PICKING THE PRESIDENT – AMERICAN-STYLE

The United States isn’t a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. Over all, the system is pretty good and usually works, eventually. Except when it comes to election law and picking a president.

jefferson election poster2

The first time this became apparent, it was 1800. The U.S. was a mere 24-years old. It was only our second real national election because George Washington was selected, not elected. Due to a glitch in the architecture of the electoral college, the Democratic-Republican candidates — Thomas Jefferson, for President and Aaron Burr for Vice — had the same number of electoral votes.

According to History Central: 

… no one had the majority of votes, and the election was turned over to the House of Representatives. The House deliberated from February 11th to February 17th and voted 36 times. The Federalists had decided to support Burr … (and) would have won since they were the majority of the outgoing House. However, the constitution called for the election of a President by the House on a state-by-state basis. The Federalists could not carry enough states. On the 36th ballot Jefferson was selected.

That glitch got fixed in time for the election in 1804, but the fun was just beginning. Twenty years later, there was a four-way election starring John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, William H Crawford, and Andrew Jackson. The electoral vote broke down thusly: Jackson – 99, Adams – 84, Crawford – 41, Clay – 37. The three leading candidates went to the House of Representatives for a final decision. With a little help from media-fueled scandal, J.Q. Adams won on the first ballot of the House … and after taking office, appointed Henry Clay as Secretary of State. Hmm.

This was also the last time the House made the pick. But it wasn’t the last race to be decided outside the ballot box.

Hayes-Wheeler

In 1876 the Democrats nominated Samuel Tilden while the Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden won the popular vote by 250,000 votes (out of approximately 2 million), but the vote was tight in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. Exactly how this got resolved is complicated. Suffice to say, it was a cooperative bag job by Congress and the SJC. The final decision landed Hayes in the Oval Office and brought an end to Reconstruction. Which, oddly, is what the south wanted.

Tilden won the battle. Hayes won the war.

In the election of 1888 Grover Cleveland (incumbent Democratic President) faced Republican Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. Harrison became President, but lost to Cleveland in a rematch four years later. Making Cleveland the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. It’s also the only “disputed” election settled by an election.

cleveland-tilden campaign poster

In my lifetime, the first memorable election was the very tight race between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960. It was the first election I watched on TV. It went on through the night and was still not decided as the sun rose.

kennedy election posterI was 13. I liked Kennedy. He had excellent hair, didn’t sweat, made great speeches, and was cute. He looked honest. The electoral vote was extremely close, but Kennedy held a lead in the popular vote for the entire race. This was the first time I remember hearing everyone say, after Nixon had conceded: “We should overhaul the electoral college.” I’m still waiting.

Thirty-six years later, in 2000, the Supreme Court stepped in and stopped the recount of the tightest election in our history. Just over 537 votes out of more than 6 million separated Gore and Bush. Evidence strongly suggests Gore was the true winner, but the Supreme Court called the play. Which they had — have — no authority to do. The problem is, no one else had (has) the authority to decide a disputed presidential election. What’s a country to do?

bush-gore time mag

There are precedents, but each is a one-off, a Rube Goldberg solution cobbled together to patch up the crack in the liberty bell. If it happens again — we can safely assume it will — a new quickie solution will be thrown together.

When the Supreme Court stopped the recount in 2000 — a vote which was entirely along party lines (party lines don’t officially exist in the Supreme Court), nothing in the Constitution gave the SJC the right to do it. But in the U.S., the Supreme Court is “the final word.” You can’t argue with the Supreme Court, can you? With no precedent for disputing the authority of the Supreme Court, we accept it.

The buck stops there. We grumble, complain, rail, and rant. But no one refuses to obey a Supreme Court ruling.

It’s something to ponder while we watch a terrifying election. Maybe it’s not the most terrifying election ever. As Stephen Colbert noted the other night, “Trump might not actually be the worst ever president. We’ve had some really bad presidents …”

MAD-Magazine-Trump-Cover

Indeed we have. That’s the awful part of freedom. We are free to be stupid, free to trade our freedom for empty promises. We wouldn’t be the first or last country to choose a terrible leader. I just hope we survive our choices.

