Tag: Politics

Introducing: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley!

Ayanna Pressley is the first African American woman that Massachusetts elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ayanna Pressley is an advocate, a policy-maker, an activist, and survivor. Her election to the Boston City Council in 2009 marked the first time a woman of color was elected to the Council in its 100-year history. This laid the foundation for Ayanna’s groundbreaking work, with which she has consistently strived to improve the lives of people that have too often been left behind.

Raised in Chicago as the only child of an activist mother who instilled in her the value of civic participation, Ayanna understands the role that government should play in helping to lift up communities that are in need of the most help. After her election to the Council in 2009, she successfully pursued the establishment of the Committee on Healthy Women, Families, and Communities. The Committee addresses causes that Ayanna has always been most devoted to: stabilizing families and communities, reducing and preventing violence and trauma, combating poverty, and addressing issues that disproportionately impact women and girls.

Ayanna is intentional about engaging community voices in leading and informing policy by making sure they have a seat at the table.

Ayanna’s legislative achievements resulted in her being the top vote-getter in three consecutive elections, making her the first woman in 30 years to achieve this distinction and the first person of color to top the ticket.

In 2016, Ayanna was named one of The New York Times 14 Young Democrats to Watch. In 2015, she earned the EMILY’s List Rising Star Award and was named one of Boston Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful People. In 2014, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce named her as one of their Ten Outstanding Young Leaders, and the Victim Rights Law Center presented her with their Leadership Award. She is also an Aspen-Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership, Class of 2012.

Ayanna lives in the Ashmont/Adams neighborhood of Dorchester with her husband Conan Harris, nine-year-old stepdaughter Cora, and cat Sojourner Truth.

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Introducing: Lieutenant Governor Sheila Y. Oliver!

Sheila Y. Oliver took the oath of office as New Jersey’s 2nd Lieutenant Governor on January 16, 2018. She is the first woman of color to serve in statewide elected office in New Jersey history. She was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs by Governor Phil Murphy.

Lt. Governor Oliver is a 40-year resident of East Orange, and a native of Newark.

First elected to the General Assembly in 2003, she became Speaker in 2010 – the first African-American woman in state history to serve as such, and just the second in the nation’s history to lead a state legislative house.

She has chaired the Assembly Human Services Committee, and served on the Labor, Higher Education, Women and Children, Commerce and Economic Development, and Transportation and Independent Authorities committees. She also sat on the Joint Committee on the Public Schools and the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity.

Prior to her election to the General Assembly, she served as an Essex County Freeholder, from 1996 to 1999, and was a member of the East Orange Board of Education.  She also served as an Assistant County Administrator for Essex County from 2000 until 2018.

An alumna of Newark’s Weequahic High School, she went on to graduate cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. She also holds a Master of Science Degree in Community Organization, Planning and Administration from Columbia University.

Lt. Governor Oliver began her career in public service as the Director of the Office of Youth Services and Special Projects for the City of Newark, where she focused on preparing young people ages 14 to 21 for post-secondary education and entry into the workforce. She later became the Development Director for The Newark Literacy Campaign while working at Caldwell College as the Coordinator of Career Guidance within the Educational Opportunity Fund Program.

She has taught college courses in Achievement Motivation, Non-Profit Management, and Pre-College Preparation, served as a consultant to a variety of non-profit organizations, and spent several years as the Director of the Essex County Division of Community Action, an anti-poverty initiative.

Lt. Governor Oliver has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including the East Orange General Hospital Board of Trustees, the United Way, the Newark Coalition for Neighborhoods, the Newark Collaboration Group, the Rutgers-Newark Educational Opportunity Fund Advisory Council, the Global Women’s Leadership Collaborative of NJ, the Essex County and East Orange Committees on the Status of Women, Programs for Parents, and a number of other community-based entities. She has held memberships in the Women’s Political Caucus of NJ, the NAACP, and the Urban League.

