We’ve seen and heard plenty of talk from Trump. Now we get to decide how to talk about Trump’s presidency. And I hope we’ll choose our words very carefully. We must not normalize his fact-denying, insult-slinging, bully-boy behavior. In particular, I pray that the press will frame his election in a consistent, accurate manner.
I disagree with Rep. John Lewis when he said that Trump is not the legitimate president-elect. This kind of rhetoric does not serve the cause of keeping Trump in check. In fact, although he is neither popular nor elected by popular will, Trump was chosen by the states in accordance with the Constitution through the Electoral College. Dirty tricks were used in the campaign – and voter suppression laws imposed in Republican-led states were the worst of them. But it is impossible to sort out which if any particular subterfuge determined the outcome. In our antiquated method of choosing presidents, a voter in Wyoming has 318% more influence while one in California has 15% less influence than the average American. Sounds a lot like blacks being counted as 3/5 of a human being, according to the original Constitution's system of allocation of representatives in Congress! So while we must accept the results, we must commit ourselves to changing this obsolete system, put in place in part to inflate the power of slave-holding states. This obnoxious historical relic has poisoned two presidential elections in the last 16 years.
Trump’s selection was nothing like a “landslide”. 107,000 votes in three states effectively decided the Electoral College for him. Every single time that Republicans claim he has a mandate from the people, every time they say that the “people have spoken”, every time they claim that Trump had an overwhelming electoral victory, they must be countered respectfully with the fact that he lost the popular vote by 2,865,075, and that even in the states’ Electoral College popular votes, he barely squeaked ahead. He has no basis for claiming that the American people are behind his agenda. Trump's presidency does not reflect the fact that the "people have spoken" for him. Rather, it reflects that the states, tilted in favor of those with small populations, have spoken.
The Republicans stonewalled President Obama by refusing even to consider his Supreme Court nominee. Sen. Mitch McConnell declared that “the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” Well, the people spoke in November, and reasonably it can be inferred that they supported Obama’s choice. McConnell said the people, not the states, should have a voice, so he should be held to account accordingly. The Democrats should filibuster any nominee except Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.
Fifteen states - New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming - have populations lower than the margin by which Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Connecticut had 2,572,337 eligible voters in 2016, the nearest state’s number to that of Clinton’s margin of victory. Imagine that the entire state of Connecticut, with a population larger than those of 20 states, was barred from participation in the presidential election, and we see how the Electoral College distorts the will of the people. Ultimately it must be eliminated with a Constitutional amendment that provides for a direct election of the president by the American people as a whole. Short of that, there’s an equally effective approach called The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement among U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote. Sign the petition to support it now!
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California