The Waiting Game

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It
is nearly noon on Wednesday, November 8, and America still waits
for word of who its next president will be. Given the slim lead
– 1784 votes – which Texas governor George W. Bush holds
in Florida, and given the fact that the remaining absentee ballots
are likely to be a) from military personnel and b) for Bush, it
appears that George W. Bush will be moving to the Oval Office.

But
this may not be official until December 18, when the Electoral
College
votes. Even then, some states allow members of the Electoral
College to “vote their conscience,” even if they were themselves
selected as a Republican or a Democratic elector.

A
few thoughts on this waiting game.

First,
it helps to put the imperial presidency in its place. America, it
will turn out, will be able to survive for six weeks or more without
clear knowledge of who will be the next president. Men and women
will go to church, go to work, eat, and procreate, all without knowing
who will occupy the Executive Mansion. State legislatures can convene
and go about the business of the states. In short, life will go
on.

Second,
it may foster discussion of the uniquely American institutions which
have been designed to safeguard freedom, such as the Electoral College.
Now that the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, appears to have won
the popular vote but lost the electoral vote, one can expect howls
from the leftist Coastal Establishments to get rid of the Electoral
College
. As a political science professor from American University
declared on one of the networks last night, “It is time to abolish
this anachronism.”

Rather
than signal that it is time to scrap the Electoral College, this
election may be a good case for keeping it in place. According to
the Washington Post, Al Gore won the popular vote by a tally
of 48,566,617 to 48,332,264, pending the final results from Florida.

Yet
Gore’s many votes came mostly from a few populous states. Gore won
California by a margin of 5,242,816 to 4,052,422. (1.2 million votes).
He won Illinois by 2,551,733 to 1,991,525 (560,208). He won New
York by 3,736,036 to 2,210,142 (1,525,894 votes – larger than his
margin in California), and Pennsylvania by 200,351. In the predominantly
“minority” District of Columbia, where “minorities” make up roughly
80% of the population (shouldn’t that make them a majority?), Gore
took 85% of the vote – clubbing Bush 162,004 to 17,020 (a margin
of 144,984). Finally, Massachusetts favored Gore by 706,390 votes,
Maryland by 322,440, Michigan by 204,855, New Jersey by 480,794
and Connecticut by 237,532.

Gore’s
margin of victory in those 9 states (and the District of Columbia)
is therefore a combined 5,573,842. Again, that is not his popular
vote total for those states, that is the number of votes by which
he beat George Bush. Notice that this number slightly exceeds the
total number of popular votes cast for Gore in California (by 331,026).

Suppose,
for example, that Gore had won every vote cast in California. As
actually happened, he would still get the state’s 54 electoral votes.
But he would also have 4 million more popular votes. Whether Gore
receives 100% or 51% of the popular vote of California, there is
no reason to dismantle the Electoral College. In other words, the
Electoral College serves its purpose when it allows California to
influence the rest of the nation only to the proportional extent
of its representation in Congress – 54 electoral votes. If Gore
had won all 9 million or so popular votes from California, while
the rest of the nation’s votes turned out just as they actually
did, there would be no compelling case that Gore was therefore more
deserving of the Executive Office.

Third,
this election helps to make the case for the disintegration of the
Union which Abraham Lincoln and the Republican party put together
by force of arms. In contrast to the large Democratic margins in
the leftist, Eastern states (and California) mentioned above, Gore
took a beating in the South and West. Mississippi, for example,
went for Bush, 58% to 41%. Wyoming went for Bush 69% to 28%, Idaho
by 68% to 28%. Bush carried his home state of Texas 59% to 38%.
Significantly, among persons identifying themselves as “religious
conservatives,” 78% went for Bush.

To
simply ignore the votes of some Americans in the name of “popular
sovereignty” would be immoral, and brings to mind the pigs’ slogan
from George Orwell’s Animal
Farm
: some animals are more equal than others.

The
cry to abolish the Electoral College is in reality a thinly-veiled
cry to abolish the states. This is because the Electoral College
preserves the role of the citizenry of the states in picking the
president. It should be noted that the cries to abolish the Electoral
College come from the same crowd who cries out to abolish the states:
those who favor a centralized government with fiat power to simply
declare that its will be done.

(Maybe
the Supreme Court will strike down the Electoral College, then,
on the same grounds which it repeatedly uses to strike down term
limits, namely, that the states allegedly cannot set the requirements
for federal office. The case of Maine, which divides its four electoral
votes by giving two to the popular vote winner and one to each Congressional
district, is therefore highly suspect in Supreme Court jurisprudence.
But I digress.)

The
election reveals a case to be made for secession. The
Northern, left-leaning states are populated by persons who favor
centralized power and the nanny state, but disfavor and distrust
individual freedom
. The South and West, in contrast, are peopled
by those who want small government, religious freedom, and strong
property rights. Although I revile Lincoln, he did get one thing
right: a house divided cannot stand. So let’s leave. Despite the
myth that secession is not permitted by the Constitution, the dispute
over Northwest Angle, Minnesota, which sought to join Canada after
being snubbed by Washington, DC in a fishing-rights dispute, provoked
newspaper stories which claimed that secession could be achieved
by the same process used for amending the U.S. Constitution.

Fourth,
the election has been a wonderful history lesson. Presidential historian
Doris Kearns Goodwin – who must go into the category of those
favoring fiat power from DC – stated on NBC last night that
this is the closest race since the 1876 race between Rutherford
B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden – which Hayes won, 185 to 184 electoral
votes. Yet she also stated that the 1876 race was a disaster for
Southern blacks, allegedly because it spelled the end of Reconstruction.
The election of 1876 was decided in the Congress, and Southerners
– who supported Tilden – only acceded to Hayes on the
condition that the federal troops, which had been marauding the
South since 1863, went home.

Contrary
to Goodwin’s assertion, Reconstruction was largely responsible for
the mistreatment of blacks in the South. The Union League, which
not only armed free blacks but encouraged them to acts of violence,
directly lead to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. Southern whites were
wholly disenfranchised for having supported the Confederacy, and
the South was ruled by unscrupulous (to put it mildly) profiteers
from the North. Southern women sold themselves in prostitution in
order to feed their families. The scars of Reconstruction linger
to this day. Obscenely, Illinois forbade free blacks from entering
the state, and the Northern states continued to prohibit blacks
from owning property.

Sadly,
while many may study the 1876 election, it is unlikely that the
Northern myths regarding Reconstruction and the South will be dispelled
any time soon. But the more that people study the past, the more
likely they are to cease believing in fairy tales. Although I am
descended from a member of the 83rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers – the brigade led by Col. Strong Vincent, which held Little Round
Top at Gettysburg – it was precisely this family history which led
me to sympathy for the cause of Southern independence. I studied
Gettysburg, and wondered why the Rebels fought. After six years
of extensive reading, their reason is clear to me: they wanted their
independence from Washington, DC.

Maybe
such an historically close election is worth waiting a month to
decide. Time will tell.

November
9, 2000

Mr.
Dieteman is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate
in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

©
2000 David Dieteman

David
Dieteman Archives

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