Since I’m now considered to be a grownup, I decided this year I need to pay attention to how we pick the ultimate leader of the greatest country in the world, the president of the United States.
Let’s see, America is a democracy, so I went to Mr. Webster for the meaning of democracy: a government by the people; rule of the majority; a system in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by periodically held free elections.
Why, then, when we go to the polls on May 3, will our single vote count in most races but maybe not on a national level? Everyone should vote for your local and state candidates. In these elections, if a candidate gets one more vote than his opponent, he or she is the winner. Don’t get caught up in the notion, “I’m not going to vote because my vote really doesn’t matter.”
I remember in the Greenfield mayor’s race a few years back, one candidate won the primary by only seven votes. In 1984, Indiana’s secretary of state won the general election by just four votes. I would think your vote does matter, so go exercise your right and vote.
Now in the presidential election, that’s just not how it works. Right or wrong, delegates pick the presidential candidate at the convention. This year is sparking a great debate, as for the first time in a while, the Republican party might not have an outright winner before the convention.
Possibly for the first time in a long time, Indiana might have a say in picking the Republican presidential candidate.
Or maybe we won’t. It really doesn’t matter whom the people vote for or even whom the delegates are supposed to be loyal to. If one person doesn’t hit the magic number of 1,237, then it’s open season.
Sorry to say, but this is nothing new. The people have never really picked the president of the United States. Benjamin Harrison is the only president who called Indiana home at the time he was elected.
In 1888, when he ran for president, he went into the Republican convention actually in fourth place but on the eighth ballot became the party nominee. He then went on to win the general election and the presidency by getting 90,596 votes fewer than sitting president Grover Cleveland.
Yes, the people don’t actually elect the president in the general election, either; that’s the electoral college. This was put into place back in the very beginning of our country. Basically the founding fathers did not feel the people were educated enough to pick their own leader and devised a way to insure the “establishment” had a final say.
James Madison worried about what he called “factions,” which he defined as groups of citizens who have a common interest in some proposal that would either violate the rights of other citizens or would harm the nation as a whole. Madison’s fear — which was later dubbed “the tyranny of the majority” — was that a faction could grow to encompass more than 50 percent of the population, at which point it could “sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.”
So the electoral college has picked a person receiving fewer popular votes on four occasions in our history. The last time was 2000 when George W. Bush was elected President over Al Gore by receiving 543,895 fewer votes. Who knows what’s going to happen this year, but maybe, just maybe, it’s time to reconsider how we truly pick our leader in the greatest democracy in the world.
Wayne Addison is chief probation officer for the Hancock County Probation Department.