The Electoral College baffles many American citizens regarding the election of their President. Americans are essentially socialized in believing that we live in democracy. This point has been driven home most emphatically with the recent death of Fidel Castro. What Americans fail to realize; however, is that we do not live in a democracy. We live in a Republican form of government which was set up to quail democratic impulses which could threaten the rights of a minority. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, White male property owners constituted this minority which needed protecting from the vast majority of the have nots. It should also be noted that the American people have not always voted directly for members of the U.S. Senate. Prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, state legislatures elected individuals to the U.S. Senate. In 2016, states still elect the President of the United States. As a consequence, we know that it is possible for a presidential candidate to win a majority of the popular or democratic vote, yet still lose the election in the Electoral College. In the Election of 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel J. Tilden for the presidency in the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by 250,000 votes. The election of Hayes signaled the end of Reconstruction. Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888, but lost the popular vote by 90,000 votes.
In the Election of 2000, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by 540,000 votes. The election was much closer than it seems due to the fact that the election came down to Florida being the deciding state. George W. Bush’s brother was the Governor of the state of Florida. The Secretary of State for the state of Florida was George W. Bush’s campaign manager for the state, Katherine Harris. A Democrat controlled state Supreme Court ruled that a recount of all pertinent ballots was warranted. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled that the recount should be halted. The U.S. Supreme Court was controlled by Republican appointees. In the final analysis, George W. Bush won the state of Florida by only 537 votes. The Bush presidency brought on the Great Recession and two wars that America is still fighting in 2016. One should also recall the tepid response of the Bush Administration to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The Election of 2000 also brought our attention to other anti-democratic electoral practices such as votes not being counted and the purging of eligible voters from voter rolls. These practices seem to target the African America vote in particular. This is a claim that state officials always deny. Denial of the truth can erase the reporting. Yet, only justice can erase the effects.
Early in the morning of November 9, 2016, Donald Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election. His margin victory was based on flipping Blue states that had gone for Obama either in 2008 or 2012 or, in some accounts, both elections. Nevertheless, as time went on, a strange thing began to happen. Hillary Clinton’s popular vote total began to dramatically climb. As of this writing, she is beating Donald Trump in the popular vote total by over two million votes. Near the end of the campaign, Donald Trump began saying that he believed the election was rigged. Nearly every poll had Clinton in the lead. Polls that had been spot on in 2008 and 2012 predicted a close Clinton victory and a possible takeover of the Senate by Democrats. Based on these happenings, third party candidate Dr. Jill Stein has requested and was approved for a recount in Wisconsin. She plans to request recounts in other battleground states as well. The Clinton campaign which was initially silent on this issue has now come out in support of the recount efforts.
Perhaps Trump was correct. What he did not realize however, was that the election could have been rigged in his favor. It is at time like these that one has to reign in the imagination. Conspiracy and paranoia always seek to keep ones company. On the other hand, this adage persists in ones thinking. “Just because you’re paranoid, does not mean someone isn’t following you.” After Obama was elected in 2008 Republican controlled states went into hysterical overdrives to past laws that, according to them, would curb voter fraud. It just so happens that these laws, once again, seem to target the African American vote in particular. During early voting in this election, news outlets constantly reported on a noticeable downturn in Black voter turnout. For the most part, it was chalked up as a lack of Black enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. What many believed was that when Obama won in 2012, the efforts at voter suppression had failed. Perhaps it has been overlooked that what began in 2008 did not truly come to fruition until 2016. Such a prospect conjures two distinct emotions. First, there is anger over the possibility that Republicans would go to these extremes to further tap down democracy as it pertains to African Americans in particular. The second emotion is the tantalizing idea that a recount will undo the terrible mistake of placing Donald Trump in the White House. The Electoral College will meet in their respective state capitols on December 19, 2016 in order to actually elect the 45th President of the United States. That means that America still has a few days to get this election right.
Anthony Neal earned his Ph.D. in political science at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Dr. Neal is an associate professor at State University College, Buffalo. The author of numerous book reviews and journal articles, he has had his work published in the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Issues in Higher Education. In 2014 Dr. Neal received the university’s Faculty Appreciation Award, was named Instructor of the Year by the university’s United Student Government, and Professor of the Year by the Student Political Society in the Department of Political Science. In 2015, he published The American Political Narrative which is a succinct yet poignant narrative about the development of the American political system and what is needed to maintain it. In 2016, he will publish a book of poetry entitled “Love Agnostic | from 9/11 to Charleston”