Episode

2/23 Who Needs The Electoral College? w/ Alex Keyssar

February 23, 2022

Emma hosts Alex Keyssar, Professor of History and Social Policy at the Kennedy School at Harvard University, to discuss his recent book Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?, on the consistent pushback to our system of Presidential Election since the start of the 19th Century. Professor Keyssar begins by situating the Electoral College as without a doubt the most unpopular institution in American history, with more constitutional amendments introduced regarding its abolition or revision than any other subject, as well as the obvious reasons behind this, from it simply not conforming to the democratic value of “one person = one vote,” to the constant manipulation it saw over its first half-century in existence. Diving into this element, Professor Keyssar paints a picture of the Electoral College in the first century of the U.S.’s existence, with state legislatures completely in control of electoral votes, some choosing to delegate them out themselves, some looking to statewide elections, and some employing district-specific elections, with the push for winner-take-all elections growing as the two-party system ingrained itself into our political culture, but changing state-to-state based off of the party in power. Next, Alex works through the structure of the EC, with a staunch advantage to the South, originally due to the 3/5 clause – and an important element in the South maintaining the institution of slavery – but even in the wake of the Civil War, as the incredible and immediate disenfranchisement of African Americans across the south meant their “freedom” bolstered the clout of the southern White vote. After briefly touching on the tentative approval of the Electoral College by the framers, alongside their misunderstanding of how hard it would truly be to pass amendments, Professor Keyssar and Emma look to Senator Birch Bayh’s effort in the late ‘60s to bring this battle back to Congress, with the wake of WWII, the passing of the VRA, and the ongoing Cold War all pushing democratic values to the forefront, successfully passing an amendment in with 82% of votes in the House, before a Senate filibuster hosted by White supremacists forced it to a halt. They wrap up the interview with the neoliberal era, and the post-1980 Republican mindset that sees the Electoral College as central to their foothold on minority power. Emma also dives into the horrors of a White supremacist and anti-communist mass shooting at a BLM protest in Portland, and Peter Doocy’s attempt to leverage Russia over the Climate Emergency, all while oil and gas have been central to the conflict.

And in the Fun Half: Emma takes an incredible call from Willow the Wendigo as she grapples with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration that Texas will now treat trans and gender-related healthcare for teenagers as abuse; they walk through the importance of teenage gender-affirming care in myriad aspects, from decreasing suicide, self-harm, and depression rates to the impermanence of puberty-blockers, allowing kids going through puberty to take time with any decision on hormonal transition. Then, Tucker Carlson reminds everyday Americans that people who believe in racism and/or are Chinese are the true enemy in the coming Russian conflict, Kyle Rittenhouse joins him to call out the liars and frauds such as… such as… Whoopi Goldberg? The DC Trucker Convoy turns into an ad for one Bob Bolus, and Phil Mickelson discusses how working WITH authoritarians is the only way for change in the PGA, plus, your calls and IMs!

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