Electoral College

So, I’ve been a little quiet here lately. I had been overwhelmed by this toxic election cycle, and in the end, I did cast a vote for Hillary… not that it mattered much, since California always goes blue. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Twitter retweeting messages better phrased than mine, considering all the voices that are shouting right now. I am terrified of where this country can go under the leadership of Trump. A man who is surrounding himself with assholes who are racist, sexist, and generally hateful individuals with no respect for anyone but people like themselves: rich white cis het men.

People talk about wanting to get out of here, hell, I’d heard that the Canadian emigration page was crashed on election night as more and more of the middle states went solidly red. I don’t even know if that story is true, but it doesn’t really matter in the end… anyone who thinks they can just leave the country and escape this hasn’t been paying attention to the world lately. That’s easy to do, with how much the US media has been failing us, but that could easily be a whole post of its own and I’m not ready to rant on that. I came here to share.

Someone has built a website called #AskTheElectors, where they’ve collected as much contact information as they could about how to contact the actual people who are going to cast their votes in the electoral college come December 19th, specifically the ones who do not have any sort of legal binding to vote the way their state elections went. Because our schools fail so badly, a lot of people don’t fully understand how our election process works and don’t understand why the electoral college exists, nor do they realize that they’re not actually voting directly for a presidential candidate, but instead a person who has pledged they’ll vote for your candidate of choice. The constitution outlines this electoral college process, but it leaves it up to the states to handle how to allocate their electors. It’s also left up to the states what, if any, penalties an elector will suffer if they vote differently than they pledged, and as mentioned above, some of them will suffer no legal penalties at all (I don’t say they won’t suffer no penalties, because these days the electors are selected by a party often to reward loyalty and service, and turning against the expressed will of the party will have consequences).

While I am not holding my breath that this effort will work, as I fully expect loyalty to their party will continue to do what has happened since this election cycle made it clear that Trump had enough of the population behind him to become the Republican nominee, I took the time to use the information on #AskTheElectors to compose an email of my own to make my plea for them to change their votes. Knowing that the chances were slim that the email would even be read, especially since it was likely to become a tide of people participating in this long reach, I’ve decided to share it here too, though I will leave out my personal information.

Dear Elector,

My name is Amy [=====], from [=====], CA.

Since the results of the election back on the 8th became apparent, I have become more and more afraid of where this country is headed. Watching the hateful actions that are the result of racists feeling legitimized by Trumps win strikes fear into my heart, and the whole world holds their breath as they watch where we go from here. Countries that have long been known to show no regard for the rights and safety of their citizens are cheering for Trump’s win, Russia’s even admitted to making efforts to sway the election results.

Donald Trump has spent his whole campaign telling the American people that he’s a racist sexist man who has nothing but his own self interest at heart. He has spread one bald face lie after another, supporting and encouraging hatred and fear wherever he goes, and showing that he has nothing but disrespect for what our country stands for. On top of his personal conduct being appalling, his choice to surround himself with racists, homophobes, and sexists reflects poorly upon our country.

The popular vote has far and away shown that the American people who did vote wanted Clinton to be our next president. On top of that, this was the first election in 50 years that did not benefit from the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. There were many states that either reduced early voting or enacted strict voter ID laws. Both have been shown to disproportionately affect those who are low income and of a minority background, both groups that have been statistically shown to vote largely Democrat.

Part of the role you play as an elector in the electoral college is to represent the best interest of the people. Even though the average person thinks they’re voting directly for a presidential candidate, they are actually voting for you to represent them. In a normal election year, where the popular vote and the electoral vote agree with each other, it’s a pretty easy process… but when the popular vote and the electoral vote disagree, you owe it to the people you represent to take the time to really consider why that is. Sometimes it’s just because it was a close election, but the conduct of the two candidates this election year, as well as their history and actions, are like night and day and show that this isn’t just a close race.

It is your duty to look beyond party loyalty, and ask yourself: Which candidate is best prepared for the job? Which candidate will put America’s best face forward? Trump claims to want to ‘Make America Great Again’, but what makes America great is the diversity that he is clearly against, what makes America great is that we learn and grow as the world changes, but Trump wants to take us back to the past that we’ve outgrown.

Please, change your vote to support Hillary Clinton. Help us more forward instead of back.

Thank you for your time and consideration, I appreciate and respect the role you serve in our electoral process.

