Superman is dead, and it looks like the Justice League is on its own.

The American Century is over. We’re going to get a lot of hate for saying that, but the way we see it, it’s a little like climate change: It’s a global shift that is big, has a lot of moving parts, is uncomfortable to think about, and will definitely be something that Trump supporters will deny. When it comes to Europe, the Paris Accords, NATO and more, the world is on its own. We seceded our position as world leader the moment that a minority of us elected a self-invested, egotistical, narcissistic, car salesman with questionable mental stability as President. Most people thought our decline would be gentle and gradual, like an old dog slowly dying in the comfort of its home, but last week Donald Trump brought that old dog out behind the shed and decided to put it out of its misery.

Justice League of Nations
The United States’ position as a superpower and a leader in the free world has been in decline for a while. Factors like globalization, the rise of the European Union, our drop in STEM related fields and education, the accessibility of information and technology, and many many other factors -many of which we initiated or put into motion- have doomed our sole position of dominance. Donald Trump did not cause the decline of American power and influence in the world. That was going on long before he ever put his tiny hands on any piece of legislation, but the factors that got him elected are inexplicably linked to that decline: ignorance, fear, bigotry, scapegoating, corruption, ignorance, and ignorance.

It has become abundantly clear that our of President no longer deserves the title of “Leader of the Free World,” nor does he seem to want it. He wants to be the leader of “Pittsburgh not Paris,” but by doing so he has made America less safe… again. Global cooperative treaties, like NATO or the Paris Climate Accord loose some of their power without the United States, and our country will not survive as a lone ship on the sea of coming change. In the past two weeks, The Donald has gone out of his way to alienate allies, embrace global controversy, and deny even the most basic niceties of international diplomacy. Unsurprisingly, the only country still applauding his efforts is Russia.

We could make some joke where we compare Trump to Lex Luthor, but that would be an unfair comparison. At least Lex Luthor had a plan. Trump is led solely by his impulses and his need for complete self-importance. He berated NATO allies for owing “massive amounts of money,” –which is untrue– and made several statements that prove he may not fully understand what NATO is or how it works. He then made sure to physically push aside the Prime Minster of Montenegro, refused to listen to advice from other world leaders, and forgot to reaffirm Article 5 of the NATO treaty… which is kind of the point of the NATO. Article 5, is the article that assures mutual defense of all allied countries. Of course it came out later, that he may only have failed to endorse it because he just made up his own speech as he went along.

Paris Climate According to Trump
After Trump spent a week arm wrestling our closest allies, and posing like a real-freaking-to-life-super-villain, he then announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. He cited several misleading and incorrect statements about the historic international accord, but basically admitted that he pulled out of the Paris Agreement because he thought people were laughing at us. For the record, Paris is a non-binding agreement that held no penalties or international sanctions, and was signed by almost every country in the world, including China, Russia, and North Korea. Despite what Trump claims, experts believed it would have actually grown the US job market. There are currently 374,000 people in America employed in solar energy, compared to the 160,000 currently employed in the coal industry. Trump is mistakenly focused on saving an industry that employs less people in America than Arby’s restaurants.

By snubbing Paris and the EU, Trump is only hurting American leadership in the world. China, has already begun to take the lead on green energy initiatives, and that is great for the environment, but bad for the US economy. Renewable technologies, resources, and energy are going to be the industries of the future, and by clinging to old ideas, the US is conceding future jobs and influence. One of the reasons for America’s success has always been our ability to invent the future. Planes, cars, telephones, the Internet, smartphones, and a thousand other common everyday items were all first created in America. We created the modern world and that put us firmly in charge of it. Now, we will be playing catch-up, and in ten years the world may be buying solar panels manufactured and invented in China.

The Last Moron of a Dying World
Trump has this fascinating -and dangerous- ability to make decisions in service to two personal deities: narcissism and greed. Any choice he makes seems aimed at stroking his ego or padding his wallet. Yet, he only has a rudimentary understanding of diplomacy, politics, and history. He operates with a very narrowed perception, mostly focused on himself, and that is a dangerous way for any leader and diplomat to make decisions. Take his withdrawal from Paris as an example. He incorrectly perceived it as an economic sanction, and failed to weigh all the other factors surrounding the agreement: environmental, defense, political, and more. Europe and the world will now turn toward China for leadership, which is something that American Presidents have been trying to avoid for decades.

