Preparation: a marriage of chaos and bullet points

To build off of my last post, I wanted to show a little glimpse into the preparation I went  through in order to create my 30-45 minute webinar.

Timeline :

Late January: topic proposal for campus workshop
Early February: rough outline (topics covered, length, etc)
Late February: workshop proposal expands into university-wide webinar
Early March: outline & presentation rough draft
Mid-March (NOW! [crap]): Revise presentation slides & flesh out talking points, examples.

(nope. no specific dates here. mainly because everything’s been a blur)
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The Process:

  1. Find your objective:
    1. To provide the knowledge and resources necessary to aid in discerning between biased, fake, and true news sources.
  2. Gather resources:
    1. References
    2. Digital-News-Report-2016
    3. critical_thinking_sheet
    4. how-to-spot-fake-news
  3. Create your outline:
    1. Outline
  4. Fill your presentation (thanks Prezi!)
  5. Revise outline into talking points
    1. OutlineTalkingPoints
  6. Revise presentation to more accurately reflect and show talking points
    1. Insert specific examples
    2. Verify facts & sources
    3. Make sure slides are devoid of spelling, grammar, and factual errors
  7. Check media & links 
  8. Practice!Practice!Practice!Practice!Practice!Practice!Practice!Practice!Practice!
  9. Have I mentioned practice? 
  10. Present

Phew. I’ve missed projects. I’ve missed researching, but PHEW. Anyone have chocolate & a a secluded napping spot?

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‘Political Activist’ v ‘Librarian’

Saying that the United States today is a politically charged climate would be an understatement to some. As librarians, it is our job to prepare our patrons, whether they are students, the public, or a bit of both, with the proper knowledge and research tools they need to continue in society and succeed. Libraries and politics are part of the same world. Libraries exist in an other space: they’re part of the politics that have direct influence over budget, free speech, access, and funding, they directly impact the educational realm while often times not being a full part of it.

Many times, when educating those we serve, librarians must perform a very delicate tap dance along politically volatile subjects. One of my current projects is putting together a webinar on fake news: a popular subject, to be sure. One of the most important things we need to remember is this:
Never shy away from the truth. Librarians are not given the “luxury” of being able to avoid it. When we are asked questions, we give answers, whether it’s what our customer wants to hear or not.
Facts are more important than feelings.
The truth is more important that being inoffensive.

Libraries have never been neutral space, and librarianship will never truly be neutral. Librarians exist to provide facts to everyone- equal access regardless your walk of life.

Statistics  indicate that 78% of Hispanics, 72% of women, 70% of parents of minors, and 70% of those 50 or older say that closure of the public library would have a major impact on their community.

Only 39% of adults feel very confident in their ability to identify fake news.
Less than 20% of high school students are able to identify fake news.

Libraries have been consistently at the head of the curve when it comes to taking advantage of and integrating new technology into the public.

Librarians have been on the front line combating government surveillance (looking at you, NSA) since the ’30s.
Before Snowden, librarians were the protectors of patrons’ privacy.
The ALA- American Library Association– has listed ‘privacy’ among its top concerns since the organization’s foundation.
Librarians have, quite literally, taken the government to court over surveillance habits, the Patriot Act, and more.

Libraries are one of the most powerful political powers in the modern world. They and their librarians hold the keys to information to the masses. They promote literacy and education, marching along side parents, teachers, and principals. They fight for inclusiveness and equality, because knowledge should never be censored or forbidden. They provide safe havens for those who need it, and shelter for those who have none.

Librarians have always been political.

LAFE_EPIC

Forgotten Ghosts, Abrupt Memories

Yesterday, The Pitch released an article that discussed the voucher system both DeVoss (current sham of a Secretary of Education) and Greitens (current MO governor) want you to believe actually works, when in reality, it’s been shown that it hinders: the less than average education and testing abilities of students who had used a voucher system to attend a private school, for one thing. However, it mainly focused on the dark side of public money funding private, religious schools: the emotional, mental, and often times physical abuse students are subjected to under the protective, blindly-tolerant umbrella of fundamental Christianity. Specifically, the article tears apart the carefully created, but easily destroyed image of Tri-City Baptist Church & Christian School: a monster of a church that squatted on a hilltop, cold and foreboding in the middle of Independence, Missouri.

As I began to read the article, I was not prepared for the torrential downpour, the flood of emotions that surged through my body. Memories that had been buried for 15 years came bubbling back to the surface, their slime oozing out across the waters til I was overwhelmed with it all. There was a reason I had purposely forgotten, left behind those memories I experienced, or heard about from friends and their  older siblings, or alumni of the school that I reconnected with in later years. After sharing the article on facebook, I wrote that there were far too many thoughts and emotions to include in an article comment. However, I couldn’t leave them festering in my mind.

