BY VERN TURNER
What mistakes or accumulation of mistakes has brought us to this place of national and social rancor that conjures up headlines from the 1850s? The voices of discontent no longer have anything to do with improving our social situation, creating jobs for working classes or even agreeing on how to honor those who defend us against tyranny. Today’s voices – at least those broadcast by the media – seem to be all about which group is being unfairly treated, chest-thumping rallies and demonstrations about why certain groups are so much better than others or exhibiting hateful symbolism and verbiage just for the sake of displaying their own stupidity.
As is my wont, I try to look into history for the “string of pearls” that leads to the last pearl on the string. Today, I am trying to decide from what wellspring of misery did today’s current social malaise evolve. My basic answer is the founding fathers allowing slavery to be part of our original Constitution. That cave-in to the economic pressures of the soon-to-be slave states was our original sin and our first display of moral cowardice against the gods of money and economics.
Additionally, I’ve previously written about how the specific language of the Second Amendment was tailored to encourage the Southern states to sign that Constitution, thus making them states. We’ve all seen how those “compromises” have turned out as they haunt us still.
It must be clear to anyone breathing in this country that the latent race identity and violent gun culture has been with us all along. The election of Barack Obama peeled off the scabs of racist passivity and brought forth the screaming demons of hate and prejudice the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.
Now, with the most egregious enabler of hate, prejudice, fear and ignorance this nation has ever produced in politics, filling every news outlet, the institutionalized haters have a hero they can cling to. The current U.S. president lives off of these people. They are the ones who voted for him; 62 million of these uninformed, unsophisticated and single-issue voters who thought that nothing bad could happen by embracing incivility, bullying, sexism, racism and demagoguery. So, where is the mistake?
Maybe it’s the Electoral College which our founding fathers also included in the original Constitution. Slavery amendments “fixed” the original sin, but the Electoral College still exists. That said, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than three million votes. But the electoral college awarded the office of president to her minority opponent.
his happened in 2000, too, when votes were not counted and the Supreme Court awarded George W. Bush Florida’s electoral votes even though he lost the popular vote by at least 500,000 votes. Bush not only became one of the most unpopular presidents in our history, but also nearly cratered the international economy.
The Electoral College’s intent was to prevent the election of a tyrant or a madman by “accident.” The electors were supposed to vote their conscience. No longer. It’s a rubber stamp, and two of the last three presidential elections have given the country two minority presidents, two illegal wars, a massive economic disaster where $35 trillion of global wealth vanished almost overnight, tax giveaways to billionaires … and now a loudmouthed hate monger who is trying to bully his way across the globe including an equally deranged national leader who has nuclear weapons and no seeming compunction not to use them.
Add in the Russian connection between the current president and the hacking of voting centers across the country by the Russians and you have an international incident that would bring tears to the eyes of the great spy authors. I think the intent of the Electoral College has failed badly in the 21st Century.
Our biggest mistakes may be categorized as long- and short-term, with the former creating the latter. Allowing slavery, with all its social implications for the sake of money and wealth of a very few, is the epitome of capitalism devoid of regulation.
This eco-social mindset became institutionalized to the point where the justification and rationalization of the fundamentally immoral institution of slavery created the ingrained dismissal of black people, by white people, as inferior beings. This mindset became the accepted cultural norm of the slave states.
That cultural imperative is still with us today as we’ve seen from incidents across the country, and from the verbiage from officers of the current executive administration. The outrageous hate against black people by so many white people today has been passed down through the generations from the beginning of slave-driven economics on this continent.
Clearly, the Electoral College has failed to safeguard the country against the election of very poor candidates for the office of president. The 2016 election was perhaps the lowest point in our electoral history, allowing a spectacularly unqualified man to become our chief representative to the world.
The Electoral College, in concert with profound voter apathy and ignorance, allowed an unapologetic misogynist, liar, bully and fraudulent businessman to become president.
This current, short-term mistake [obvious to all but the true believers] may be our undoing as a democracy. This administration is voicing over- and undertones of fascism, race-baiting and ethnic bias in shameful and childish forms that the world has never seen from the United States.
Perhaps the conclusion of this essay can offer that both the allowance of slavery and the invention of the peculiar Electoral College [our founders were still terrified of allowing a monarchy form of government in 1789] are our biggest mistakes as a country. We’ve tried hard to fix the race part, but we have ignored the Electoral College’s vulnerability to political change over time.
Are we failing to heal racial divides, or is this time of Trump just an aberration? Is it just the publicity the 30% of us in a rage is receiving overwhelming what passes for normal life?
One thing is clear. We cannot afford to stay home from the voting booth for any election at any level. By not informing ourselves of the candidates and the issues, we allow our mistakes to multiply and become a distortion of our national existence.
The emergence of Donald Trump as our president should be lesson enough for rational, caring, patriotic Americans to do the right thing while working to fix our mistakes and make the country a better place for everyone.
If you don’t vote, you are guilty of abetting the perpetuation of our mistakes. Is that the legacy you want to leave your children?
– Vern Turner lives in Denver and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.