other two rights don’t matter?

“You shall not commit adultery.” Passage of the Federal Marriage Amendment and preservation of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) are important, but they actually only touch on the extremes. Which candidates will take an integrated family-oriented approach to all the legislation which comes their way?

“You shall not steal.” Which candidate recognizes that it is as equally wrong to steal from the middle class to bail out rich corporations as it is to steal from the rich to give to the middle class and poor?

Which ones know that we all should pay our proportionate share so that we all share in our equal rights and responsibilities?

“You shall not give false testimony.” Which candidates have most often told the truth about him or her self and have also told the truth about their opponent, while avoiding lies and exaggerations?

“You shall not covet.” Which of the candidates actually believe “with contentment comes great gain” and will not try to drum up dissatisfactions in order to garner support?

When you’ve honestly looked at the candidates with this Exodus 20 candidate selection checklist in mind, previously difficult decisions become easy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Campaign Slogan for the Voters

We are in a monster financial mess and most people are wondering: how did we get in this mess and whose fault is it, anyway?

Well, it’s not a Republican red mess or a Democratic blue mess, it’s more like a bipartisan purple bruise inflicted on us, the body politic.

It wasn’t George Bush that got us into this, but rather it was former President Clinton who signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (P.L. 106-102). Title I of that bill states that its main purpose was for “Facilitating Affiliation Among Banks, Securities Firms, and Insurance Companies”. The text of the bill explains that it repeals the 1930s protection legislation known as the Glatt-Spiegel Act.

The problem with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, as Lauren Stefen of the Houston Chronicle explained, was that: “The new law blurred the lines among financial institutions, allowing them to dabble in home lending, stockbrokering, wealth management, investment banking, commodities trading, insurance and a slew of other activities that swirled into the miasma from which the current crisis grew.”

Bill Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin approved it (Rubin later became chairman of the executive committee of Citigroup), and three Republicans (Phil Gramm, James Leach, and Tom Bliley) wrote it.

Ninety senators voted for it, only eight against it. John McCain didn’t vote for it because he was absent for the vote, but he was known to support it.

Look at it however you want, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act is a poster child for bipartisan blame-sharing.

The problems associated with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seem to be tinged more with blue than red, but, hey, there’s certainly enough blame to go around.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the two governmentally-created lending entities whose sub-prime mortgage purchases, Bloomberg news reports, “helped fuel the boom in lending that led to frozen credit markets, more than $514 billion in bank losses and the collapse of two of the country's biggest securities firms.” Fannie Mae bought $185 Billion in sub-prime and “Alt-A” securities, and Freddie Mac bought $158 Billion.

In addition to their purchases of “securitized” sub-prime mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also guaranteed $470 billion to $873 billion of debt to borrowers who had either had sub-prime credit scores below 700, or who didn’t have 20% equity in the loan, or both.

Following the money trail gives us the biggest clue as to who Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac viewed as their most important political allies.

They gave political contributions to just about everybody, but the top four on their 1989 to 2008 contribution lists were all Democrats: #1, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) $133,900; #2, Sen. John Kerry, (D-MA) $111,000; #3, Sen. Barack Obama, $105,849; and, of course, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) at #4 with $75,550.

Teddy Roosevelt was an energetic Republican, but a populist one who viewed big government, big business and big unions as detrimental to the nation’s health and the people’s protection. He fought to invigorate the American dream, and to do that he was often in knock-down, drag-out battles with Standard Oil and the railroad cartels.

At a speech he gave in Abilene, Kansas, on May 2, 1903, he issued a warning to the American people that we should memorize and keep repeating to ourselves as we study through the current bail-out debate and choose which candidates to vote for this November:

“There is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility.”

That will do as a great campaign slogan – for the voters.