  • I remember the prayer chapel after hearing about the 2000 shooting.
    I remember how, instead of sadness and remorse, and prayers for the husband and father left behind, everything was focused on the daughter- the adult woman who chose to leave- and how selfish and sinful her choice was, driving her mother to commit murder. I remember people lamenting that the daughter’s rebelliousness had caused her mother to take her eyes off of God. (No. The mother’s eyes were so full of self-righteous religion-based hate, that all she saw was God, and THAT is what drove her to murder.)
  • John Logan was a father of a classmate.
    I remember the church essentially forcing those he abused to identify themselves and come forward. I remember it being used as a publicity stunt for a new young boys’ program.
  • Dwight Free was the husband of the BEST teacher I ever had in my life.
    I remember the church and the pastor blaming his $1.5 million embezzlement for the $15 million in debt. (yes, he committed a crime, but being crucified as a scapegoat is prideful, selfish, and unnecessary)
  • Ed Greene would have been my youth pastor if my family hadn’t moved from Tri-City to New Hope in summer of 2002.
  • Mark Greenway was fairly prominent in my childhood- one of my father’s friends & (former) business partners, and the cause of ruined credit, financial stress and the almost bankruptcy of my family.
  • Mark Herbster was, and still is a misogynistic narcissist who used his position to better his personal finances, leach funds out of the congregation under the guise of “donating to his family doing the Lord’s will.”

I grew up in the church and school, which I attended from preschool to the end of my 8th grade year. Upon being dismissed from the final family chapel/graduation service & awards ceremony, I turned to my mom and said “Alright, I’m done. I’m sick of these people. Homeschool me.” The quote “The school operated on a caste system, which placed students whose families attended Tri-City Baptist Church on a higher rung… Tri-City would cover up the sins of families, and the families would cover up for Tri-City.” is insanely accurate.

The only reason my family was accepted the way we were: what was seen as a ‘lax’ attitude towards parenting/enforcing the ridiculous school rules, our open-minded & accepting view of Christianity, our blatantly pro-equality & feminism stance (which had been instilled in me and my sister by my mother, my aunts, my grandfather), was because the church thought we were rich. My mom remembers the underlying tension well. “The only reason we were accepted the way we were into that community was because we had a big house, people thought we were rich, and we sent all of our daughters to the school.” We- my sisters and I- were blessed with what God gave us. We would make perfect wives and mothers. We were the ideal breeding mares.
If my family had not grown up in the church (I was the first baby born to the church when they moved from Truman to their massive, white building that’s now iconic), I would have been on much rockier ground than I had been during my years at the school.

  • I read books that weren’t approved. I read more than a girl should.
  • I loved school & getting an education. I was better at it than most of the aspiring preacher-boys in class.
  • I didn’t want to ever go to a Christian college.
  • I wasn’t ever going to be a stay at home mother. I was going to have a career.
  • I loved “boy things” – sports, pants, being loud & rambunctious, fixing things, being outdoors. I was the opposite of their ideal quiet, compliant, submissive girl.

The school, and church, while as organizations didn’t publicly promote conversion therapy, it was something that was talked about in positive and glowing terms regularly – by teachers, deacons, parents, and staff.
The church turned a blind eye to congregation members who left- either the church, or the faith entirely, by claiming that their Calvinistic worldview showed ‘they weren’t predestined.’
From a friend who experienced this first hand: the administrative and pastoral staff hid their racist, pro-segregation, sexist mindset behind the guise of Christianity- forever blaming the bus ministry and those who utilized it for issues in classrooms, programs, etc. The youths who depended on the bus ministry, (who were mostly minorities and non-white) or “bus kids” as the church congregation called them, were kept in a teaching program separate from the “church kids” – those whose families were church members (roughly 95% of the congregation members were white). Supposedly, because the church kids were too knowledgeable of the teachings being given in the bus ministry, they were given their own separate program. However, over the years, busses kept being sold, funding was cut, time was stripped away, and eventually, the church completely shutting down the entire bus outreach branch of the ministry.

There was a cast-iron mold that each individual was supposed to fit into, and if you failed, you were failing as a Christian.

I remember the rampant bullying done by classmates and others, including the teachers. I remember being one of only a few voices that consistently stood up to oppose the verbal abuse. Mental illness and disorders: ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc., were seen as fixable issues between the individual and God. There was a tangible fear between students and teachers, because reaching out for help was a sign that your faith was weak, and you were failing as a Christian.

Body-shaming drove many of my classmates, schoolmates, and even myself and my sister to eating disorders and self harm. As women, working out was proud & selfish. You were drawing attention to your body that should only be shown to your husband (after you were married). However, you were supposed to stay thin and attractive for your future husband, which meant many girls turned to uninformed dieting, bulimia, or anorexia.

