In the wake of the November presidential election results, many Americans are taking to the streets in protest. In the past week, more than 200,000 people have started using the tag #NotMyPresident, the ACLU published a plan for impeachment, and tens of thousands of people are peacefully protesting in major cities.
10,000 protesters showed up for Anti-Trump protests in New York, with more marching in Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and more. A "Million Women" march on Washington is also being organized for Inauguration Day. President-elect Trump is a polarizing politician by any standard, but why exactly are so many people protesting these election results?
Well, a lot of it has to do with the American political system. The presidential race actually includes two votes: a popular vote, and an electoral college vote. The popular vote is by the people - 1 citizen, 1 vote. Simple democracy, right? Except that the president is not chosen by popular vote. Instead of being based off the popular vote, the president is elected only based on the electoral college vote. So what exactly is the electoral college?
The electoral college is a small group of private individuals. They are not voted in by citizens, nor do they work their way up to their positions. Instead, they are appointed by state legislatures, in closed-door meetings. In total, there are 583 electors from all 50 states. That means that only 583 people, instead of the 319,000,000 US citizens, get to decide on the president.
Most of the time, the electoral college vote and the popular vote turn out the same way - with a few notable exceptions. The only four elections in all United States history to have this conflict happened in 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. This year's election marks only the fifth time in the nation's history that the electoral college vote contradicted the popular vote.
While there was some backlash on these occasions, it does not compare to the scope of this year's protests. In fact, these protests are completely unheard of for a modern American presidency, according to Douglas Brinkley, professor of presidential history at Rice University.
Douglas stated that there have not been widespread demonstrations on this scale since Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860. After President Lincoln won only about 40 percent of the popular vote, protests across the country broke out spontaneously, he added.
The popular vote this year, while not entirely counted yet, is widely attributed to Hillary Clinton, who had literally 1,000,000 more votes than Trump - polls now put her at 61 million voters, and him at 60 million. Could this be what is angering protesters?
Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to Clinton, had the following to say: "We have a First Amendment. People are angry. People are upset. And they want to express their point of view that they are very frightened, in very, very strong disagreement with Mr. Trump, who has made bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign. I think that people are saying, ‘Mr. Trump, we have come too far in this country fighting discrimination and bigotry. We’re not going back. And if you’re going to continue that effort, you’re going to have to take us on.’
Nevada Senator Harry Reid agreed with him, saying "If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.”
In the past few days, many people - most notably California Senator Barbara Boxer - have been calling for the end of the electoral college. According to Boxer, the electoral college is an "outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society." She added,
"When all the ballots are counted, Hillary Clinton will have won the popular vote by a margin that could exceed two million votes, and she is on track to have received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history except Barack Obama. This is the only office in the land where you can get more votes and still lose the presidency."
This is not the first time that Americans have tried to abolish the electoral college. In fact, a 1969 amendment to do so did pass the House Representative Committee, then was approved by President Nixon, but finally lost in the Senate, by only two votes. In fact, opposition to the electoral college is so widespread that in November 2012, Donald Trump himself tweeted, "The electoral college is a disaster for democracy" - garnering 96,000 'likes' and 138,000 retweets. After his nomination, Trump was quick to recount his earlier words, tweeting "The electoral college is actually genius".
In the divided nation, many disagree with the protesters. Robert Pittinger, a Congressman from North Carolina, said about the protesters "The grievance in their minds, the animus, the anger – they hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not." Ted Cruz agreed, stating that protesters are just "leftist agitators who crossed the line, who are trying to silence a voice they don't like."
Donald Trump responded to the protests, telling the nation, "Don't be afraid. We are going to bring our country back. But certainly, don't be afraid." When asked why people were protesting, he replied "That's only because they don't know me. I just don't think they know me." Police have been attempting to end the protests by using tear gas on crowds of men, women, and children, and arresting over 100 people nationwide so far.
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