An authoritarian figure who has joked about being President for life runs the Federal Government during a pandemic that could literally kill millions of Americans and disrupt society for months. States are postponing primary elections and struggling to figure out how voters can cast ballots while keeping social distancing. Understandably, some people worry that Donald Trump might take advantage of the crisis to stay in power.
These discussions focus narrowly on two questions: whether States could physically hold elections during a pandemic using modern systems and what would happen if they couldn’t. Most agree that elections can take place if state legislatures hurry up and figure out how to use expanded absentee voting, other voting by mail systems, or even the internet. They also think that if for some reason elections cannot be held, someone other than Trump would take power based on existing statute.
What none of these articles mention is the Electoral College and the role of state legislatures in choosing these Electors. This is the group that actually elects the President, as we found out the hard way in 2016. These days voters choose these Electors by casting votes at polling stations or by mail because state legislatures want it that way – this is not a Constitutional requirement. This means that elections for President and Vice President can take place as long as state legislatures can meet and choose Electors before Election Day.
Do they understand that socialism suppresses individuality, forces collectivism, causes mass starvation, imprisons people with divergent ideas in labor camps, herds them off their properties into high rise cinder block apartments, nationalizes all industries, and confiscates all private property and wealth?
This accurately describes East European and Russian political economies up to the end of the Cold War, so in a way Johnson comes by this view honestly. She experienced it this way. And because everyone called this kind of political and economic system “socialism” or “communism” back in the day, this is pretty standard-issue conservative rhetoric about the dangers of making sure the economy and political system work for everyone. I wonder though how much this has to do with protecting corporations and the wealthy from calls for a more equitable distribution of economic productivity than it does with any real concern over liberty. It’s not as if our system protects citizens from voter suppression and gerrymandering in a way that restricts elite power. In the end the conservative project looks a lot like a defense of corporate rights to profits while showing little concern for what liberty looks like to people who have to work two jobs so they can pay the rent and keep dinner on the table.
The Williamsburg-James City County Indivisible group has invited me to speak about the Electoral College at their meeting on 29 August. This talk will take place at the James City County Library at 7770 Croaker Road in Williamsburg from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.
I’ll discuss how and why the men who wrote the Constitution settled on this method for selecting a President, including how slavery created the conditions that made direct election of the President all but politically impossible. I’ll also discuss efforts to eliminate the EC or render it moot.
Please join me and the WJCC Indivisibles for an informative evening and a chance to meet new Democratic activist friends.