Sincerely,
Amy [=====]

     “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”
     -George Bernard Shaw

Even as I reread it before publishing, I find things I could have adjusted, punctuation and grammar I might have handled better… but I knew if I did what I normally do in writing, I never would have sent the email. So what I am publishing here is exactly what I sent out.

Be respectful in the comments (not that I expect any, as I’ve not received any here before) and be aware that I have no qualms about using the ban hammer. While I feel strongly that the first amendment is a very important right, and feel that part of what got us to this point is the popular trend to hide from political conversation, I will not suffer hate speech and I will not tolerate or feed trolls spreading straw men and fallacy.

Twisting The Ballot Box Screw

When I got into the conversation with my boss recently about Clinton vs. Sanders, the thing that hit me the most as I pondered it afterwards as how firmly and repeatedly he was trying to give me the message that I needed to get in line, that all of Sanders supporters needed to get in line. Repeatedly he said things like ‘if there was a better candidate, I’d vote for them in a heartbeat’ about Hillary, and instead of telling me why I should vote for Clinton, he spent his time telling me why Bernie didn’t deserve the vote. These are not the ways to get someone to vote for your candidate. This is how Kerry lost to Bush — No one wanted to vote for Kerry, they wanted to vote against Bush, and that’s not how you convince the swing voters. This election cycle is looking to shape up the same, there are a lot of people who aren’t supporting Clinton because they want her, they’re supporting her because they don’t want Trump.

Part of the reason why so many of the Sanders supporters are still holding out, why so many of us are still voting for him or planning to vote for him in the remaining primaries, is because we believe in his message. We know that not all the things he’s talking about are going to actually happen, especially if we don’t also get progressives to fill the house and the senate to back him, and even if we give him a happy majority in both it will be an uphill battle. Regardless of how much of what he’s trying for he can actually achieve, we believe he will give it a good try and his goals are the things that we as a country need. We believe in him and his message, and most of us are voting for him, not against Trump, Clinton, or anyone else.

I can accept and even respect someone who actually supports Hillary because they’ve considered her position on things, even if I disagree with them, because while I dislike a lot of things about Hillary, I don’t believe that the things that they’re aligning with her ideologically about make them horrible people, and they’re actually selecting a candidate they agree with. The people who are just saying ‘Sanders has lost, we just need to accept Hillary is our only hope’ when they don’t actually agree with what she stands for are going to be the weakness in the campaign. Yes, we are subject to First Past The Post voting, so in order to get the candidate that most agrees with us we need to strategically vote, but that shouldn’t mean that Hillary’s campaign and supporters should use fear to convince us. They need to tell us what’s good about her.

As an aside, if you’re not familiar with the term First Past The Post Voting (also sometimes known as Winner Takes All voting), or if you don’t know why it’s bad for pretty much everyone except for the powerful minority, please take the time to watch this video. Also check out more videos by C. G. P. Grey to follow up on this subject: talking about alternatives to FPTP such as Alternative Vote (also known as Instant Run Off voting) and how Gerrymandering works. I highly recommend them because it breaks them down into really easy to follow examples, which are great if you’re trying to get the point across effectively.

The other experience I had recently was I was having a twitter conversation with someone I follow. She’d been expressing her dismay at how there’s a type of Clinton supporter than accuses women who are supporting Bernie of not being Feminists, and I starting talking about my boss mentioned above. She and I were pretty much on the same page, and then a Clinton supporter @ mentions both of us, telling us they don’t understand us. Now, instead of doing the logical thing that one would do when you don’t understand, you know, asking questions so that maybe you can, she instead links us to a blog post that was trying to insist that Sanders isn’t a feminist. Pretty sure that the definition of Feminist is still striving for equality between the genders, and things like raising the minimum wage to a living wage, affordable health care, affordable education, and reproductive freedom all further gender equality. Particularly when the majority of minimum wage earners are adult women, and the way to pull themselves up from minimum wage jobs involve being able to maintain one’s health, further their education, and be able to make informed, safe, and healthy choices about when and how they reproduce.

So, how about this Clinton supporters? If you want my vote, tell me why I should vote for Hillary. Stop shouting doom and gloom about Trump being elected. Stop telling us we’re not feminists because Bernie’s an old white man. Stop telling us we’re young and stupid, entitled and delusional. Woo us, tell us what’s great about Hillary. And if you can’t? Why don’t you try to affect change and hold her to task. Quit starting negotiations at the middle ground because you think you can’t do any better, aim high so that when you have to compromise you end up closer to where you want to be.