Abuse was swept under the rug in the name of Christian punishment. Spousal abuse was supposed to be tolerated, because divorce was seen as a worse sin. Divorce was a selfish decision to tear apart “what God had brought together.” Truly healthy, equal relationships were seen as strange and abnormal. The husband was the true leader of the household. He was in charge spiritually, physically, and in every other aspect. The wife’s job was to preside over the household & the children. It was the natural order of things.
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Humility was so honored and revered, it turned to pride. Self-advertisement for Christ was merely a thinly veiled way to prove, flaunt, how wonderfully Christ-like you were. Bible studies, youth group activities, boasting self-depreciating “confessions” in a class or a program, volunteering and being involved as much as you could, were all ways to wordlessly (or not-so-wordlessly) shout how Christian you were. You could spiritually boast about the gifts God gave you, but only if they were used for the church.

The more you went to church, the more esteemed and respected you were. The more you dedicated yourself to the church, the better you were. Missing a Sunday service was frowned upon-whether you were sick, out of town, or had other obligations. The more you sacrificed, whether it was healthy and wise for you to do so, the more revered you were. If your life didn’t fully revolve around the church as an organization, you were seen as a lesser Christian.

Out of all of this, there were still small, shining patches. In elementary school, I had some of the best, most inspiring & caring teachers of my life.
Mrs. Scroggins, the strongest teacher in that school, was my first grade teacher. She had the perfect balance of no-nonsense and unconditional love for each of her students. It was because of her that my mom was able to remove my younger sister from a mentally and emotionally abusive teacher. (It was also she who headed up said teacher’s firing very soon afterwards.)
Mrs. Free, my second grade teacher, was around through a lot of changes. I got glasses and was worried I would be teased- she came to school the next day wearing her brightly colored specs. I began to play the cello, an all-out weird instrument for a 2nd grader, and was teased because it wasn’t “cool, like a trumpet or a real instrument” – she had me bring in my cello for a special show & tell session. She fostered my love of weird animals like lizards. She LOVED the fact I wanted to work full time when I grew up. She fed my love of reading.

Miss DeShaun, in fourth grade, saw my bookishness and allowed me to take off with it full force. She added fuel to my fire, and inspired to be weird & quirky. She relished my dream of being a pilot like my grandfather, and my idol at the time: Charles Lindbergh.
Miss Swofford, fifth grade, was one of the most understanding, patient people in the world. She encouraged my adoration of costumes, theater, music. She loved that the instrument I chose in band was percussion. She poked and prodded me along when I was starting to feel that being smart wasn’t cool, and showed me how to break away from that fear.
Mrs. Stevenson, six grade, was there when I fully absorbed my bookishness. I began to solidify my path in becoming a librarian, and she was with me every step of the way. She gave me books, guidance, a hug if I needed it. She also made puberty feel not as scary, and in a school where the word “sex” was taboo, and sex education was seen as a way to encourage pre-marital relations, it was a welcome support.

Outside of school, my parents helped build me and my sisters up as independent women. When I was sent home with notes that my books weren’t appropriate for school (Star Wars, Catcher in the Rye, A Wrinkle in Time, were just a few), my mother showed me to switch book covers before heading into school, so an ‘approved’ book was actually an inappropriate one in disguise. She coached me in being respectful in my arguments, and how to stand up for myself and others. My dad gave me confidence in my love of outdoors & sports. Both of them taught us that equality was a right that was given by God, not taken by him, as many of the patriarchal rules and lessons taught.
The experiences, both good and bad, from Tri-City’s cult-like community made me who I am today: a loud, proud, pro-public school, pro-equality feminist, pro-argument woman who has a partner, not a governor, as a future husband.
I met my best friend in the church’s nursery, and was able to grow up beside her every year from preschool to 7th grade.
I got my love of music from their band, orchestra, and percussion ensemble programs.
I got my fierce, unbending feminist streak by being born and forged in the fire of a staunchly anti-feminist society.

My experience ended better than some. After leaving the church and school, I was able to throw myself completely into my studies, a career, extracurricular activities, and hobbies that kept me occupied, traveling, and far too busy to dwell on the emotional abuse I didn’t realize I had been suffering under for half of my lifetime.
I got lucky.
I had parents who were supportive and saw me as an equal. I had friends who kept me grounded outside of the community. I had a grandfather who was stronger, wiser, and more humble than anyone I’ve ever met, and the most kind, accepting Christian man in my life. 
Tri-City’s cult-like beehive of drone-Christians was cultivated, grown, and weeded by spiteful, hateful men who used the name of religion to further their self interests. They hid behind God’s word to spread their un-Christianlike beliefs to their following, un-apologetically leading hundreds to reject the faith entirely, families to dwell and fester in unhealthy and often abusive relationships, and causing almost an entire generation years, decades of pain, self-hate, and abuse. I’m glad their hypocrisy is slowly being stripped away, and I’m glad its survivors, including me, are able to speak. 

 

All Time Low: 45’s approval ratings

Goodbye democracy. Hello idiocracy.
Chaos is the new normal, at least, for the current “administration.”

