We all grow up with some particular unassailable beliefs - things which we know for an absolute certainly. No sane person would even attempt to dissuade us of these ideas, lest they be heckled into the dunce cap corner of society. The mere suggestion that their authenticity may be suspect shall elicit shock from dignified folks 'round this great country of ours.
Among these credos of life are: Money is desirable, the Pope is Catholic, cows go moo, and mom and dad can be counted on for money if it's for something really important, like gold teeth grills.
If you live in America, there's another absolute fact which cannot be denied, under penalty of having your patriotism questioned. We're taught this fact in school, usually several times over. We're absolutely SURE of it, just like we're sure that Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in three ships and discovered mainland America.
And here it is: In America, we, the people, pick our leaders. We vote, and each vote is counted accurately. Then the white guy with the most votes becomes president.
Uh oh ... as you get older, a few chinks appear in the armor of your belief system.
Someone informs you that none of the four ships in Columbus' fleet ever reached mainland America ... you hear story after story about how perfectly happy poor people win the lottery, and then their lives get flushed down the crapper with a few years ... mom refuses to write a check for the Mr. Bling House of Creative Dentistry.
And presidents are elected despite having fewer votes than his opponent.
Ah yes, now you remember. Mrs. Jabolinski taught you in fifth grade American History class about the Electoral College. You thought you might apply there once you graduated from high school. Then, when you were actually in college, you made the mistake of scheduling your PoliSci 101 class on Fridays at 8 a.m. Oh well. Electoral College, you say? Just another thing that they try and teach you, but you don't really need to know about, because it will never apply in your life.
Enter the year 2000.
WTF? Bush lost the vote and he still gets to be president? How does that happen? I thought ...
You thought wrong, buster. The president isn't elected by the people. The president is elected by the Electoral College, and they can, theoretically, elect whoever they want. True, some states have laws that require electors to vote for the candidate that won the popular vote; in other cases, electors are bound by pledges to their corresponding political party. However, there have been times when electors have voted contrary to the people's decision, and there exists no federal law or Constitutional provision against it.
I was really surprised to discover just how many people didn't know this. In my case, I certainly learned more about it in 2000 than I had known previously. It surprised me that a popular vote/Electoral College separation had happened three times prior to 2000.
However, what really floored me was the system of the super delegate.
There's been a lot of talk about the approximately 800 super delegates of the Democratic Party. I was somewhat familiar with them but never really paid them much attention, mainly because there hasn't really ever been a situation where they made much of a difference, at least since I've been of voting age. That's about to change.
Super delegates are current and former elected officials of the Democratic Party who can support the democratic candidate of their choosing. The formation of the super delegate system is pretty logical. It keeps a "checks and balances" system in place to make sure the party isn't hijacked by non-members of the Democratic Party, and also to make sure that the nominee isn't chosen the way McGovern got the nomination in 1972, with only one state victory and 37 percent of the popular vote.
The irony is that, in this election, they could very well help the runner-up candidate become the democratic nominee - which is exactly what it was designed to avoid when the system was formed.
Usually, the super delegates do not influence the nomination of a democratic candidate, because by the time the party convention rolls around, there is a clear, qualified individual who has won the majority of delegates needed to become the party's nominee. So, even if all the super delegates pledge their votes for an opposing candidate, the candidate who won the delegate count in the primaries and caucuses would still be the nominee ... assuming, of course, that the electors actually pledge their vote for the candidate that won the popular vote.
And unless you've been hiding under a cave or just don't follow politics, you know that there's a near dead heat between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton right now in the electoral count (despite Obama's 10 consecutive victories), and that the nominee may not be chosen until the party convention. That means that these so-called super delegates - who are not bound by any constraints of popular vote - could, realistically, turn the tide for the second place candidate.
Right now, Hillary Clinton leads in pledged super delegates by an almost 2-1 margin over Obama. That could always change, and probably will, because the super delegates have until the party convention to change and/or make their pledge. The democratic insiders who make up the super delegates are ostensibly tired of pro-war republicans, so they will presumably rally around whoever becomes the nominee.
However, it appears that the Clinton power network has been working hard to secure as many super delegates as possible, and they may end up winning that war, given the prowess of the internal Clinton political machine. So then, here's a scenario that might play out:
- The final delegate count could be within a few hundred between Obama and Clinton going into the convention.
- Obama will almost certainly have an edge in the popular vote at that time.
- Hillary would become the party's nominee anyway, by virtue of her super delegate margin.
So much for a government of, by and for the people.
And this scenario doesn't include the possibility that Clinton could try and "poach" regular delegates (the ones that do not fall under the aforementioned category of electors bound by law to pledge for the popular vote-winning candidate). This is the "trick up the Clinton's sleeve" that you may have hearing about. It sounds crazy, but after the last two elections, crazy seems normal.
What does this mean for the country? We'll have to wait and see how this unfolds as the convention nears. This year young voters are - for the first time in a long time - feeling empowered and invigorated by the political process. Undermining the popular vote (in the Democratic Party, no less) could reinforce their belief that the system is rigged by the rich and powerful.
If that weren't enough, there's the eyebrow-raising case of the electronic voting machines.
The idea that electronic voting machines could be rigged moved from the domain of the wacko conspiracy theorist to undeniable reality in the 2000 election. Lost amid all the hullabaloo surrounding the hanging chads was the case of the negative votes in Volusia Country, Florida. Al Gore had, at one time, a negative vote count! Apparently, -16,022 Floridians in Volusia County had pledged their support for Gore (Nader also received negative votes), while Bush's vote count jumped suddenly. The error was discovered and corrected, according to the Florida Board of Elections, but it demonstrated that these voting machines could be tampered with, and quite easily at that.
The problem here is that, in the other races in Volusia County (e.g. the congressional elections), no such errors occurred. So it seems suspicious, at the very least. Someone may have deliberately fixed the presidential voting totals, but we'll never really know for certain.
Perhaps you're rolling your eyes at this possibility? I wouldn't blame you. This is the last thing I was to believe, too. However, it has been demonstrated scientifically that vote totals can be easily altered by anyone with above-average knowledge of computers and networks.
It doesn't help my confidence that Walden O'Dell, CEO of Diebold (the company producing machines which are responsible for the tabulation of millions of votes nationwide) is an unabashed Bush supporter. In 2000, O'Dell held a $1000-a-plate GOP fundraiser at this house. His own house! Then in 2003, he stated in a fundraising letter - yes, in his own words - that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Um, say what?
A spokesman for Diebold publicly admitted that the letter was authentic, and regretted any perception of bias.
Are you kidding me? How is this even possible? Shouldn't the CEO of a voting machine company be politically neutral?
To make matters worse, there's nothing anyone can do to check the internal electronic workings of voting machines. Because they are manufactured by private companies, these companies can block (by copyright infringement/proprietary laws) any group or individual from looking into the mechanisms of how the machines actually work. In short, no government official can check and see if a voting machine - one manufactured by a company with a voracious political bias, which tabulated negative votes in the past - is tallying votes accurately.
Some say, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention". I think plenty of people paying attention. TV, video games and 60-hour work weeks have a way of deadening the outrage. People tend to assume that someone out there is making sure that this kind of thing doesn't happen.
That someone is you. Demand democracy. Express your outrage. Anything less would be unpatriotic.
Evan Redmon gets a lot of spam. If you are not spam, please feel free to drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.