Why White People Love Africans (But Can’t Stand African-Americans)

I’ve been aware of the preferential dynamic between Africans and White Americans for a very long time. It’s something I witnessed all throughout childhood and well into adulthood. It wasn’t a secret that professors at my university showed preferential treatment to African immigrant students, both in instruction and in resources. And it’s not uncommon to hear about preferential hiring and promotional decisions in favor of African employees as opposed to Black Americans in the workplace. I mean it’s cool for Africans and white people to love each other, the problem arises when innocent people are affected by this preferential treatment and biased decision making. It wasn’t until I saw the effects of such treatment played out in my own life that I thought to explore why this dynamic existed. Now these are just my theories, but let’s explore 5 possible reasons why white people love Africans (but can’t stand African Americans).

“All of the Melanin, None of the Guilt”

Slavery is America’s greatest sin. No matter how much white people would have us forget it ever occurred, grab our invisible bootstraps and move on, we know that can never happen. The truth is the residual effects of slavery are sewn into the fabric of this country, making the avoidance of guilt a seemingly impossible feat, especially when you’re still wearing it’s clothing. Not to mention, interfacing with your victims on the daily can get pretty taxing. Of course the white people we see today aren’t the ones who steered the ships and physically chained us, but their willingness to maintain hold of the privileges they inherited through these atrocities lets us know that they’re in no rush to make amends. And because White people feel this unavoidable sense of guilt when it comes to forging on in their ancestors bloody footsteps, their subconscious is always thinking of ways to avoid further persecution. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to avoid who makes you feel guilty about it.

If this observation is accurate, then it only makes sense for white people to prefer Africans immigrants. Not only can they whip out the “I have a friend from Ghana” card, but they also get to avoid the social responsibility, the expectation of ally-ship, the acknowledgment of wrongs, the challenging of old family beliefs, and many other responsibilities that come along with befriending Black Americans. Sure, the Transatlantic Slave Trade began in West Africa but white people don’t see slavery as a crime committed against Africans — at least not directly. So in the context of friendships and intimate partnerships between Africans and White Americans, these topics are easily avoidable. No victim, no crime. No rallies to attend, no protests, no boycotts, just guilt-free fun. The African friend essentially acts as a breath of fresh air to the white conscious.

“Is This Wakanda?”

Now this next sentence may not go over well, but Black Twitter will pretty much tell you all you need to know about Black culture. What we eat, how to cook it, how to season it, what we’re listening to, who we love this week, who we hate, what boycott we’re half-assing, where the cookout is, how to get there, and what kind of raisins to bring for the potato salad. Black people don’t keep much of anything a secret when it comes to Black culture. Nothing is off limits and nothing is too sacred to discuss out in the open. That’s not necessarily something to fault Black Americans over but when has easy access ever made us more appreciative of something? Not to mention that Black American culture derived from the culmination of European influences and whatever remnants of African culture were permitted to remain on the plantation.

White people know Black culture well because they had a huge part in its inception — been there, stole that. In contrast, African culture is a little harder to access. You won’t find nationally televised shows depicting a modern African way of life, there is no continent-wide cookout for us to dish out invitations to, there’s no honorary South African pass for best gwara-gwara dance, and you won’t find Nigerian gele (traditional West African style of headdress) at Forever 21 or Zara. African culture is tied to Africans which means you must go through the people to access it, which white people have proven they have no problem doing. White people cant get enough of things that aren’t made for them and it doesn’t get more F.U.B.U. than African culture.

“Let’s Have a Pity Party”

National Geographic came forward this year and issued an apology for historically racist coverage of Africans and indigenous groups around the world. Shocker. But that apology doesn’t do much to rectify the lasting imagery that their coverage created. The naked African hunting bushmeat in the forest, the bloated belly of a starving African child, the drug fueled African warlord, some of these images are the only images of Africa that many Americans know. Leading some white Americans to see African immigrants as personal charity cases, whether warranted or not. It’s not uncommon for a white person to befriend an African immigrant for the sole purpose of feeling like a do-gooder. Who else would introduce Mbutu to the wonders of pants and forks? The destitute African friend gives White Americans their much needed dose of heroism, which is not the case for the Black American friend. And why is that, you might ask? Black Americans are somewhat destitute in their home country, are they not? The answer to that question is yes, we most certainly are. But it’s a little more difficult for white people to feel sorry for Black Americans because that would require them to acknowledge their participation in keeping Black Americans destitute in the first place. And white people hate feeling guilty, especially when they’re guilty.

“You Are Really Dumb… Forreal.”