With approval ratings at 39% according to the latest Pew Research Center poll, 35 is currently nearing one of the lowest approval ratings in history. (George W. Bush’s 2nd term average was a tiny 37%, but his two term average was nearer to 60% [Gallup ratings].)

Remember: the American government was set up to work for the people, not the other way around.

Keep shouting.
Keep calling. 
Keep protesting. 
Keep researching, learning, and building your armory
Intelligence is their downfall. A well-read, knowledgeable public is the nightmare of the current administration. They’ve built their image on lies and fear. They thrive in chaos.

Title Author Pub. Date
A Government Ill Executed Paul C Light 2009
The First 90 Days in Government Daly, Watkins, Reavis 2006
Beurocracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why they Do it James Wilson 1989
The Twilight of the Presidency George E Reedy 1970
Sexual Politics Kate Millet 1970
The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley Haley 1987
If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government William Eggers 2009
The Rights of Man Thomas Paine 1791
The Communist Manifesto Karl Marx 1888
Rise & Fall of the Third Reich William Shirer 1960
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Carol Anderson 2016
The Republic Plato 360 BCE
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Adam Smith 1776
On Liberty John Stuart Mill 1859
Principles of Political Economy John Stuart Mill 1848
The Rise of the Counter-Establishment: The Conservative Ascent to Political Power Sidney Blumenthal 2008
The Selling of the President: The Classical Account of the Packaging of a Candidate Joe McGinniss 1988
Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals Saul Alinsky 1989
Strange Death of Republican America Sidney Blumenthal 2008
Restoring the Lost Constitution Randy Barnett 2013
The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli 1532
Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville 1835
Team of Rivals Doris Kearns Goodwin 2006
All the King’s Men Robert Penn Warren 1961
The Federalist Papers Hamilton, Jay, Madison 1788
Common Sense Thomas Paine 1776

Stay organized. Keep resisting.

Arm yourself with words

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door…Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”

~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

History has given us the best resources from the brightest minds, and I’ve begun to collect them, devour them, commit as much of them as I can to memory. I’ll be posting books, lists, collections, as I catalog them, for now, in this spreadsheet. Eventually, the  list will be cataloged and moved to a more permanent location.

The pen has always been mightier than the sword,  but in an age where facts are detested, and lies are abundant, stocking your arsenal with words is the best thing you can do. To begin, look at any of these books:

Title Author Pub. Date
Animal Farm George Orwell 1945
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury 1953
1984 George Orwell 1949
Handmaid’s Tale Margret Atwood 1985
Brave New World Aldous Huxley 1932
A Wrinkle in Time Madeline L’Engle 1962
The Wave Tod Strasser 1981
It Can’t Happen Here Sinclare Lewis 1935
V for Vendetta Alan Moore 1989
The Long Walk Home Stephen King 1979
We Yevgeny Zamyatin 1924
The Circle David Eggers 2013
All the King’s Men Robert Penn Warren 1961
Rest in Power Tracy Martin 2017
On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance Howard Caygill 2013
Fighters in the Shadows Robert Gildea 2015
The Nightingale Kristin Hannah 2015
How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS David France 2016
Hidden Figures Margot Lee Shetterly 2016
Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age Amani Al-Khatahtbeh 2016
Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt Sarah Jaffe 2016
No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality Jordan Flaherty 2016
We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation Jeff Chang 2016

As the rising political generation, we must be calculating and cool. Remember your rage, but do not get consumed by it, and always, always, remember that they find pleasure in watching us burn. Gather yourself, stoke your fire, but be careful. We have to keep a calm, white-hot rage, not feed an inferno. Personal health- mental, emotional, and physical, is paramount in growing the resistance. As I’ve said before, we have three years and 10 months ahead of us. We’re running an iron man.

  • take breaks – netflix, casual reading, go for a run
  • always re-focus & center yourself – do not get caught up in rabbit trails or red herring arguments
  • admit when you’re wrong – it isn’t the end of the world if you misspoke or incorrectly cited, acknowledge it, fix it, and continue.
  • don’t rise to the bait, don’t stoop to their level
  • source your arguments – always make sure that you have citations and sources for points you’re making

Ice

I never have an issue with words. As Glennon Doyle Melton said, “Reading is my inhale, and writing is my exhale.”

However, over the past three weeks I’ve become frozen. My fingers are stiff, stuck to the keys like ice, the words crowded behind them like bodies shoved against locked doors with no way out.
My mind is sluggish, dizzy, unfocused, caught up in the whirlwind of emotions ruling my thoughts.
My body is on edge. While the color of my skin and my orientation grants me privilege to be shielded from much of the hate that has been brought into the light during the past year and a half, I am not blind to overlook the direct change and consequences that have roared into many of my friends’ and loved ones’ lives.

We have slim, weak glimmers of hope about the outcome. We have the mid-term elections. We have the few in Congress who are fighting tooth and nail to uphold the Constitution in the midst of the bought bureaucracy.

