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Issues Economic and Social Justice Stop TPP Fast Track Featured News The Electoral College: Another Front in the War Against Labor
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 19:33

The Electoral College: Another Front in the War Against Labor

Written by  Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, The Daily Take | News Analysis

The Electoral College - the way we pick our president and vice president - is all about cheap labor. When it was put into place in 1789, it was to give slaveholders a greater national voice - part of a compromise with the slave states to keep them in the union. So back then, it was all about cheap labor - slavery.

But it's still about preserving cheap labor in America, although we no longer call it slavery, and it's still all about giving more power and influence to the barons of the cheap-labor states.

Here's how.

We like to believe our Founding Fathers had infinite wisdom on this issue. We like to believe that they carefully crafted an electoral system that would level the playing fields among states - preventing larger states from drowning out the voices of smaller states.

We like to believe that they had some larger idea about how states should interact with each other every four years to elect our Commander-in-Chief.

But they didn't. At the founding of our nation, the issue with regard to the Senate was, indeed, all about small states versus big states. But when it came to the Electoral College picking the president, it was all about preserving the power of slave-owners.

As constitutional scholar and Yale Law School Professor Akhil Amar pointed out about our history, "We never actually have a breakdown in American history between big states and small states. The lineup is more geographic- it's North against South."

North against South. And what was the difference between the North and the South at the beginning of our nation? Slavery.

The Electoral College was never created to protect "small states." It was created to protect "slave states."

Here was the political problem slave states were facing at the onset of America: There were very few white males - the legal voters of the day - living in those states. Slaves made up large portions of the population in the South - but they weren't allowed to vote.

When it came to representation in Congress, the slave states found a work-around to this "problem" with the so-called Three-Fifths Compromise, that would have three-fifths of the slaves in a state counted toward the state's population used to calculate how many members in the House of Representatives a state would have. The goal - and effect - of this was to give the slave states more representation in the House of Representatives than they would have had if only their small population of legal white voters was counted.

With that pin place, when it came to electing a new president, the Three-Fifths Compromise also helped slave states, who had more members of congress per white voter than did the northern non-slave states.

If the president was elected simply by the majority of the votes in the country, the South wouldn't have that many voters, because they had such large populations of slaves who couldn't vote.

Therefore, very few votes would be coming out of slave states to determine who the President of the United States would be - meaning the southern slave-owners would be marginalized during Presidential elections. That threatened even the survival of the institution of slavery itself, as so many legal voters in the north opposed it.

Which is why they compromised with the Electoral College. Rather than just having a popular vote choose the winner - like nearly every single other election on every level in our nation - our President is chosen by electors representing the states. The number of electors each state gets is determined by how much representation each state has in Congress: the number of Representatives plus Senators. For example, Florida has 27 Members of the House of Representatives and 2 Senators, thus the state gets 29 Electoral College votes.

So, slave states with small voting populations were given a louder voice in our Congress, thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise. Then, these slave states were given a louder voice in our Presidential elections, too, because the Electoral College is based on that same inflated Congressional representation. Got it? Thanks to the Electoral College protecting slave holders, they were able to keep their influence in government for much longer than they likely would have without this system.

Yes, slavery is gone today. But the Electoral College still serves as a system to protect the new "slave owners" and their "more humane" forms of servitude: low-wage, unorganized labor.

The slave states of yesterday have been replaced by the so-called Right-to-Work-for-less states of today. The Right-to-work-for-less Taft-Hartley law was put into place in 1947 by Republicans in Congress. President Harry Truman vetoed this very anti-worker legislation, but the Republicans overrode his veto, and it's stuck to this day.

In Right-to-Work-for-less states, workers can opt-out of unions and stop paying union dues, but continue to collect all the benefits of a union like better wages and safer working conditions. What this does is starve unions of revenue, fracture organized labor movements, and ultimately assist the big corporate bosses who want to bust up unions.

As a result, the average worker in a Right-to-Work for less state makes about $5,000 a year LESS than his or her counterpart in other states. Also, 21% more workers lack employee provided health insurance in Right-to-Work for less states. And workplace injuries and deaths are 51% higher in Right-to-work for less states.

Can you say "cheap labor"? That's what it's all about, just like that's what slavery was all about.

If you were to lay a map of slave states from 1850, over a map of so-called Right-to-Work for less states today, they would be nearly identical, with the only exceptions being Kentucky and Missouri, which were slave states but are not yet Right-to-Work-for-less states.