Generally speaking, White People are ignorant. And despite all of the free information at our fingertips, many will choose to remain in that state. And it’s probably best they do, simply based on the fact that most of the ideologies, advancements, and innovations that white culture promotes and celebrates were birthed from Black minds, which for many would be too big a blow to their egos.

What we know about white people’s silent inferiority complex is that it’s very important to them to feel in control, in power, and in moral authority, which is hard to do if you’re constantly being called out on your immorality. And while it’s impossible to avoid the very obvious connection between the condition of Black America and its relation to White America, it’s a little easier to glance over Africa’s relation to the West. The truth is that the continent of Africa has been repeatedly pillaged, siphoned and squandered ever since Europeans first decided her resources were profitable. There have been countless documented incidents of war, genocide, group extermination, sterilization, intentional disease outbreaks, famine, child trafficking, molestation and rape at the hands of UN “peacekeepers”, intentional elimination of indigenous spiritual systems and the list goes on, all at the hands of white people. White people aren’t blameless when it comes to the state of Africa and it’s inhabitants, they’re just ignorant.

“He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly”

White people aren’t afraid of a lot of things they probably should be: each other, wild animals, extreme sports, each other, the sun, illegal drugs, heart disease, cancer, each other, and chronic lower respiratory disease just to name a few. After all, these are a few of the things that pose the greatest statistical threat to white life. You know what’s not on that list, Black folk. That’s right, Black people actually pose an excessively low threat to white lives, (now if only the reverse were true). But you would never guess that with the immense amount of irrational fear white people seem to have when it comes to Black people. A fear they don’t appear to have when it comes to African immigrants. And while many would look at the rate at which American-born Black men are killed by police in comparison to that of African immigrants and attribute that to some instigative behaviors on the part of Black men, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the vastly different representations these two groups possess. Black Americans are portrayed as unpredictable, unhinged, violent, aggressive and irrational. African immigrants, on the other hand, are depicted as docile, overly religious, determined and jovial. The African is harmless. Harmless to the fragile white ego, harmless to white establishments, harmless to the white savior complex, harmless to white sensibilities, just plain ole harmless.

There are a ton of other reasons that could potentially explain why white people prefer Africans. One being that African immigrants, having nationalities that don’t reject them, are less tied to racial classifications than Black Americans and therefore are less likely to see their race as an inhibitor. White people love that. Another reason could be that Africans are more willing to capitulate, quickly denouncing culture, language, tradition and birth name in order to blend into white society and corporate culture. A third reason could possibly be that Africans are often more willing to overlook the racist and bigoted comments and beliefs their white friends hold, not having the same historical attachment to various words and references. Whatever the reason, white friendship has never been and will never be the prize. And we should all beware of any white people who think making exceptions for a few “safe” Black people makes them any less racist or prejudice. It doesn’t. And whatever we call it, tokenism, favoritism, nepotism or a classic case of divide and conquer, the only thing I know for sure is that we should all be skeptical.

*Originally published on Madame Noire.

What African American Women Running For Office Are Up Against

“African-American women are the backbone of the Democratic Party,” an ecstatic Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, said not once, but twice on a press call Wednesday. Perez was stating the undeniable after 98% of African American women voted for Doug Jones in Tuesday’s special election, overcoming systemic barriers to make Jones the first Democrat in 25 years to win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama.

African American women’s widespread support for Democratic candidates is not new. In the recent governor’s race in Virginia, 91 percent of African American women backed Democrat Ralph Northam. Last year, 94% of African American women voted for Hillary Clinton. But based on the astonished reactions and exuberant expressions of gratitude from commenters on social media, you would think African American women had only just materialized in Montgomery this past Tuesday.

“Dec. 12, 2017: the day progressives discovered African American women,” Jessica Byrd, founder and principal of Three Point Strategies, a consulting firm focused on electoral politics and social justice, says with a laugh.

On Twitter, as many praised African American women for delivering Jones the election, the conversation quickly turned to how that gratitude should translate into greater support for African American women in all aspects of their lives.

“Thank African American women by supporting African American women,” writer and speaker Austin Channing tweeted. “Pay us. Vote with us. Hire us. Read our writing. Fund our projects and ministries. Vote us into office. Purchase from our businesses. Amplify us. Stand against racism and sexism.”