ABOUT SUPER TUESDAY

I would feel remiss if I didn’t say something about Super Tuesday.

SuperTuesday-1

Thing is, I looked at the numbers. Trump is not exactly home free. He has barely more than 300 delegates. He needs more than 1200. So … not to rain on anyone’s parade? But he hasn’t won yet.

SuperTuesday-Dems

There’s a lot of winning he has to do before he could maybe be a candidate. If he goes to the convention without nailing down the delegates he needs for nomination, the odds are he won’t be the nominee.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson, weirdo MD wannabe candidate, dropped out. I’ll miss Trevor Noah’s (host of “The Daily Show”) impressions of him. Trevor does Ben Carson better than Ben Carson does himself.

2016election

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are pretending they won. They may  be delusional … or maybe they think we are.

Bernie Sanders, on the Democratic side, is doing the same thing, but that’s okay. If I could have voted twice, I’d have voted for him, too. Regardless, Hillary Clinton is a lot closer to clinching the Democratic nomination than any Republican is to getting the GOP nod.

72-Peacham-Sunday_085

We have a long, long road to walk before this political year is over. We’re not even half way there yet. Let’s all take a deep breath and save our strength. We will need it.

ELECTION DAY – NOVEMBER 4, 2014

vote today

If you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain about the government.

Get off your lazy butt. Go to the polls. Instead of whining about it on Facebook or ranting on your blog, be a citizen. Stand up and be counted. Vote!


We voted. The rest of the world is discussing the pluses and minuses of electronic and online voting, but here in Uxbridge, we have paper ballots. And black ballpoint pens with which to fill them out.

We also have really long referendum items. It took half an hour to just read all that fine print.

Do we want casinos in Massachusetts? And, by the way, how about expanding the greyhound racing so they can abuse even more dogs? (No, we don’t. Casinos do not improve the economy. They just bring in crime and infrastructure expenses.)

Would we like to  have our commonwealth charge us even more for a whole bunch of new things to recycle? Like we don’t pay enough? (No, thank you.)

Would we like the tax on gasoline adjusted based on the cost of living index? (I think so. Probably better than paying and paying and paying forever at the highest possible rate.)

Then there were all those school board people we never heard of. The one or two we knew (one of them is our neighbor) we voted for, the others were left blank. They are all running unopposed and unaffiliated, so asking for our vote is pro forma.

The lines were longer for parts of town where houses are closer together. Yay for living in the middle of nowhere.

The governor’s race should make interesting viewing. It was, last we heard, too close to call. Elections are my favorite contact sport, after clearance sale shopping.

Getting hits for being relevant

If you’ve ever worked as a reporter — or any kind of researcher — the instinct to follow a story persists. Sometimes, it pays off. For me, the turning point of this blog was when I got thousands of hits on a reblog about hurricane Sandy in November 2012.

November 2012 was something of a super month for bloggers. Between the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy, activity on the Internet was much greater than usual. Even people who were normally not especially interested were hopping online to follow current stories.

The thing was, the article that started bringing in all those hits was a reblog, or more accurately, a scoop. Anyone could have as easily read the same article on its original site. I was not at the top of a Google search. I tried using the phrase everyone else was using and Serendipity didn’t come up. At all. So people were seeking me out. Rather than reading the original article, they came to my site. Even giving me a point or two for attractive presentation, there were more than enough stories on the same subject all over the Internet. I’m not being modest. I wanted to know: why me?

Coney Island post Hurricane Sandy.

Coney Island post Hurricane Sandy.

I decided to analyze what I did better or differently than others. I looked at the total content for days when my numbers were very high. I realized all involved current events that were unusually high-profile. My best days involved Hurricane Sandy (November 2012), the blizzard Nemo (February 2013) and the days leading up to and immediately following the storms. Also the beginning of the new television season, the Oscars (before, after and during) and (of course) the election. And sadly, the bombing at the Boston Marathon (April 2013). Plus every time they play the première episode of Criminal Minds.

When major events occur, I write about them. Not one story, but a series of posts. I start with an article that covers the main story, then add to it. If the initial story was reblogged — often the case — I add graphics and photographs. I add commentary and analysis. My additions are typically longer and more detailed than the original. I don’t alter the original author’s text and I always give credit, but I build on it.

