Vail Daily column: Did our educators do their jobs?
When President-Elect Donald J. Trump became the fifth person in American history to win the presidency while losing the popular vote, America’s educators were given a golden opportunity teach our young people an invaluable lesson in American history.
But instead of using the election as a real-life civics lesson and explaining the electoral system, how Electoral College works and why it exists, far too many schools and educators thought it better to create “safe rooms” where young people could grieve over the results before allowing them to walk out of class in protest without consequence.
I don’t know what was said or not said in Eagle County’s classrooms. But I have grandkids, and I’m very concerned about what they’re being taught and the examples that are being set for them.
It’s my sincere hope that Eagle County’s civics, social studies and history teachers used this election to illustrate how the republic is in the process of executing the peaceful transfer of power in accordance with a Constitutionally mandated mechanism — the Electoral College. A mechanism created to ensure the fair representation of all 50 states.
A recent U.S. News & World Report article opined, “Our schools do such a miserable job of imparting U.S. history and civics to their pupils that it’s important to exploit every ‘teachable moment,’ and this was a vivid one. We fear that it’s been largely wasted or used instead for propagandizing.”
Since the election I have had the good fortune to speak with a dozen or so young people. And what I found most interesting was that not a single one of them mentioned the Electoral College.
Rather than questions about our system, I listened as kids parroted the concerns of teachers and parents, which almost exclusively viewed the results of the election through the prism of racism and xenophobia. One young person actually asked me, “After Trump deports all the Mexicans and Muslims do you think he’ll come for the Jews?” Whomever delivers this type appalling misinformation to the impressionable minds of 10-, 11- and 12-year olds should be ashamed of themselves.
Unlike the whining left, the founders knew that within the structure of government it was critical that the lesser-populated states needed a mechanism to prevent them from being overpowered by states with larger populations.
And in their wisdom the founders also understood that it was essential the winning candidate demonstrate both sufficient popular support and sufficient distribution of that support to be elected president.
Our republic stretches across six time zones, which means that concerns of voters in Florida (say, hurricane disaster relief measures) would be of little consequence to voters, say in Alaska.
And without the Electoral College system, presidential candidates could focus on winning the big states, i.e. Florida, New York, California, etc., and never even bother to campaign in “little” states such as Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming, whose interests and concerns must also be considered.
And because the electoral system is state-by-state winner-take-all except in Maine and Nebraska (which allocate two electoral votes to the candidate who wins that state’s popular vote and one electoral vote to the winner in each of those state’s congressional districts) presidential candidates have a strong incentive to appeal to the voters in every state.
Another often-overlooked fact is that the electoral system enhances the status of minorities and specific interest groups such as teacher’s unions, ranchers, environmentalists, etc.
To wit: in closely contested elections (which most are in the 21st century) with razor thin margins being the difference between winning and losing a state, the loss of even a small special interest group, say ranchers in Florida or school teachers in Wisconsin, who may comprise only a minute percentage of the state’s population, could be the difference between the candidate winning all or none of that state’s electoral votes — giving presidential candidates one more incentive to campaign in all 50 states.
Nonetheless, the losers will continue to bang the drum about doing away with the electoral system — but their efforts are doomed to fail because Republicans control both houses of Congress and any proposed legislation will almost certainly be blocked. But even in the unlikely event the measure gained support in Congress, its supporters would still face the daunting task of amending the Constitution, which requires ratification by three-fourths of the states, which raises even more questions.
Thirty-eight states are required to amend he Constitution, so allow me to ask rhetorically, what are the odds that such legislation would make it through the ratification process when the standard bearer of the Democratic Party carried 19 of 50 states? And how would the “elimination advocates” convince the voters of 19 smaller states to go along? It’s difficult to imagine the “smaller states” agreeing.
So to the teachers who used the election as a teachable moment, I say God bless you! And to the whiners who claim the electoral system isn’t fair I say: If you want to change the Constitution, then get enough votes.
Quote of the day: “Democracy must be more than two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.” — Unknown
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.