And just like the slave states of old, the Right-to-Work states of today, which generally vote for Republicans, take more benefits from the government than they pay in taxes, and tend to be in the South, and - surprise! - receive a disproportionate boost in the Electoral College.

Again, since the Electoral College factors in the number of Senators each state has, and since each state, regardless of population, gets two Senators, then these smaller, Right-to-Work-for-less states - the former slave states - have an inflated representation in our presidential elections.

As Mo Rocca wonders about the Electoral College in the pages of the New York Times, "Today it certainly favors states with smaller populations: about 139,000 eligible voters in Wyoming get one Electoral College vote. But it takes nearly 478,000 eligible voters in Pennsylvania to get an Electoral College vote...Does Wyoming really need to be protected?"

And, no surprise here, Wyoming is a Right-to-Work for less state, and Pennsylvania is not.

So, from the very beginning of our Republic, cheap-labor corporatists were able to manipulate our electoral system to protect their own cheap labor resources - be it slaves in the 19th century or minimum wage workers in the 21st century.

Now that we know the game, isn't it time to end it and give workers - and not their cheap-labor overlords - more say in our democracy? Several states are doing just that. Nine states have passed National Popular Vote laws, which commit their electors to vote for whichever candidate wins the national popular vote, even if that candidate lost the state Electoral College vote.

Those nine states that have passed national popular vote laws - including California, Maryland, and Illinois - account for 132 electoral votes among them, nearly half of the 270 needed in the Electoral College to win the White House. If this trend continues, and enough states sign up that their combined Electoral College votes adds up to 270, then the Electoral College dies just like that.

So far, only blue states are on board with this idea. Red states, mostly because their power brokers want to keep cheap labor, still prefer the Electoral College. But looking at the polls heading into this election - where there's a chance that President Obama could lose the popular vote, yet win the Electoral College count and stay President - then maybe some red states will jump on board with the idea.

For more information, go to NationalPopularVote.com.

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Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries in January.

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Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

Join our Twitter Storm

If you have a Twitter account you can help stop Fast Track on the TPP. Sign-in to your Twitter account and copy and paste the Tweets from our Twitter storm. Or you can copy your favorite Tweet and then click on the map and Tweet your legislator.

Twitter Storm Tweets for Tuesday, January 28th @ 9pm Eastern

Tweets for the special State of the Union Twitter Storm will be posted on January 28th at 8pm EST. Check back for the new Tweets.

Find Your Member of Congress

Click here to quickly find your member of Congress by putting in your home address. This site also features a one-click link to the same information in Spanish

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Then call and ask them to oppose Fast Track on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Sample script is below.

Script

“I'm a constituent, and I am strongly opposed to my representative giving away Congress’ constitutional authority to control our trade policy. We send people to Congress to stand up for us, not give away their power to stop more American job offshoring and protect us from dangerous imported food that doesn’t meet our safety standards. This latest so-called trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would not only do that - but also ban Buy American and increase our medicine prices. That’s why it’s crucial that Congress not give away its authority to make sure every provision of TPP is in our interest before this massive deal can be signed. Good trade deals don’t need to be railroaded through Congress using Fast Track. I hope my representative will commit to opposing this outrageous legislation.”

Email Your Senators and Rep - Say No On Fast Track and TPP

Send an email directly to your Senators and Representatives courtesy of our partners at CWA. Enter your zip code and your members are automatically selected.

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Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

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Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions

MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Pulic Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority

MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab

 

Hand Deliver a Letter to your Senators or Representative on the TPP

If your Senator(s) and/or Representative is not currently opposed to Fast Track, they may not completely understand all the implications. Nothing sends a stronger message to a Congressional member than a personal visit to a district office by a voter with a written request. Phone calls and emails are incredibly important but nothing gets attention like a personal visit. Our Educate Congress page has information and a sample letter. Print the letter, sign it, deliver it.

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Report on your TPP Contact

Please let us know your legislator's stance on Fast Track Authorization for the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as their stance on the TPP in General. Click here to report the response.

The Trans Pacific Partnership: Corporate Global Domination

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

Lori Wallach Leaked TPP Documents (Democracy NOW)

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of

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Flush the TPP

Congress only has one more week in session this year, the week of December 9. So far our pressure to stop the TPP has been working. Visit Flush the TPP for calling scripts and links to Members of the Ways and Means Committee.

Flush the TPP

TPP Downloads

The following documents are available from the Oppose TPP Downloads Folder

February 2nd TPP Powerpoint

January 26th TPP Powerpoint

CWA TPP Jobs Report