Student News

The first two weeks in November had most Americans glued to their TV screens and social media feeds, with blue and red images of the Electoral College map permanently burned into their retinas. Election coverage went on so long that the Chris Cuomo hashtag on Twitter was populated with thirst tweets, and I actually felt like I was starting to learn the states.

As someone who has never lived outside of California, the election was a rare opportunity for me to think consciously about the people in other states, and how their political beliefs can be so radically different from the ones of people around me.

In San Mateo, a Trump lawn sign sticks out like a sore red thumb, and the rallies I saw of trucks decked out in American and thin blue line flags driving up and down Highway 101 left me deeply unsettled. I think a lot of my family, neighbors and friends watched states turn red on CNN in slight disbelief — our social media interests and circles so dominated by left-leaning ideology, that we had forgotten it was even possible to still support Trump, at least vocally. To me, seeing someone be a Trump supporter was mostly just a declaration of counterculture in a liberal bubble rather than an actual alignment with his policy: some kind of a fearmongering tactic to make sure minority, queer millennial types didn’t get too comfortable in your stomping ground.

Undoubtedly, the worst part of the election was watching a holier-than-thou complex unfold as votes trickled in. As Michigan bounced between red and blue before ultimately going to Biden, the state became the butt of several jokes, most disturbingly about its citizens not deserving clean water if it ended up going Republican. This directly proves that those privileged enough to live in places that are habitually Democrat (typically more wealthy areas), don’t understand the plight of impoverished constituents, who feel ignored enough by their government to detach from politics completely or desperate enough to believe hollow promises of candidates they think might help them.

The reality is that regardless of who is in charge, most of America’s problems will prevail, and those hit the rural, middle Americans, who we in California often ridicule for being uneducated or conservative, the hardest. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lesser of two evils — fingers crossed that Joe Biden’s administration doesn’t continue to ignore the coronavirus as hundreds of thousands of Americans perish, or lock immigrants in cages and refuse proper medical care. It’s also not to play off how both Biden and Sen. Harris played a heavy-handed role in mass incarceration, where inmates are currently contracting COVID-19 at much higher rates than non-imprisoned citizens. Lots of things that the general public hated about Trump like belligerent foreign policy, slow action on climate change or casual racism and white supremacy are more distinctly American than they are simply Democratic or Republican.

The democratic system of the United States is built against progress, and that was very much the intention of constitutional framers. No presidential candidate has won by a landslide (10% margin) in more than 20 years, and campaigning is more about playing a chess game of key issues, demographics and counties than it is about being a true representation of what Americans want. The whole concept of plurality is warped to protect the feelings of smaller states, and make sure they don’t feel outnumbered, or governed by the coasts, but really just gives them an unreasonable edge over other voters. For example, someone in Wyoming casting a ballot in a presidential election has over three times more power than someone voting in California, according to the Los Angeles Times. While California is ranked as the most diverse state in the nation, based on socioeconomic status, culture, religion and political beliefs, Wyoming comes in at No. 41. 

This is how the Founding Fathers wanted it to be. At the time that the Electoral College was designed, much of America was made up of slave-owning farmers, concentrated mostly in sparse states across the South. The infamous “three-fifths” compromise was created to designate Black citizens as being lesser than white counterparts. This made sure that the slave-owning population could keep a hold of its power over the enslaved population and, long after the institution of slavery was abolished, the men in the Oval Office continued to be white, affluent and privileged in more ways than one.

This Wyoming-California paradox, or any other state populated with a large amount of immigrants and minorities (Florida, New York, Texas) versus a predominantly white and homogeneous state (Vermont, Maine, West Virginia) is a lasting legacy of prioritizing white voices and votes, especially at the cost of Black and indigenous people’s perspectives.

Throughout this election, the overwhelming push on social media to get out and vote felt like displaced energy, and frankly a little cheesy.  There’s such a chasmic disconnect between casting a ballot here, in the suburbs, and citizens who struggled to retain their power to vote, or be able to physically cast a ballot at all, in a state like Georgia. 

Whether it be gerrymandering, purging votes or calling mail-in ballots a “whole big scam,” our democracy is not nearly as exemplary as we’d like to think it is. Current reform is far too slow, and resting wholly on the shoulders of grassroots organizations and local organizers.

Achieving a fair elections process would require serious reconstruction of current systems, and although President-elect Biden poses less of a direct threat to our democracy than his predecessor, it’s unlikely that much will change.

Josette Thornhill is a senior at Aragon High School in San Mateo. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at news@smdailyjournal.com.

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(10) comments

Ray Fowler

Hey, Tafhdyd

Sorry... I didn't notice your comment re: the "surplus." Yes, a little irresponsible to report a surplus that was partly just fuzzy math. The state's budget analyst announced the surplus, and right away there was a discussion of plowing that money back into budget. I think the wiser choice is to use the funds to offset deficits that will surely follow because of COVID expenses. Scrap that train!