Up The Creek Without A Paddle

A lot of my input lately has been news on Twitter. News which is dominated in a presidential election year with almost nothing other than said election. This means I’ve been getting a lot of Trump shoved in my face, and it’s pretty damn depressing and disgusting. It’s also terrifying.

When he first threw his hat into the ring, everyone laughed… apparently even he didn’t take it seriously. Then the bigots and the rich assholes started coming out of the woodwork to vote for him. If it weren’t for the fact that this farce is potentially going to affect the long-term health and international respect of my country, I would probably have laughed too. It seemed that everyone was laughing at him, except then it became clear that they were laughing with him and didn’t realize it.

Now, suddenly, everyone who isn’t a Trump supporter has realized that he is a threat. He’s the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, they’re doubling down on him after swearing left and right that they’d find someone — anyone — else to be the nominee, and dreams of a contested convention and him running a third-party campaign that spoils the Republican vote have gone up in smoke. So now it’s down to hoping that we can convince the swing voters to select the lesser of two evils, as Hillary taking the Democratic nomination looms on the horizon.

I can’t say I particularly like Hilary. She’s done a lot of stupid, she’s more hawkish than I like, she’s probably a little racist — though nowhere near as bad as Trump — but at the end of the day she still at least makes an effort to change with the expressed desires of the people, she’s worked her ass off to get as far as she has in yet another area of society that’s still overwhelmingly male dominated, and she’s really not all that different from the others in the Democratic party. There in lies my biggest problem with her: I’m liberal and don’t identify with the Democratic party. I believe in social services for the masses, I believe in paying taxes to cover it, and I believe in unions. I don’t feel the Democrats fight for these things like they should, I feel that they take the lazy route of leaving it to others to fight for… But the problem is, no one’s able to come take up the fight when the party is full of corporate backed centralists.

Even knowing the chances are slim, I would still like to see Bernie pull the nomination out from under her with a last-minute upset. It’s looking more and more like the option is going to be vote for her in November, or stand by and pray to whatever deity might listen not to let this country elect Trump. I am seeing more and more a reality where I don’t have a choice but to vote for her. But what’s scary is that there is a vocal sort of shit lord out there that is threatening to just rage quit and not vote in the general if she gets the dem nom. The sexist sort of shit lord who’s twice as hard on Hillary than they are on any man, who would rather burn this country to the ground that see a woman as the commander-in-chief. While I’m not enthusiastic about Hillary, and I’m not terrified of what she’d do to this country.

The other thing that’s scary about Hillary probably getting the nomination is that all those people who were enthusiastic for Bernie, those first time voters, those people who otherwise don’t care about the election, they’re also the same people we need voting for key positions everywhere from city dog catcher to Senator. We see it repeatedly, if we elect a progressive president the masses think everything is magically perfect, that things will change over night. Then when they don’t, these same people don’t bother to go vote in the midterm elections and they don’t bother to go back and vote in the next presidential election. Then where are we? Right back where we started.

We need to see a lot of change in how our elections are run, we need to see a lot of change in how the population is engaged about them, and we need to find a way to actually make it possible to hold politicians accountable when they don’t do what they promised. Right now we have a two-party system where people vote for the lesser of evils because first past the post voting means if they don’t the candidate least in common with their goals can win instead. This makes it hard to replace anyone, because it’s really difficult to convince people to stray from the familiar and the safe. We need to make it possible for the average person to feel safe in considering the third-party candidates. We need to make sure that every qualified and able person can vote.

I stumbled into a conversation with one of my bosses the other day, and he was railing on and on about how we needed to start using a mandatory voting system… and while I didn’t say it (I probably should have), all I could think is, we can’t even make it so that the people who want to vote can reliably do so, how the hell would we be able to set up a system that requires everyone qualified to do so must vote? I can just see how this would be abused: institute the mandatory voting laws, do nothing to change how existing polling systems work, then proceed to slam all the low-income people who couldn’t afford to skip work or wait in line for the whole day with the fines for not voting. But then, he’s a well off white man, so these things might not even occur to him. He’s comfortable enough that he takes yearly week-long vacations out of the country, when his employees only get paid sick leave because the state of California recently started mandating it and the only vacation time we get is unpaid. He’s well off enough that his house being broken into and his stuff stolen multiple times is an inconvenience that requires a security system being installed… where if anyone was desperate enough to steal my stuff, I would probably not be able to afford to replace it. I know he thinks of himself as a liberal, but he’s about as liberal as the standing Democratic party. Which is to say, hardly in anything but title.