But still, we must be ready.

We must be ready to fight for our friends and family. If we have privilege, we must use it to its fullest to protect those that our broken society has marginalized and attempted to silence. The disenfranchised must be heard over us. We have been heard long enough. I have been comfortable in my privileged zone for far too long.

There are so many emotions trying to break free, sort themselves out, but there is not time.
The marathon as begun. The starting shot went off as soon as America swore in its 45th president. Already, our lands, our schools, our liberties, our equalities have been attacked, and we said no. We wrote, we marched, we called, we tweeted, shared, and posted. However, we cannot lose that fire. We cannot hold it so tightly that we get burned, letting it slip through our fingers to get crushed under foot. We have years left.
There is a difference between being angry and staying furious: a flash, an explosion that flings you into movement, or a quiet, seething heat that is stoked daily, kept hot and ready for the journey that lies ahead.

So research, plan, strategize, learn, and stay armed- armed to the teeth with books, statistics, quotes, dates, facts, figures, undeniable proof. Check sources twice, three times, and prepare yourself.
Study history, learn from the past, listen always, and build your arsenal.

Resist.

America was built on the backs of the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, those who were seen as lesser than human all because of their color, nationality, or religion. America was never great. There has been no point in American history where equal rights have been available to all.
Racism, sexism, discrimination, hate-based phobias dominated the platform of the man who took office yesterday. The man who lost the popular vote by a larger margin than any other president in modern history (Hayes in 1876 and Adams in 1824 lost by larger margins). The man who entered the Oval Office with a lower approval rating than any other president in modern history.
His history, his words, his lies normalized Neo-Nazis (1, 2), the KKK. He normalized assault, sexism, toxic masculinity, harassment, homophobia, transphobia, and brought back platforms and ideals that were once banners of war criminals. He promised to strip constitutional rights away from people who only wish for equal rights.
The mission & vision of the Women’s March says it all:

“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.
In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

There are too many issues to be angry about, too many rights in danger of being erased. The march was filled with hundreds of thousands of people marching for different causes, but were unified under one thought: We will not go quietly. We will not lay down and “just accept it.”
We, as a unified front, marched – in spirit or in person – to show that we will fight and protect the rights of those who are less fortunate.
We fight so that future generations don’t have to, so they can experience and know true equality.
We fight and acknowledge that the color of our skin, our occupation, our gender, our sex, determines how we are treated, how we are seen. Immigrants, non-whites, sex workers, LGBTQIA+, those with disabilities, those who are not part of the 1%, almost everyone has something that will be put in jeopardy. And those who are the lucky ones who will not be effected by the policies and laws that will be attempted to get passed, it is our job to stand by those in danger. It is our job to join our voices with theirs, raising the volume and the heat, supporting their marches, their causes, not just when it’s convenient.
We fight because we know that love is stronger than hate.
We fight for our siblings, are parents, our children, our neighbors, the strangers we’ve never met.
We fight because we love our country and our world.
When the president blatantly is ignorant of the unalienable rights this country is founded upon, we will fight and stand tall, speak loud, and protect those that are in danger.
Theodore Roosevelt, in a 1918 wartime essay said:

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

American Politics: Rooted in the Past with no Regards for the Future

Over the past twenty-four hours, several pieces have appeared, claiming the possibility of a Hail Mary for these election results. While the polls are closed, and the nation has announced a new president-elect, the Electoral College doesn’t officially meet to cast their ballots until December 19.

How possible is this? What would be needed? How did we get to where we are? Where did the Electoral College come from? What were the Founding Fathers thinking?!

Electoral College: A History

The Electoral College: a remnant of an archaic 18th century tradition that meant the best, but has caused the worst.
At the Constitutional Convention of 1878, a system of checks & balances was put in for our checks and balances. After rejecting the ideas of either Congress or state legislators selecting the president, election by popular vote was settled. However, there was fear that general lack of information would heavily sway votes, causing the people to vote for a familiar face, or a “favorite son” of their home state, instead of a candidate who was more qualified, but less familiar. The hope was that the most informed, knowledgeable people from each state were the ones choosing  This model can be seen throughout history: the Roman Republic’s Centurial Assembly, the Roman Catholic Church of the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope. With many of the Founding Fathers schooled in classical history and political strategies, the similarity of the systems isn’t surprising. However, as the population grew, technology developed, information became more readily available, and the digital age dawned, it turned from a help to a hindrance. Just as it did with the Centurial Assembly, the Electoral College became more of an oligarchic system than a democratic one.