Take the “vote us into office” part: The numbers show that African American women’s participation at the ballot box is not reflected in their representation in elected office. African American women were 7% of the electorate in 2016, but they make up only 3.6% of all members of Congress, and 3.7% of all state legislators.

“The investment is not matching their return,” says Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power and leadership of African American women.

The Primaries Are The Problem

While there are multiple barriers to African American women running for office, the biggest challenge is the primary process. By the numbers, an African American woman candidate’s best shot at winning a race for public office is in a Democratic stronghold. And to compete, she must engage in a primary. “And what do Democrats hate?” Byrd asks rhetorically, “Primaries.”

“Unless someone says ‘I choose African American women,’ we’re not going to get chosen.”

In 2015, Byrd was part of a team that did research to understand the racial and gender disparities in office holding. She and her colleagues found a disturbing trend in their interviews with black women who had considered running for office.

“They were told they weren’t viable,” Byrd tells Bustle. “They were told that they didn’t know enough people that other Democratic operatives knew. They were told that they couldn’t raise the money and they weren’t a good investment.”

So, the challenge wasn’t persuading African American women to run for office; the challenge was securing institutional support.

“If the party believes that we should lead,” Byrd says of African American women, “they have to change the process by which they invest in new types of leaders.” By that, she means something that might seem radical: a willingness to clear the field for African American women.

“Unless someone says ‘I choose African American women, we’re not going to get chosen,” Byrd adds.

Activists Look Beyond The Party

“Engaging in the political process is not new for African American women,” says Charlene Carruthers, the national director of Black Youth Project 100, an activist member-based organization. “What’s also not new is the consistent lack of investment by the Democratic Party, and progressive and liberal funders.”

Amanda Brown Lierman, the DNC’s political and organizing director, admits that there is work to do on that front. “We have to put a lot of effort into rebuilding that trust,” she tells Bustle. “That is part of our job every single day.”

In the past year, the DNC has worked to redefine its mission to include a focus on down-ballot races. The party boasts its investment in InCharge, a African American women voter mobilization program. And in Alabama, the committee quietly pumped a million dollars into the state, largely focused on reaching black, faith, and youth voters.

But Carruthers argues that for lasting change to occur, money must continue to flow to African American women-led efforts with “locally sourced agendas – transforming criminal justice, the economy, and the way the health care system operates.”

Byrd echoes that sentiment. “African Americans deserve an independent political home,” she tells Bustle. “We deserve to write the strategy. We deserve to decide how our money is spent. We deserve leaders who know what it’s like to walk around as an African American.”

*Originally published on Bustle.

Why The Electoral College Is The Absolute Worst

1) What is the Electoral College, and how does it work?

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The presidential election is generally portrayed as a battle to win states and their accompanying electoral votes. Hillary Clinton won Vermont, so she got its three electoral votes. Donald Trump won Alaska, so he got its three electoral votes. Whoever gets to 270 or more electoral votes first — a majority of the 538 total — wins the election.

So rather simply trying to win the most actual votes in the country, a presidential campaign must try to put together a map of state victories that will amass more than 270 electoral votes. That’s the simplified version.

What’s happening under the hood, though, is more complicated. When people go to the polls to vote for a presidential candidate on Tuesday, what they are actually doing is voting for each party’s nominated slate of electors in their respective states (or, in the case of Maine and Nebraska, in congressional districts too).

So when Donald Trump won the state of Alaska, the practical effect was that the Republican Party’s nominated elector slate there — former Gov. Sean Parnell, Jacqueline Tupou, and Carolyn Leman — officially became Alaska’s three electors.

This process repeated itself across the country, resulting in the selection of the Electoral College — the 538 electors who will cast their votes for president in their respective states on December 19. (In the modern era, this ceremonial occasion has been a formality that reiterates an outcome known well in advance.)

2) But the outcome of the presidential election is really just settled in a few swing states, right?

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The Democratic and Republican parties have each developed solid bases in a series of states that are all but certain to vote for them in a presidential year. But the Electoral College winner will be determined by those few swing states that are more divided politically and look like they could go either way. This year, only the states in gray above were decided by a margin of less than 9 percentage points, as of Wednesday afternoon.

The swing states’ dominance is a consequence of the fact that almost every state chooses to allot all its electoral votes to whoever comes in first place statewide, regardless of his or her margin of victory.

