Getting All Jiggy with the Powers That Be
Do you have a hankering to block an international bridge with your semi or your Prius? Perhaps a craving to break into our nation’s capital to bear-spray law enforcement officers? Or maybe your thing is sucker punching a school board member, as a man did last year in Glastonbury.
OK, you’ve made your point: you want to get involved, and you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore.
But, my fellow Americans, I submit to you that there are other options that don’t involve hurting innocent people —or jail time.
You may think that America is hopelessly divided, that members of the two political parties in Washington view one another as the devil’s spawn, that bipartisanship is 100 percent deader than a doornail.
Well, guess what? You’re wrong. Democrats and Republicans do, on occasion, come together and agree on things, even important things.
For example, do you like our National Parks? Most Americans do. Well, the Great American Outdoors Act passed the U.S. Congress in 2020 with substantial bipartisan support, including 81 Republican votes in the House and 28 in the Senate. Then-president Donald Trump signed it. The act provides money for long deferred maintenance of our national parks and makes funding permanent for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was established in 1964 and uses revenue from offshore oil and gas leases. The fund had been raided for other purposes in the past.
The bill passed because it had the support of environmental and conservation groups as well as hunting, fishing and tourist constituencies. Congress heard from individuals and members of those diverse groups —and they listened.
Do you like wildlife? Most Americans do. Well, another major conservation bill, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, is wending its way through the U.S. Congress with bipartisan support. Check it out and let your congressperson know how you feel about it. They do keep track of which issues float their constituents’ boats.
And America’s wildlife needs help. Just one example: a recent study led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology found that North America has lost three billion birds since 1970, or nearly 30 percent of the aggregate population of avian species.
Are you a supporter of the core democratic principle of “one person one vote?” Most of us are. The candidate or party that gets the most votes should win, right? But throughout American history, including quite recently, that hasn’t always been the case. For example, presidential candidates who received fewer votes than their opponents sometimes have triumphed. It happened in 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016.
This is due to the byzantine nature of our Electoral College system, which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the winner of that state, even when the margin is razor thin. Only Maine and Nebraska apportion presidential electors based on the percentage of the vote candidates receive.
The Electoral College also gives more power to some states and their voters than others. For example, ballots in Wyoming carry more weight than they do in California or Connecticut because, in part, every state has two senators that are added to their respective number of presidential electors. Wyoming has three electoral votes: one for its one congressperson and two for its two senators. California with 68 times the population of Wyoming gets only 18 times the number of electors.
You might want to weigh in with your representatives in Washington on the Electoral College, whether you favor changing it or keeping the status quo.
Another bipartisan bill under consideration in Congress addresses the vague and many believe outdated 135-year-old Electoral College Act that led to confusion and conflict after the 2020 election. Some erroneously interpreted the act’s wording as empowering a sitting vice president to overturn the legitimate process of our elected representatives certifying the already verified electoral count that all 50 states had submitted.
However you feel on this issue, contact the people who represent you in Congress and let them know. That’s democracy in action.
Look, I know it’s not as exciting as storming the barricades or blocking traffic or punching people you disagree with, but it has worked fairly well for nearly 250 years.