Let it also be realized that this system was designed to work without political parties, OR national campaigns. In Article II, Section I of the Constitution, it outlines the design and implementation of the College:

 

  • Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
  • The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

 

This first design only lasted through four presidential elections, with the second design appearing after the messy Election of 1800 (Jefferson or Burr?). After the Electorates of their party gave each of them equal votes, the vote fell to the House of Representatives who, after 36 tries, finally took a vote that was cast in Jefferson’s favor. Not wanting to go through the same confusing turmoil again, the Continental Congress of 1804 hastily wrote and passed the Twelfth Amendment, which clarified that each Elector cast one vote for president, and one for vice-president, instead of the previous model, which had two votes for president, and the runner-up was given the vice president’s seat.

Political parties had, up to that point, been somewhat unorganized, however, America saw very quickly that the feud Jefferson & Burr had created solidly divided the still-young American political system into two very separate parties (despite both being of the Democratic-Republican Party). Since the amendment, several federal and state laws were passed that somewhat altered the timeline of the Electoral College votes, but by and large, it remains intact the same way that it existed after 1804. (One exception to this rule is the 23rd amendment, which granted the District of Columbia three electors.)

Present Day:
While all electors are chosen by voters, in many states, the names of candidates for the college almost never appear on the ballot, many times, the seats being “awarded” to persons already on the state legislature.

Across the board, electors are, in most cases, pledged to vote for the candidates of the party that nominated them to the position. However, in rare cases, individuals have refused, and voted against their party or the popular vote. These are called “faithless electors.” While there is no concrete evidence that the founders intended for the electors to be independent of any party, but it can be strongly assumed due to the fact that the original model was meant to operate without the existence of political parties at all. In fact, many scholars have the opinion that, once electors have been chose, they remain constitutionally free agents with the ability to vote for whichever candidate that meets the Presidential and Vice Presidential requirements. There are laws punishing faithless electors in 24 of the 50 states, due to a Supreme Court case in 1952, Ray v. Blair, 343 US 214, but the constitutionality of actually punishing an elector has never been decided, and electors can only be punished after the fact, which wouldn’t’ change their vote. Still, the Faithless have been few and far between, with 187 occurring in our nation’s entire 240 year history. In the 20th century alone, there have been seven, one each in 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1988, and 2000- none of them swayed or influenced the outcome of an election in any way.

Electing a President:

An official election day was chosen by Congress in 1845, stopping the previous voting practice in which each state had different voting timelines spread between September & November. While not the most timely of practices, this also lead to multiple votes across state lines, and other various voting fraud practices. November was chosen out of ease for the farming population, which comprised most of America’s occupation at the time. They settled on a Tuesday because of the widespread religious practice of observing Sunday as a strict day of rest. It provided a full day’s travel, harvest was in, and travel wasn’t yet hampered by weather. While other countries around the globe have made their election days a federal holiday, or offer other tools for making voting easier, the United States has yet to update their voting process since this time.

Weeks after the general election, the electors meet in the capital of their respective states to cast their ballot. Currently, it’s the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year, it’s December 19th.

Why are we still hoping on the electoral college?

Simple: They do not officially cast their ballots til December 19, leaving several weeks of assumption. At the time of the election, there were four members of the Electoral College already pledging to be faithless: Robert Satiacum and Bret Chiafalo, both Democratic electors from Washington, and Republican electors Baoky Vu, Georgia, and Chris Suprun, from Texas. Suprun later told TIME that he intends to support Trump, so that leaves three. Two Democratic members who intend to abstain from casting their vote at all, and one Republican.

If, in the Electoral College, the margin of victory comes as close as it did in 2000, any one of these men could sway the vote, making it the first time in history to happen. However, there is a series of laws in place that would simply push the process down the line of state laws and constitutional checks & balances.

First, if the Electoral College results in a tie due to an elector abstaining or switching their vote, a provision in the Twelfth Amendment mandates that the House chooses the president, with the Senate choosing the vice president. Each representative in the House casts a single vote, and the majority wins.

Second, when Congress meets on January 6, 2017, they will determine if the Electoral College vote was “regularly given,” a historically ceremonial meeting. However, this meeting doesn’t have to be ceremonial: if a single member of the House and one member of the Senate objects to the results of the Electoral College (ie: the final tally is swayed due to a faithless elector), the newly elected Congress now vote. If both the decision of the House and the Senate agree, the decision is final, and a president is chosen. If they do not agree, then the Secretary of State of the state who’s electors were faithless decides. (ie: If Satiacum, Chiafalo, Vu, or Suprun’s votes were cast in such a way that it swayed the vote, than the Secretary of State for Washington, Georgia, and Texas would make the final decision.)

The contemporary number of electoral votes stands at 538, with a candidate needing 270 in order to become president-elect. Due to the current practice of awarding electoral votes, in which a candidate receives all of a state’s vote if they gain the popular vote, the electoral college stands in Trump’s favor- 290 to Clinton’s 232, as of Wednesday evening, despite Clinton winning the popular vote (making her only the fifth candidate in history to do so). So, as it stands, the chances of the electoral college vote in December actually flipping the election is barely there.