Nemo blizzard, February 2013

Nemo blizzard, February 2013

In this case, the original post was a reblogged (using ScoopIt) standalone post. Using it as a jumping off point, I followed a trail. I gathered pictures, stories about hurricanes and other storms. I wrote about them from my perspective, if I remembered them. Then, I asked Garry — my personal treasure trove of first-hand experiences — to talk about his experiences during the Blizzard of 1978 and other storms.

New York during the The White Hurricane, The Blizzard of March 11, 1988

New York during the The White Hurricane, The Blizzard of March 11, 1888

I roamed the web to see what was happening in various places being hit by the storm. Although I focused on Sandy and it’s impact on Coney Island, I discovered many other places along the coast which were equally affected. I posted what news I could gather about these areas.

I kept gathering and adding information, especially photographs, historical background and apocryphal stories. I just did what I always do when something interests me. I get into “bloodhound mode” and I followed the scent. The circles kept getting wider and including more locations, more events.

I eventually included stories not directly related to Sandy but which were thematically related. Other monster storms have paralyzed the Atlantic coast, some relatively recently. I love history so it was fun digging up historical information. Research can keep me glued to the computer for very long stretches. It’s how I learn.

I googled “hurricanes past 100 years East Coast” and could have filled an encyclopedia with the results. Research became stories. I hunted down historical photographs. I remembered stories I heard from relatives and friends about storms. My husband covered every storm to hit New England for more than 30 years, so he is a nearly bottomless repository of great first person experience.

Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.

Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.

I ultimately produced a series of stories over almost a week.  News, mood  and background stories, data, photographs. I stitched them together. Each post was separate, but they formed a continuity. One thing led to another. When I thought about this storm, I remembered other storms, wrote about the storm that hit on my birthday in 1888 … and I offered facts, stories, and historical background, sidebars, and photographs.

The combination worked. Folks came to read one story and stayed to read many more. Some of them signed on as followers. It turned out that I didn’t have such a huge volume of visitors, but everyone who did visit stayed and read as many as five or six stories. A lot of hits.

Since then, I have more visitors on a regular basis and most of them read at least two or more stories. It’s not complicated:

  1. Be current. Don’t ignore major events. You don’t even have to write the stories yourself. Which brings me to the next point.
  2. If you don’t like WordPress’s reblog format, try ScoopIt. It seems a waste of time to write an essentially identical story when someone else has already done a great job writing it. Being relevant doesn’t mean you have to write it, but at least include it by reference.
  3. When something signficant or interesting is going on in our world whether it’s a national election, a hurricane, tsunami, the new television season or the upcoming Oscars, pay attention. You don’t have to write about just that subject, but maybe you shouldn’t completely ignore it either.
  4. It’s fine to march to the beat of your own drum, but it’s good to also pay attention to what the rest of the band is playing. If you march alone most of the time, occasionally it’s not a bad idea to join the chorus … or sing counterpoint.
  5. If you can’t be relevant because there are no big stories, be entertaining. Use those lemons to make delicious lemonade.
  6. Include lots of photographs.

Ivory towers can lonely. If you want company, you need to associate with the rest of the world and pay at least some attention to what interests them. If you write entirely for yourself, it’s a diary, not a blog.

Our house is divided … what next?

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usua...

I got more than a thousand hits the other day, more than half for a reblog of Presidential Election: “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation” ? The article resonated, so I picked it up as soon as I read it. I couldn’t have said it better and thus didn’t try. Apparently millions of other people felt the same way and the post went viral, which is good but not enough.

I feel obliged to point out to those who have failed to notice: THE ELECTION IS OVER.

Barack Obama won. Mitt Romney lost. The winner gets 4 years (or in this case, 4 more years) as President of the United States. The loser makes a gracious concession speech then retires, hopefully to serve his country in some other way and perhaps make another run for office down the road. For now, it’s over. The nation returns to normal.

That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But this time? Apparently not.

There’s a level of hysteria, anger, and raw racism I’ve never seen before. I’ve voted for candidates who won and voted for candidates who lost. I was upset and angry when G.W. Bush stole an election, but I got past it. I ground my teeth, survived 8 years of what I thought was a terrible presidency. When national elections came around, I voted for Barack Obama. That’s democracy.