That is, it doesn’t matter whether Clinton wins New York by a 30 percent margin or a 10 percent margin, since she’ll get the same amount of electoral votes either way. But the difference between winning Florida by 0.1 percent and losing it by 0.1 percent is crucial, since 29 electoral votes could flip.

Naturally, then, when the general election comes around, candidates ignore every noncompetitive state — meaning the vast majority of the country — and pour their resources into the few that tend to swing back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. That’s the best strategy for reaching that magic number, 270.

3) That seems unfair.

Well, there’s a lot that’s unfair — or at the very least undemocratic — about the Electoral College.

For one, the winner of the nationwide popular vote can lose the presidency. In 2000, Al Gore won half a million more votes than George W. Bush nationwide, but Bush won the presidency after he was declared the winner in Florida by a mere 537 votes. And that wasn’t the first time — electoral college/popular vote splits happened in 1876 and 1888 too, and, as mentioned, will perhaps occur in 2016 too.

Second, there’s swing state privilege. Millions of votes in safe states end up being “wasted,” at least in terms of the presidential race, because it makes no difference whether Clinton wins California by 4 million votes, 400,000 votes, or 40 votes — in any scenario, she gets its 55 electors. Meanwhile, states like Florida and Ohio get the power to tip the outcome just because they happen to be closely divided politically.

Third, a small state bias is also built in, since every state is guaranteed at least three electors (the combination of their representation in the House and Senate). The way this shakes out in the math, the 4 percent of the country’s population in the smallest states end up being allotted 8 percent of Electoral College votes.

And fourth, there’s the possibility for those electors themselves to hijack the outcome.

4) Wait, the electors can hijack the outcome of the presidential election? What?

For decades, it’s been assumed that the 538 electors will essentially rubber-stamp the outcome in their respective states, and they mostly have. But there’s scarily little assurance that they’ll actually do so.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 30 of the 50 states have passed laws “binding” their electors to vote in accordance with the presidential popular vote in their state. But in most, the penalty for not doing so is only a fine, and it’s unclear whether stiffer penalties would hold up in court — it’s never been tested, and the Constitution does appear to give the electors the right to make the final call. Furthermore, there are still 20 or so states that haven’t even tried to bind their electors.

This hasn’t mattered much in the past because, almost always, the parties do a good enough job of vetting their respective electoral slates to ensure that they will indeed loyally back their party’s presidential nominee.

But there have been a few rogue, faithless, or just plain incompetent electors over the years — and their votes have all been counted as cast.

  • In 1837, rogue electors from Virginia briefly blocked the seating of the vice president-elect because they were offended that he had a mixed-race common-law wife. (The Senate overrode them.)
  • A Democratic elector from Tennessee cast his ballot for segregationist third-party candidate Strom Thurmond in 1948, and a Republican elector from North Carolina voted for segregationist third-party candidate George Wallace in 1968.
  • In 2000, an elector from Washington, DC, withheld an electoral vote from Al Gore, because she wanted to protest the fact that DC didn’t have representation in Congress.
  • Perhaps most bizarrely of all, in 2004, an elector from Minnesota who was supposed to vote for John Kerry for president instead voted for John Edwards. (It’s believed that this was an accident, but since the votes were cast anonymously, we don’t really know for sure. Great system!)
  • And this year, one Democratic elector candidate from Washington state has repeatedly said that he will “absolutely not” cast his ballot for Hillary Clinton if she wins his state. We’ll see whether he follows through.

Rogue electors have never been numerous enough to actually affect the outcome of a presidential race. But it really doesn’t look like there’s much stopping them should they choose to do so.

Now, some defenders of the system, like Georgetown professor Jason Brennan, take the comforting view that the power of electors to go rogue is a good thing, since they could conceivably save America from a popularly elected majoritarian candidate who could oppress the minority.

But it seems just as likely, if not more likely, that electors could install that candidate with dictatorial tendencies against that popular will. Perhaps some electors are wise sages with better judgment than the American people, but others are likely malign, corrupt, or driven by their own idiosyncratic beliefs. (You’ll notice above that several of those historical rogue electors in history had racist motivations.)

