Tag Archives: U.S. History

Farewell!

Now that we’ve learned President-elect Donald Trump worked with the Russians for FIVE years, that he used them to make a mockery of our democracy, that they used him to make a mockery of our democracy and deemed him highly “bribable,” our departing President Obama seems even more dignified, modest, sensitive, inspiring and visionary. When we see what’s down our American road, paved with Trumpian vulgarity, gold, sexual assault, KGB-leaders, excess, lies and – let’s be honest – utter disregard for each and every American (especially the working class that got him elected), Barack Obama looks like St. Barack!

President Obama, the world is surely, sorely, going to miss you when you step off the stage!

January 20 it’ll be Trump.

God save America!

– Rosalie Tirella

Going back to Electoral College

slave-owners1
photo submitted

By Gordon Davis

For the second time in 16 years there’s been a US Presidential Election during which the candidate with the most popular votes did not get the most Electoral College votes.

Now there are calls for eradicating the Electoral College. Its abolition is almost impossible, and it will have to wait for a new generation of voters. People working on its abolition are probably wasting their energies.

There is a Gordian Knot entanglement between states and the Electoral
College. The Electoral College was created to protect small states. There is no workable definition of a state, except that a state is what the Congress defines it to be. As a result, we have a hodgepodge of political entities such as Alaska and Rhode Island which are states. Other political entities such as the District of Columbia are not states, despite demands from some folks to grant Washington, D.C., statehood.

At first the Electoral College protected the states with small populations from being dominated by the states with large populations. Of course, this creates inequalities. For example, the smallest state in terms of population is Wyoming with about 550,000 residents. Wyoming has 3 votes (electors) in the Electoral College. Montana also has 3 electors but almost twice the number of residents. This proportional inequality is magnified when Wyoming is compared to larger states like California.

The supporters of the Electoral College will sometimes argue that the Electoral College prevents national voter recounts. The recounts would be limited to individual states. An example of this is the Florida recount of 2000.

Even then in 2000 the Electoral College did not prevent a Constitutional crisis. The Supreme Court ruling has not resolved that issue. For that reason Jill Stein of the Green Party sought recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

An old friend once told me: the real motivation for American politics is race and class. So it is with the Electoral College. Originally, the proposal was for the President of the United States to be elected by Congress. There was no popular election. Many thought that men without means could not elect a qualified president. Those who argued for a popular election by the people had to settle for the election by the states via Electors, who then elected the President in a process described in Article II of the Constitution. Unfairly, women did not get the franchise until the 1920s. Also, no enslaved person could vote. (This disfranchisement of Black people continues today in the form of not giving ex-felons the franchise and by voter suppression.)

All of the antebellum slave states supported the Electoral College, as the enslaved people were not counted as people in the Federal Census. My ancestors were counted as chattel. This meant that all of the slave states had very few residents. Men in the slave-owning plantation class were relatively few in number.

Faced with the loss of political power, all of the slave states took their horrible irrationality and crimes a step further. They argued that enslaved people were not people when in their respective states but should be counted as people in the Federal Census.

Of course, the Free Soil states pushed back and said “No.” From that dispute arose the so called compromise that an enslaved person would be counted as 3/5 of a person in the Federal Census. The abolition of slavery by the 13th Amendment put an end to that particular issue for the Electoral College.

Since the Civil War, the Electoral College has been a refuge for smaller, mostly rural states like Wyoming. The United States, like the rest of the world, is moving to a population shift – 80 percent of the world population will soon be living in cities.

The material conditions are changing such that not only the Electoral College, but its small-state protectors, are becoming obsolete and something of an anachronism. A reasonable person could wonder about the usefulness of the Electoral College and then wonder about the usefulness of small states like Wyoming, Montana, Vermont – and even Massachusetts!

In A.I: InCity Times book review by Steve Maher

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America, land of the whacky

“Killing Reagan” a controversial look at 40th President

By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

Ronald Reagan remains a great hero to many Republicans. One understands, after reading this “killing” book by Fox talk show host Bill O’Reilly, why this account of the 1981 assassination attempt by John W. Hinckley Jr. is so controversial among Reagan admirers.