The losing team this year can’t cope with defeat. They are having a temper tantrum, except their pique at losing seriously and negatively impacts the entire country. If a team was behaving like this because they lost the World Series or the Super Bowl, we’d be mortified at their lack of sportsmanship. They be sanctioned. The sports channels would be all over them and fans would be up in arms. Yet we put up with it from a major political party? Why? If this kind of behavior is unacceptable in a baseball team, how can it be okay for a political party?

Why the frenzy and desperation? Surely everyone who runs for office knows losing is a possibility. In politics and horse-racing, there’s no sure thing. Why the hysteria? Why not let the wounds heal and let everyone settle down and go back to living?  NOTE: There are more than a few on the Liberal side of this shouting match who need to shut up too. Let it go. Even if I agree with you, I’ve had enough. We don’t need to raise temperatures any higher. You won. Stop crowing and beating the drums. Go home. Relax. Let us all take a break from the insanity.

If you look at a map of red versus blue states, the underlying reason is apparent. If anyone doubts for a minute that this election was about race, look at the map. Compare the map of the “red states” to the old lines of the confederacy. With minor changes, it’s the same old, same old. Just when you think you’ve gotten that piano out the door, it comes right back in through the window. 620,000 Americans died fighting the Civil War, more than all the losses we’ve taken in all the other wars we’ve ever fought, from the Revolution through Vietnam. Are we are still fighting it?

Notice a certain consistency? Thought you might.

I hereby declare that not only is the election over, but the Civil War is over. It has been over for a long time and if there is a merciful God, we will never have another. The fundamental changes in our demographics have decided the issue for good and all. This nation will never be “white.” It never really was. The government was dominated by white people, but that’s finished. It will not return. Diehards may continue to try resurrecting it. They can keep disrupting the functioning of the government to the detriment of all, but it won’t restore the status quo they so dearly loved.

I’m grateful and if you examine the election results, so are most people. Splintering of the U.S. into groups who can’t even talk to each other just makes this an ugly place to live and undermines our credibility with other nations. Surely no one really wants that.

The United States of America is built on the premise that unity is strength. The motto “E pluribus unum” means “Out of many, one.” It is the phrase on the Seal of the United States and was adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782. “E pluribus unum” appears on the front of the Seal. Its image is used as the national emblem of the United States. It appears on official documents such as passports. It is on the seal of the President, as well as the seals of the Vice President, Congress, House of Representatives, United States Senate, and U.S. Supreme Court. It’s part of our national identity.

Is it obsolete? Are we ready to trash unity? And with what shall we replace it?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” is taken from Mark 3:25 “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” When Lincoln said it, he was referring to the division of the country between slave and free states. The “house divided” phrase has a long history in this country.

Lincoln used it in another context in 1843, most famously during the Senate debate on the Compromise of 1850.  Sam Houston used it too, proclaiming: “A nation divided against itself cannot stand.”  Thomas Paine, in his famous 1776 , in  Common Sense said, “this hath all the distinctions of a house divided against itself . . .”

It’s hardly a new concept dating as it does back at least 2000 years. It is as true now as it was then. Those among us who continue to sow dissension are not patriots and are not working for the common good. They are stuck in the past. They cannot accept a changed world and try to play on the prejudices, fears, and passions of anyone willing to listen until they pull the house down around us.

The Conservative wing of the GOP led their constituents down a road that turned out to be a dead-end. They believed that they could rouse enough ire to bring down the house, but they were wrong. They lost. Despite their wailing, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s a defeat, certainly, but a tragedy only if they make it so. It’s time for them to show a little class, accept their loss, take responsibility. Regroup. Rethink positions. Become a more inclusive party. Come up with some fresh ideas that appeal to a wider population. If they do that, maybe they won’t lose next time. That’s how it’s done in a Democracy. It’s the definition of a democracy. Republican cry babies, man up, repair your party and move on.