In any case, if we had a process in which the electors were notable citizens who were chosen because they’re supposed to exercise good judgment, maybe Brennan’s defense would make sense. But in the system we have today, the electors are chosen to be rubber stamps. As a result, there’s incredibly little attention paid to who those electors even are outside internal party machinations in each state. Any defection by an elector would, essentially, be a random act that could that could hold our system hostage.

5) Why do we use such a bizarre system anyway?

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The Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Hulton Archive/Getty

The electoral college is, essentially, a vestigial structure — a leftover from a bygone era in which the founding fathers specifically did not want a nationwide vote of the American people to choose their next president.

Instead, the framers gave a small, lucky group of people called the “electors” the power to make that choice. These would be some upstanding citizens chosen by the various states, who would make up their own minds on who should be the president (they’d have to vote on the same day in their respective home states, to make it tougher for them to coordinate with each other).

The Constitution remained silent on just how these elite electors would be chosen, saying only that each state legislature would decide how to appoint them. Initially, some state legislators picked the electors themselves, while other states had some form of statewide vote in which the electors themselves would be candidates.

But over the new nation’s first few decades, two powerful trends in American politics brought attention to the Electoral College system’s shortcomings — the rise of national political parties that would contest presidential elections, and the growing consensus that all white men (not just the elite) should get the right to vote, including for president.

The parties and states responded to these trends by trying to jury-rig the existing system. Political parties began to nominate slates of electors in each state — electors they believed could be counted on to vote for the presidential nominee. Eventually, many states even passed laws requiring electors to vote for their party’s presidential nominee.

Meanwhile, by the 1830s, almost every state had changed its laws so that all electors were chosen winner-take-all through a statewide vote, according to Richard Berg-Andersson. The point of all this was to try to make the presidential election function like ordinary statewide elections for governor or senator, at least within each state.

6) Well, are there arguments for the Electoral College?

It’s tough to argue with a straight face that this bizarre system is inherently better than just a simple vote. After all, why doesn’t any state elect its governor with an “Electoral College” of various counties? Why does pretty much every other country that elects a president use a simple popular vote, or a vote accompanied with a runoff?

Now, you can argue that the Electoral College’s seeming distortions of the popular will aren’t as bad as they seem — for instance, by pointing out that swing states tend to swing along with the nation rather than overriding its will, or that the popular vote winner almost always wins. But of course, that’s not guaranteed to always be the case, and the biggest major exception (the 2000 election) was an incredibly consequential one.

Others try to fearmonger about the prospect of a contested nationwide recount — which, sure, would be ugly, but if you’ll recall, the Florida recount was also extremely ugly. And since there are so many more votes cast nationally, it’s much less likely that the national vote would end up a near tie than that a tipping point’s state vote would end up as a near tie.

Some argue that the Electoral College ensures regional balance, since it’s mathematically impossible for a candidate with overwhelming support from just one region to be elected. But realistically, the country is big and broad enough that this couldn’t happen under a popular vote system either — any regional candidate would need to get some support outside his or her region.

But when we get down to brass tacks, the most serious objections to reforming the Electoral College come from rural and small-state elites who fear that under a national popular vote system, they’d be ignored and elections would be decided by people who live in cities.

Gary Gregg of the University of Louisville wrote in 2012 that eliminating the Electoral College would lead to “dire consequences.” Specifically, he feared that elections would “strongly tilt” in favor of “candidates who can win huge electoral margins in the country’s major metropolitan areas.” He continued:

If the United States does away with the Electoral College, future presidential elections will go to candidates and parties willing to cater to urban voters and skew the nation’s policies toward big-city interests. Small-town issues and rural values will no longer be their concern.

And Pete du Pont, a former governor of Delaware (three electoral votes), has made a similar case, calling proposals for a national popular vote an “urban power grab.”

But a national popular vote system wouldn’t devalue the votes of people who live in rural states and small towns. It would accurately value them by treating them equal to people who live in cities, rather than giving them an extra weighting. Furthermore, small-state interests are built into the Senate’s math (where Delaware absurdly gets as many senators as California), and many House districts are rural. So rural and small-state areas are hardly hurting for national political representation.

Sure, candidates might end up spending less time stumping in the rural areas that currently happen to be lucky enough to fall within the borders of swing states, and more time in urban centers. But is that really a convincing rebuttal to the pretty basic and obvious argument that in the most important electoral choice Americans make, their votes should be treated equally?