The Ronald Reagan this books portrays was not the genial “family values” conservative Republicans like to nostalgically recall, but a prolific womanizer before and after his marriage to Nancy Davis. The book also asserts that Reagan spent much of his Presidency in pajamas watching TV reruns, and details concerns among his Presidential staff that Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s the last several years of his Presidency. After Reagan left the White House, he got $2 million from a Japanese company for giving a lecture, a la the Clintons. No wonder Reagan partisans are angry with this book.

Very readable

The first adjective that comes to mind in describing this text is “readable.” Like O’Reilly’s other books, such as “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Jesus,” the chapters are short, pithy and written in plain but concise English. While supposedly a look at the 1981 assassination attempt, this is in fact an episodic recounting of Reagan’s life. The tale jumps from one part of Reagan’s life to another, but it all seems to flow comfortably. Footnotes are used frequently but effectively. Liberal or conservative, if you’re a political junkie or history buff, this 289-page book can be absorbed in one weekend day.

As a literary device, “Killing Reagan” jumps back and forth from Reagan to the would-be Presidential assassin. The story tracks both individuals through their lives, up to the point where they disastrously intersect on March 30, 1981, when Hinckley shoots Reagan and wounds several others.

Jodie Foster

Hinckley’s motive for shooting the President sounds bizarre even today – to impress actress Jodie Foster. Hinckley had seen the movie “Taxi Driver,” where Foster played a twelve-year-old prostitute who comes to know deranged taxi driver Travis Bickle, played by Robert DeNiro. Bickle tries to assassinate a Presidential candidate to impress a woman, but is prevented from doing so by the secret service. The movie ends with Bickle rescuing Foster from her pimp, shooting the procurer to death in a dramatic finale.

Hinckley was a loner most of his life. “He has some form of schizophrenia, a mental disorder that causes the mind to distort reality,” says O’Reilly. Hinckley drops out of college, traveling from city to city following Foster, calling her up to ask Foster out on dates, proposing to Foster at one point. Foster rebuffs Hinckley. He then decides to assassinate some political figure to impress her, like the Bickle figure in Taxi Driver.

Carter and Kennedy

Hinckley’s first choice is President Jimmy Carter.

“Losing the election may have saved Carter’s life,” writes O’Reilly. “[Hinckley] will either take the train to New Haven and shoot himself dead in front of Jodie Foster, or he will murder Ted Kennedy, if only to add his name to the notorious list of assassins who have stalked and killed a member of that political dynasty. If that target is not available, he might enter the U.S. Senate chamber and try to kill as many lawmakers as possible. And there is another scenario in Hinckley’s mind: assassinating President Ronald Reagan.”

Hinckley read in the Washington Star that Reagan will be at the Washington Hilton and goes to the hotel. When Reagan emerges, Hinckley is able to pierce the protective cordon around Reagan and wound the President because of two happenstances. First, Reagan would normally be wearing a bullet proof vest, which he was not asked to do on this occasion because his exposure to the public was limited to walking to the Presidential limousine from the hotel exit. It was during this exit that Hinckley put one bullet into Reagan’s torso. Second, two DC policemen acting as Presidential bodyguards were not trained by the secret service to watch the crowds at such events. They were watching Reagan and not the crowd when Hinckley shot Reagan. The point is made that had the two men been trained properly, they would have intercepted Hinckley before he shot Reagan.

Particularly disturbing was O’Reilly’s depiction of Hinckley’s jailhouse communications with serial killer Ted Bundy and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. Hinckley reportedly tried to get mass murderer Charles Manson’s mailing address from Fromme. This was all kept secret from his jailors, as well as the hidden photographs of Jodie Foster in his cell that Hinckley was ordered by the court not to have.

Aftermath

The aftermath of the assassination has become the focal point of some discussion among Presidential historians and Reagan biographers. Reagan apparently developed a messianic belief that he was saved by God because he had a special destiny as President. O’Reilly writes Reagan went back to his church after recovering, and become reliant on his wife Nancy for political as well as personal advice.

O’Reilly’s book is a good starting point for anyone looking to experience the life and times of America’s 40th President.