Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Republican rituals

Well, I voted just now, got my sticker, and then Starbucks gave me free coffee for it. (HT to Bobaccio for the latter bit of info.)

The polling place is in the garage underneath the Castro Country Club, an old institution in the neighborhood which provides a cafe and social space for people in recovery. Only about a dozen folks were ahead of me in line and it took all of a half hour. One of the pollworkers is classic northern California boomer: a skinny Jewish woman with long kinky/curly grey hair flying free like a bed spring, big dark framed glasses, too much lipstick and an unconstructed cotton jacket and pants decorated in some generic ethnic fashion. Probably works for a non-profit.

Along with the Presidential choices, there's tons of local people running for school boards, etc. Since I know nothing about them, I left those blank.

And then there are the 34! propositions to vote on, 12 from the State and 22 from the City. I go over them and jot down my choices on a sheet of paper before I leave home. I mostly vote no, leave some blank and give my yes vote to a few.

With all the defects of the voting system, it is still moving to stand in line with your neighbors and give a shot at saying your yay or nay.

It is a republican ritual, at least on the Federal level, since there we vote for our electors by state rather than, as with the local and State propositions, by sheer democratic popularity. The Founding Fathers didn't like democracy very much. They felt it could turn into a mob. We call ourselves democratic, but mostly in the sense that we have a republic founded on democratic processes, but not limited to them.

A lot of folks have lost any sense of the United States as fundamentally a republic of states. So much of our polity is based on the powerful sense of local, that is, state, identity at the time of the Revolution and the framing. Jefferson regularly referred to Virginia as his "country".

That's why we have an electoral college, to give some balance to the union between states with large populations and those with small. I wonder that folks who find the electoral college so hard to understand don't seem to have a problem with the Senate.*

It's a similar principle.

In the House, power goes along with population, but then each state gets an equal footing in the Senate. Does it not strike the anti-college folks how strange it is that both California, with 30+ millions, and Wyoming, with just about 1/2 million, have 53 and 1 representatives in the House, respectively, but in the Senate, both have 2 senators? Doesn't seem fair if popular vote is all you care about.

But to me, it is inclusive! it promotes diversity! and is sensitive to the minority (aka small state) populations! by levelling the playing field! so that the Big Boys don't have total control! Eighteenth century affirmative action! that spreads the power around!!

I'm surprised Obama didn't think of it himself. Or that Al Gore didn't invent it.


Whatever happens today, God preserve the Republic.

*BTW, so state-focussed were the Founding Fathers that the original Constitution provides that the Senators be elected not by the people, but by their home state Legislatures. That was the way it was until after 1912!


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