When I was little, I thought that the president was chosen by everyone casting a vote, sort of like the way the winner's of American Idol are chosen today. My elementary school social studies class soon taught me that I was so, so wrong.
Your vote last night did not earn President Obama four more years. Neither did the votes of the preachy, political-for-a-night Facebookers who bombarded our Timelines. (It's gonna be hilarious when those same people go right back to talking about Honey Boo Boo tomorrow, right?)
You did not reelect President Obama, because the president is not chosen by popular vote. The president is chosen by 538 people who make the decision on your behalf. That's why Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the presidency to George Bush. Yup.
The real shocker for most folks is the fact that the president of the United States was not actually elected last night, the next American president will be elected on January 6, 2013 when Congress meets to count the electoral votes. Confused? Keep reading.
Here's a recap of what we all learned about the presidential election in 5th grade social studies:
In 1787, The Founding Fathers were trying to decide how America's president should be elected. They decided to establish something called The Electoral College. There are two main reasons why they thought this was a good idea. For one, they were worried that most Americans would not be able to make intelligent decisions. Back then, there was no internet or television, and many people could not read. This made it difficult for Americans to know enough about candidates to make informed choices. The Founding Fathers were concerned that a person could manipulate public opinion and come to power. The Electoral College makes sure that can't happen. Another reason it seemed like a good idea was because it made it so that all states have voting power. Under the Electoral College system, each state has the same number of electoral votes as they have representatives in Congress, so no state could ever have less than 3. In the 19th century, 48 states decided to use a "winner takes all" system, where all electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the popular vote, regardless of how close the vote is. This is how we decide our president.
Before you get all worked up, you should know that electors don't really get to choose for themselves. Electors are chosen by the two political parties, so they kinda sorta already pledged their vote to their party's candidate. A member of the College who doesn't vote for their party's candidate is called a "faithless elector." That's pretty much like being labeled with cooties in school. There is just no way to live down cooties.
Technically, when you voted to reelect Barak Obama or to elect Mitt Romney last night, you were actually voting to choose the electors from your state. Each state got an amount of electors equal to the number of Representatives in the House, plus the two Senators. So the smallest states ended up with 3 electoral voters each, while California (because it's huge) got 55 electors. In most states, whoever won the popular vote got all of the state's electors (all states except for 2, to be exact.) That's why President Obama will be able to swag on his haters for four more years.
You might be asking yourself "Why didn't you post this information BEFORE the election?" Well... if you graduated from elementary school then none of this should be news to you. Yeah, I went there.
If knowing this information would have influenced you to vote/not vote, then you are missing the point of this blog, classmates. The point I'm trying to make is, instead of getting all riled up about politics every four years, people who feel strongly enough to rant and rave on social media about politics should become better informed and get involved.
Ask yourself this question: Were you an informed voter? Have you REALLY done your homework? A week ago, I asked a friend of mine who is a passionate Obama supporter a question about Paul Ryan, and his reply was "Who is Paul Ryan?" Come on, now. Seriously, bro. Do I even need to explain why that blows?
If you are truly an Obama supporter, do your part to support his initiatives. You put him in office, now back him up! If you are a Mitt supporter for some reason that I don't understand (I don't judge... I just don't get it,) do not act like Mitt's political career ended just because he wasn't elected president, continue to be an active supporter. If you truly believe in our political system and all, then you should know that your civic duty didn't end last night. Maybe you can start mixing in a little bit of political awareness with your knowledge of Honey Boo Boo? Huh? HUH?
No matter who you voted for last night, the fact remains that voters do not have the final say in who leads our country. If that pisses you off, then there are plenty of organizations that you can get involved with that fight for a direct election system where each citizen gets a vote and the president is chosen by the majority, or you can find out more about how electoral voters are selected and do what you can to make a difference. And if you are fine with the way things are, that's cool, too. I'm just glad I have 4 more years before most of you decide to care about politics again.