Tommy Tee

Ray--couldn't agree with you more about that train to nowhere! Such a needless waste of so much money.

Ray Fowler

Hello, Josette

I agree with your point that some changes to our election system are warranted, and I agree with your closing statement that it's not likely we will see any real changes.

That being said... what type of changes would you suggest? Should we toss aside the Electoral College for a FPTP (First Past The Pole) system? That would mean the party that controlled the coasts would be virtually unbeatable. Such a change would eventually devolve into a single party system.

I get the California-Wyoming dilemma. As a result, you have some Democrats clamoring for the admission of jurisdictions with Democratic Party dominated electorates so they can achieve a lock on the Senate. Adding states in that fashion is not a way to improve representation... it is strictly a way to gain and keep control over the legislative branch.

You stated that the president-elect is less a threat to our democracy than the current chief executive. But the reality is that we do not have a democracy... that word does not appear in the Constitution. We have constitutional republic which is designed to elect a president and legislative representatives. If you believe the current election system is flawed and should be changed... and there are plenty of folks who would agree with that notion... I ask again... what type of changes would you suggest?

Tafhdyd

Hello Ray,

First things first, just wonder if you enjoyed the Dalmore 12 yr I had for you last evening that I mentioned in a previous post yesterday?

As for the Calif-Wyoming situation I was just curious about the balance of payments for many states vs many states when they pay more into the system than they get back. I haven't checked recently but CA used to get back about 75 to 80 cents for every dollar sent to the feds and Wyoming used to get back about a $1.40 to a $1.70 for each of their dollars sent in. I think they call it the blue states subsidizing the red states so should the blue states have more say in the matters?

Ray Fowler

Hmmm... now, just where did that "government" money come from? Oh, that's right... the government doesn't have any money of its own. What they have is the money they have impounded from taxpayers. Then, the government gives some of it back with flair and flourish like they are doing us a favor.

Back in the day... 230 years ago... there was the same bureaucratic Three-card Monte being dealt by the folks in DC... even though DC had not been built yet. Except the roles were reversed. The southern states (red) had paid off most of their war debt, but they had to pay more to help New England states (blue) retire their debt. Some of that "more" came in the form of protective tariffs that really only protected the blue New England states. So, it was red subsidizing blue. Isn't turnabout fair play?

Didn't I read last week that California is looking at a $26 billion surplus? How did that happen? Well, I guess our single party legislature will just have to spend all that extra cash. Again, the government will give some of it back with flair and flourish like they are doing us a favor. Three-card Monte... the dealers sometimes wear red and sometimes they wear blue. .

I've got three medical appointments this week. I will celebrate on Thanksgiving with a single glass of wine (where can I find a gold fish bowl on a stem?). Sadly, no Scotch... I don't need a gout flare. .

Tafhdyd

Ray,

You did read that California had a $26 billion surplus. IMO whoever wrote the headline or released the news from the state did so in an irresponsible way. I am sure you continued to read and found out that the surplus was really a deficit of a smaller amount than thought. The state over estimated the amount of deficit they thought there would be due to the pandemic. Their revised estimate is less than the original by $26 billion or so but the budget is still in the hole, just not as deep. It is not a surplus to give back with a flair and flourish.

I certainly understand the gout problem, Luckily I have not had an attack in four years since I started on allopurinol. People that have not had it don't seem to understand just how painful and debilitating it can be.

Tommy Tee

Excellent letter!

Dirk van Ulden

Josette - you are probably the most divisive, patronizing student to ever write in this newspaper. How dare you categorize all Trump supporters as at most marginal and stupid and living in a bubble. I, for one, have already forgotten more than you will ever learn should you continue on your current path of condescension. Just because we do not believe in the ultra-leftist agenda that you seem to support? Remember Josette, there are more than 70 million voters who do not agree with you. I think you need many more years of education to come to the realization that your schooling has thus far shortchanged you. We do not have to agree on anything accept that there are differences of opinion without having to insult those of us who happen to like the agenda that Trump has implemented. We will be back in 2024, believe me, after another 4 years of disaster that will be even worse than those inflicted on us by the Carter administration.

Terence Y

Unfortunately, based on her columns, Ms. Thornhill’s education is an indictment of the California educational system. Ms. Thornhill obviously parrots what the fake news media spews and Ms. Thornhill is currently either unwilling to spend the time to educate herself or is unable to think independently. Groupthink and lemming behavior are not assets and one can only hope Ms. Thornhill becomes wiser in the near future.

wlydecker

well said. Nice to see youth engaged. However, check out that three-fourths info. some historians concluded it involved representation and it was the South that wanted slaves to be counted as one person. The North objected because it would give the South more members of the House.

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