Hate and blame are easy. It’s harder to give up your personal agenda and seek common ground. Working with people who have different ideas will always be necessary because we will never have a consensus. No country has a consensus. Tyranny can force the appearance of consensus, but no one and nothing can make everyone agree. To govern in a nation founded on diversity requires intelligence and creativity, qualities that seem to be in short supply. For every voice calling for reconciliation and coöperation, there is another strident one trying to drown it out. It’s stupid. Time for solutions that include all kinds of people, not just grumpy white folks who feel threatened by the growing population of non-white citizens who expect their fair share of America.

That is the promise we make: everyone gets a piece of the American pie, regardless of race, religion, or country of origin. If we aren’t that country, what are we?

We’ve got a good thing going here.  We used to have a common sense of purpose. We need to find it again, to discover what unites us rather than eternally focusing on issues that divide us. There have always been and always will be differences and disagreements. It’s up to us to get past them, to unite and be Americans.

In immortal words of Pogo (Walt Kelly): “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Presidential Election: “Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation” ?

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News


After hearing that President Barack Obama had just been reelected to a second four-year-term as our nation’s president I turned to my laptop and watched as Facebook suddenly became a blur of emotions, with months of political discourse coming to a head and clashing in a sea of insults and joyous celebration.

For perspective, I posted this on my timeline:

“In 1981, my parents fled Poland two weeks before Martial law. I was 4, my sister was 8 months old. They left the only home they ever knew and came to America, because they knew it was filled with promise and opportunity rather than riddled with the side effects of Communism, like crappy health care and 5 hour-long lines for stale bread. Some are elated tonight, and some are downright depressed, but know this: we get to pick again in 4 years. Before you bad mouth our country, try living somewhere else, where there is No choice and truly No hope. Count your blessings America, because there are many.”

I awoke this morning knowing our country continued to be greatly divided and that emotions were running high and I checked in on my favorite social media sites to see how everyone was faring.

But my fascination quickly turned to disgust when I kept seeing the same status popping up over and over:

“A sad and tragic day for our nation.”

Disappointing? Sure, if your guy didn’t win, I’m sure you’re feeling disappointed.

Frustrated? Nervous? Deflated? If you were counting on a different outcome, then of course you’re likely to feel these things.

But to exclaim that this is a tragic day for our nation?

Really?

This is what TRAGIC looks like. Photo courtesy 9/11 Photos via Flickr.

If I sound like I’m scolding some of you, it’s because I am. Get it together people and gain some perspective. Because this country will go to hell in a hand basket not because of a single man, but because we allow ourselves to forget just how amazing and resilient and FREE our nation truly is.

Maybe you woke up this morning feeling frightened about your future because you were counting on the other guy to make things better. But you also woke up in the same country where you are Free to express your religious beliefs, Free to speak your mind, Free to choose where you want to live, and Free to think idiotic things such as “this is a tragic day for our nation.”

I urge you to find a way today to remind yourself just how good we have it, even if you’re facing economic strife or some sort of adversity. I can tell you this much: as a mom of a special needs child, there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be because I know that even though we have a long way to go in the way of awareness, accessibility, and acceptance, we are light years ahead of so many other countries in the world.

Today I un-friended the first person since the Presidential campaigns began. She threw a tantrum on Facebook and compared our President and those who voted for him to terrorists.

I draw the line there. Those photos above? That’s the handiwork of terrorists.

So if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps today because Mitt Romney won’t be moving into the White House come January, remember that we live in a nation where you get to do this all over again in four years.

In the meantime, empower others by getting involved in your community somehow. Do something kind for someone. Be someone’s hero. Spread kindness and tolerance. Teach your children that diversity is the cornerstone of this country and show them that not only is it possible to lose with dignity and respect, it’s imperative if we’re to move forward as nation.

Then meet up with your coworkers at the water cooler or your friends at the bar, and talk about what an idiot you think Obama is.

Because you can.

UPDATE: I’m so happy to know that this post has resonated with so many of you. I wrote it from my heart and I feel the exact same way today. Of course, I wrote it hoping we could all join hands and sing Kumbaya while rainbow-colored unicorn poop fell from the sky, but alas, (and according to some of the comments) we just aren’t there yet. So in the meantime, if you have a comment, please remember to remain respectful or it will be deleted. Because unlike our fair nation, this website here is a straight up dictatorship.

See on joashline.com