7) Is there any hope that the US will ditch the Electoral College someday?

For decades, polls have shown that large majorities of Americans would prefer a popular vote system instead of the Electoral College. For instance, a 2013 Gallup poll showed 63 percent of adults wanted to do away with it, and a mere 29 percent wanted to keep it.

But to ditch the Electoral College entirely, the US would have to pass a constitutional amendment (passed by two-thirds of the House and Senate and approved by 38 states) — or convene a constitutional convention (which has never been done, but would have to be called for by 34 states). Either method is vanishingly unlikely, because each would require many small states to approve a change that would reduce their influence on the presidential outcome.

There is one potential workaround, however: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a clever proposal that uses the Constitution’s ambiguity on electors to its own ends.

A state signing on to the compact agrees that it will pledge all its electors not to its state winner but to the victor in the national popular vote — but only if states controlling 270 or more electoral votes have agreed to do the same. If they do, and everything works as planned, then whoever wins the popular vote will necessarily win the electoral vote too.

It’s a fun proposal that’s already been enacted into law by 10 states (including massive California and New York) and the District of Columbia, which together control 165 electoral votes. But there’s one big obstacle: All of the states that have adopted it are solidly Democratic, with zero being Republican or swing states.

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States that have signed on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. They’re all blue.
Vox

So unless a bunch of swing states decide to reduce their own power, or Republican politicians conclude that a system bringing the power of small and rural states in line with that of big urban centers is a good idea, the compact isn’t going to get the support it needs, as Nate Silver has written. (Furthermore, it wouldn’t solve the rogue elector problem.)

As messed up as the Electoral College is, then, we’re likely stuck with it for some time. Your safe state vote might be wasted, or it might even be subverted by rogue electors.

But at least you’ll get to draw fun maps.

 

*Originally published on Vox.

Melania Is No Michelle

We’ve all heard by now that Melania Trump has plagiarized portions of First Lady Michelle Obama speech at the Republican National Convention. While they say that “imitation is the best form of flattery”, the Trumps have never been known to flatter anyone but themselves.

Let’s face it – Melania Trump is no Michelle Obama.  While she’s only been a U.S. citizen for 10 years, Melania’s accomplishments are far from Mrs. Obama’s. And even though we shouldn’t vote for President based on who they are married to, it’s still important to know who their spouse is.

With that said, here are the biggest differences between the two women –

Education

Michelle: Mrs. Obama is highly educated. With a degree from Princeton & a law degree from Harvard, she is 1 of 3 First Lady’s with an advanced degree and the ONLY one to have 2 degrees from Ivy League universities.

Melania: It is has been reported that Mrs. Trump attended the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, but has no degree. While that may have been fine 40 or 50 years ago, she would be the only First Lady in modern times without a college education.

Career               

Michelle: Mrs. Obama has served in both the private & public sector, making over $300,000 during the height of her career. She was an attorney, an executive administrator and even a community-outreach worker. Coming from humble she has certainly made a name for herself as the 44th First Lady.

Melania: According to her website, Mrs. Trump has appeared in high profile ad campaigns and has worked with some of the top photographers in the fashion industry. She has her own jewelry line & skin care collection which debuted on QVC. Suffice it to say, her claim to fame has been her looks, not her academics.                                                                       

Personal life

Michelle: It’s no secret that Mrs. Obama has done a lot to advance good health & proper nutrition across America with her “Let’s Move” campaign. Not only is Mrs. Obama a mother of two, she was into community work long before she became First Lady. As early as in the nineties, Mrs. Obama worked to create her employer’s first community-service program.

Melania: Melania (Knauss) came to the United States in 1996 to pursue her modeling career, meeting Donald Trump in 1998. They married in 2001 but she did not become a citizen until 2006. Mrs. Trump has been active in the charity circuit, but not since the birth of her only child. Prior to that she was honored by the American Red Cross, and has served as honorary Chairwoman for The Boy’s Club of New York. It doesn’t seem that Mrs. Trump has any 1 “favorite” charity so perhaps making appearances with her husband is among her favorite things to do.
What do you think? Is Melania as qualified to be the next First Lady of the United States?

MM