Ron Colone: On the subject of all those scars

RON COLONE

There have been five times in the history of U.S. presidential elections that the winner declared by the Electoral College failed to carry the popular vote.

In other words, of those five elections, more Americans voted for “the loser” than for “the winner.” Two such instances have occurred in the past 20 years, which has given rise to a national debate about whether the Electoral College is an outdated system for choosing our president.

It’s not the first time.

Since 1789, there have been more than 750 proposed amendments to modify or abolish the Electoral College, making it the single most contested subject of constitutional reform. Only three of those 750 challenges made it through both Houses of Congress, which is actually not a bad success rate when you consider that we only have 27 amendments total; 27 out of 12,000 attempts to change the Constitution. Sometimes, it’s a matter of having majority support in one House but not the other, or maybe not quite enough of a majority, but whatever the issue, almost every attempt at changing the Constitution falls short.

Like the one in 1916 that would have required a national vote before Congress could declare war, with the stipulation that anyone who cast a ballot in favor of war would be required to volunteer for service in the U.S. Army.

As tears continued to swell, a flurry of memories streamed through my consciousness – starting with the first house I lived in with my family, and the parents and older siblings who all played “Mr. Blue” on the hi-fi for me, and how smooth and comforting...

That one made me laugh, and it brought to mind the phrase “having skin in the game,” which means being personally involved in or directly affected by the outcome.

Take, for instance, this latest relief bill.

The vote was split down party lines, with one side voting “yes” and the other side “no.” I wonder how those same members of Congress would have voted if 80% of their income was gobbled up by bills and the remaining 20% was barely enough to get by on?

I wonder if the people who voted "no” on the proposals to winterize the power plants in Texas would have done so if it meant they would have to agree to subject themselves, their neighbors and their loved ones to a week without power or water in the midst of a winter storm, just to show that even if something were to happen it wouldn’t be that bad?

How would they vote on policing issues if they had a family member who was unjustly killed by an overaggressive cop, or conversely, if a member of their family was a cop who was killed in the line of duty?

And what about if they had to be the one staying home with a young child who was having a hard time with distance learning, or if they were the owner-operator of a restaurant, or if they had a family member die from the effects of the virus? How would it affect their votes on closures and COVID-19 restrictions?

It’s this issue of having skin in the game, or in the case of lawmaking, having an understanding of, or an interest in, who is most directly affected by your voting decisions.

I would pick a kid and ask — when were you born, and then I would turn to the paper that was published closest to that date to show what was happening in the town at that time. My editor said, "that’s one of the reasons newspapers are important; they provide an historical record of the events that take place."

Legal reform is about trying to change laws when we think they no longer serve the people, but it’s a matter of which people. For instance, in the last two weeks, more than 900 bills have been introduced in states throughout the country to change how we vote and who would vote. Some of the proposals would make it harder to vote and some would make it easier. The opposing sides frame the argument as “protecting election integrity” or “protecting the rights of the individual,” but it seems mostly an effort to gain advantage or lessen the disadvantage for their political party, which unfortunately is often the case when it comes to changing laws.

Not always though; sometimes it’s about right and wrong, health and safety, justice and injustice, and striving for a more perfect union.

Whether we’re talking about the legislative process or the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, it is the ability to consider things from someone else’s perspective that is the basis for compassionate justice and peaceful association.

One of the reasons we haven’t moved faster and further away from the fossil fuel industry is because of how deeply embedded and invested in it we are, and how much effort and money it would take to extricate ourselves from it, and how convinced we are that it’s not economically feasible.

It took a while, but in time we became perfectly capable of holding on to the idea that the glass, to some, could be half full, and to others half empty, depending on their predilection and experience.

The Roman calendar, at first, had 10 months with 30 or 31 days, and about 50 or 60 extra days they’d throw in at the end and call it winter. Later, they changed to 12 months, but they still had some leftover days at the end. The Julian calendar set the year at 365 days, with one extra day every fourth year to keep things in place and happening at the right time.

Ron Colone can be reached at ron.colone@gmail.com

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