 

So, in conclusion: yes, there is more to the process, but it would defy odds for actual change to happen. What this election really tells us is  how outdated and archaic our voting process has become. Between our election day still resting on a weekday, widespread instances of companies threatening employees if they took time off or were late if they voted, voter repression, and the fact that it isn’t a federal holiday, many things need to change. Our democratic government’s shroud is wearing thin, exposing its oligarchical skeletal structure to the masses. The president elect is chosen not by the people’s vote, but by a group of politicians more interested in keeping their political party in power than they are gratifying the people’s issues. Unfortunately, because the electoral college is written into the Constitution, getting rid of it is far easier said than done. A two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate, and the ratification in 38 of our 50 states would be required. It’s been tried before, and has failed miserably. Attempts in 1934, 1966, and 1979 have all failed in the legislative branch, and over the past decade, state-by-state workarounds were cropping up in local polls.

As you can see, the dislike and mistrust of the electoral college isn’t a new issue. In fact, national dislike has been at a majority for decades. A Gallup poll in 1948 said 56% were against it. That number rose to 58% in 1967, and by the next year, 80% of the national voice was against the outdated amendment. However, it’s never been successfully repealed.

Regardless of the outcome of the electoral college, we have work to do.

 

Worth noting:
Between third-party voters and the outdated existence of the electoral college, we find the lost votes. Had Clinton won in the closest states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida, she would have defeated Trump with 307 electoral votes, securing the presidency. (This election is an eerie reflection of how the 2000 election played out, where Florida was, once again, down to the wire.) Please note that the following statistics do not show how many of Johnson’s or Stein’s voters would have voted for Clinton or Trump in the event of the third-party candidates not being on the ballot, or how many of them would have stayed home. However, we can acknowledge that the electoral map would look decidedly different in the event they were not an option.

Florida, 29 electoral votes:
Lost by 119,770 votes, with 99% reporting.
Total number of votes for Stein and Johnson: 270,026.

Michigan, 16 electoral votes:
Lost by 11,837, with 96% reporting.
Total number of votes for Stein and Johnson: 223,707

Pennsylvania, 20 electoral votes:
Lost by 68,236 votes, with 99% reporting.
Total number of votes for Stein and Johnson: 191,565

Wisconsin, 10 electoral votes:
Lost by 27,257, with 95% reporting.
Total number of votes for Johnson and Stein: 137,422

 

 

 

Sources:

US Electoral College, National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/index.html

History of the Electoral College, History.com http://www.history.com/topics/electoral-college

Electoral College: Fun Stuff, Jackson County Electoral Board, http://jceb.co.jackson.mo.us/fun_stuff/electoral_college.htm

Education: The Electoral College, Votesmart.org, https://votesmart.org/education/electoral-college#.WCSBHlUrKUk

What Happens if Faithless Electors Swing the Results?, Time.com http://time.com/4560682/faithless-electors/

The One Scenario that Could Still get Hillary to the White House, New York Post, http://nypost.com/2016/11/09/the-one-scenario-that-could-still-get-hillary-into-the-white-house/

Could Faithless Electors Change the Outcome of the Election?, Bustle.com https://www.bustle.com/articles/194300-could-faithless-electors-change-the-outcome-of-the-election-hillary-clinton-supporters-cant-rely-on-them

The So-called Faithless Elector Could Decide the Presidential Election for the First Time, Washington Times, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/nov/9/so-called-faithless-elector-could-decide-president/

How Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Helped Elect Donald Trump, CNN Politics, http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/10/politics/gary-johnson-jill-stein-spoiler/

Getting Rid of the Electoral College, Washington Post,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/09/getting-rid-of-the-electoral-college-dream-on-democrats/

Aftermath: An Anonymous Letter

As the occupants of our nation mentally prepare for a new president, many mentally prepare for the new battles that will, most likely, become part of daily lives.
Over the past 24 hours, the reactions I have witnessed from friends and loved ones has gone from incredulous to terror and dread. The actions of the next presidential cabinet  will directly effect groups of our nation’s citizens such as women, those with physical and learning disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, refugees, minorities, and more.
We are now tasked with explaining this blatant disregard to human decency to our children- why our friends, family members, made the conscious choice to put such a man in office.
Below is a letter, sent to me by a friend, who faces that dilemma every day now.


Last night, just after my Google alert notified me that the new President-Elect had been chosen, I sneaked into my daughter’s room. We recently transitioned her to a “big girl” bed- a twin mattress, upon which her two-year-old fame usually looks hilariously small.

But last night the sight wasn’t hilarious.

I stretched out on the covers next to her, and watched her tiny face as she slept, her little legs tucked under her body, her little arms crossed, just as she had been in the womb. I listened to her breath as she dozed, perfectly peaceful and blissfully unaware of the shift we are all about to experience. And in my mind, as I studied her, I apologized. I apologized for our country. For the millions who cast a ballot for the man who will lead us in January. And I apologized for you.

You’ve given me your explanations, in your way. You’ve communicated your fears about a Clinton presidency. You’ve expressed your views of Trump’s powerful presence and no-nonsense opinions. Mom, you praised the way he could “say whatever he wanted” without repercussions, citing that trait as an admirable one. I don’t think it’s occurred to you that maybe he was “allowed” to voice such blatant violence because millions of Americans still have a deep-seated prejudice against people different from themselves. Maybe you didn’t see what I did: that he was “allowed” to continue in his loud hate because half of our country heard, in his voice, their own internal prejudices. Because he wore expensive suits, and had a supermodel wife, and stood in front of microphones, and said things the ordinary among them were not allowed to say.

Except now they can.

Dad, you expressed horror at his cavalier admittance of sexual assault, but said that Clinton had “enabled” her husband by supporting him before she discovered his guilt, which made her “no better” than Trump. You said that they are “at best equally disgusting and I would argue that she is worse than he is.” A little piece of our relationship died that day. As a woman who left an abusive marriage, I was heartbroken to learn that you would not only hold Clinton accountable for the sins of her partner, but consider her equal to an admitted abuser for standing by him.

But while you tried to argue that your vote for Trump wasn’t support of him, your decision, as it has historically done, came down to money. “She will sell us all down the river for another dollar,” you said, “wipe her mouth, and tell us to eat cake.” You claimed she was power-hungry, as though it as a claim that couldn’t be applied bilaterally in this election.

And all of this, you argued, was reason enough to overlook Trump’s faults, and cast your lot in with him. You summed up your position neatly with a cartoon, shared to your Facebook page, of Washington Post reporters straining at a molehill labeled “Trump,” while Hillary’s scandals loomed as large as mountains behind them.

As I held my sleeping baby girl, I thought about that molehill, which, in your opinion, was small enough that your conscience allowed you to cast a vote for that man.

I thought about the fear he fed  dumping gallons of fuel on a fire that should never have been lit. I thought about my Muslim friends who, despite their deep religious convictions, are abandoning their hijabs out of fear for their lives. I thought about the lies he told, over and over and over, like a child who doesn’t have any understanding of modern technology or its fact-checking capabilities. I thought of the fact that your granddaughter’s healthcare is based on the good graces of the Affordable Care Act, which your candidate has pledged to repeal. I thought about the women who tried to step forward about abuse they had suffered at his hands, and who have been bullied into silence.

I thought about how economists who know what they are actually talking about have projected horrifying outcomes, should his policies play out. I thought about women across this country who may face death in a country without reproductive choice. I thought about my dear gay and lesbian friends who celebrated their marriages this year, only to have those unions thrown into uncertainty if Trump appoints the Supreme Court justice he wants. I thought about my Latinx friends who are terrified of losing their parents and grandparents to deportation.

And Trump. I thought about him. His venom toward an entire religion. His prejudice against entire races. His objectification of and violence toward women. His running mate, who thinks it’s okay to electrocute young queer people until they are “straight.” His supporters, the KKK and white supremacists, who looked at his policies and perspectives and adopted him as their champion.

I tried to imagine explaining to my tiny daughter, your granddaughter, how her grandparents, aunts, and uncles all voted to take away her health care, take away her right to choose, and take away her safety, should she discover one day that she likes girls rather than boys.

Should I tell her you were worried about your money? That keeping your tax dollars in your pocket (which won’t happen under Trump anyway) is more important that taking a stand against blatant misogyny? Should I tell her that you decided bragging about sexual assault and standing by an unfaithful partner were “equally disgusting?” Should I tell her that you allowed hate-fueled rhetoric to make you afraid of anyone different from you, so you agreed that it was safest to just deny America to those people?

Maybe you just didn’t see what he is. Maybe you were too steeped in your privileged race, your privileged sexuality, and your privileged religion, too isolated from anyone different from you, to hear all the marginalized voices screaming in fear to please don’t do this.

Or maybe you did see. Maybe you saw his racism, his xenophobia, his misogyny, his elitism, and his brutish, bullying ways, and you decided he was the lesser of two evils.

If that’s the case, then you have to understand that in good conscience, keeping you far, far away from my baby girl has to be the lesser of two evils for me.

Because no amount of fear is justification for racism in my home. No amount of suspicion is enough to vilify an entire religion in this family. No amount of tax money saved is worth repealing a woman’s rights to her own body, or a human’s right to healthcare. And any man who is able to brag about assaulting women, make lecherous and creepy comments about his own daughter, and face multiple accusations of violent rape is fit to be my cab driver, let alone my president. For the rest of my life, when you try to insist that you “don’t support” this man, who is the walking embodiment of everything I hope to protect my child from, we’ll both know it’s bullshit, because you saw what he was, and you handed him the keys to the kingdom anyway.

You failed your granddaughter and niece this week. You dramatically changed the country in which she will be raised, and not for the better. And I’ll be damned if you are ever allowed to influence her further.