Remember the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty? Think what you will of the TPP, it was not perfect, but it also was not the terrible deal that Donald Trump made it out to be. First of all, it was very good for American farmers, but part of the power of the TPP was not in its economics. It strengthened trading alliance between friendly Pacific nations, while keeping westernized Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea, from needing to rely heavily on China for imports. The TPP weakened China’s economic hold and social influence over Asia, but without it our allies have no where else to turn, which makes them more susceptible to Chinese influence in international political and military decisions. The TPP is also a little moot, as it was dead in Congress before Trump ever took office, but that did not stop him from signing his jagged name to a worthless piece of paper to confirm it, all for some cheap applause… which he loves.

A lot of Trump’s grandstanding on his past international trip seems aimed at his supporters back home: his tough talk with NATO, his pulling out the Paris Agreement, and even his manhandling of world leaders. He was not thinking about what those things would do on the global landscape, he was thinking about how they would play to Joe and Jane Smith at his rally in Ohio, or Missouri, or Mar-a lago. Do you know what other world leader talks tough, rattles sabers, and threatens other nations, all in the sole name of domestic popularity? Kim Jong-un -also any strongman dictator in history- but North Korea is the most obvious modern-day example.

The Daily Planetary Crisis
FDR once said that Americans have nothing to fear, but “fear itself.” Donald Trump tells us we should be afraid of everything, terrorists: the news media, refugees, and basically the rest of the world, but that is absolute bullshit. The United States of America is not a country built on fear. We are the risk-takers, the home of the brave, the land of the rebel. When did we become a country that jumps at its own shadow? When did we become a country that hides behind bans and border security? When did we become a country that kicks our friends and throws out the “huddled masses,” all because we are afraid? That is not America. That is not the America we want to live in, but that is the American vision that Donald Trump offers: A paranoid, fearful America who only sees the rest of the world as enemies or suckers.

Trump has no understanding of “cause” and “effect.” To him it is like the world began on November 9, 2016. We need a leader who brings people together, and not one that gets into fights with city mayors who just suffered terrorist attacks. We can no longer survive with an “every man for himself” attitude, nor can we survive by being petty and mean-spirited toward our allies or our enemies. Superman is not a hero if he only considers his own interests -as we saw in Batman v Superman- because when that happens the Justice League is better off without him. So, maybe -for the time being- the world is better off without us.

In the comics Superman dies a noble death and comes back again a hero. We are suffering an ignoble death, but if we continue on this path there may be no coming back for us.

American Identity

Perhaps you’re familiar with Two-Face, the Batman villain, played both by Aaron Eckhart and by Tommy Lee Jones doing an impersonation of a malfunctioning black-light. Regardless of which version you cling to as the definitive one, Harvey Dent is a super-villain who uses his trademark coin to make all his decisions. One flip to decide which bank he will rob, which city official he will shoot, and which pair of sewed together suits he will wear for the day. -His tailor fees must be outrageous- Yet, in a lot of ways Two-Face may be a good metaphor for our American identity, because it feels as if we are split between two parties, two points-of-view, and as if every decision we make is made by the flip of a coin.

The Face You Choose
Harvey Dent had acid thrown in his face, leading to his identity complex, but America’s split-personality disorder traces its origins back to something much more sinister and corrosive, politics. Since 1852 either a Republican or a Democrat have come in first or second for the Presidential race, except for one. Theodore Roosevelt lost as a third-party candidate to Woodrow Wilson, but that was after he had already been President as a Republican. In the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats have become the only two parties to hold power -aside from a very few exceptions- for the better part of a century and a half. In fact, since World Way II no more than two seats in Congress have gone to third-party candidates. We have to face facts, people, we have a Two-Face problem with our American identity, and its not something that Batman can simply solve by punching.

Our election process uses First Past the Post Voting. Basically it a system where the person to win the majority wins the election. It seems like the most simple form of democracy -mostly because it is- but there are serious drawbacks. The biggest being that even electoral systems that feature multiple parties will, over time, eventually be whittled down to a two-party system. It is something that very often happens in Britain, Australia, or other countries that have several political parties. Two tend to emerge as more dominant. That is because with FPTP voting, there is a lot of potential for wasted voting.

Think about the 2016 election. -We know it hurts, but try anyway- Anyone who wanted to vote for Jill Stein or that other guy… we want to call him… Jerry… It doesn’t matter… Either way, you knew with a fair amount of certainty that there was not a Mr. Freeze’s chance in Hell that either candidate was going to win the election. So, even if you agreed 100% with their platforms, you still realized that you were throwing your vote away, and by doing so you might be accidentally helping the candidate you dislike most. Thus, most rational voters tend to vote for the “lesser of two evils.” Basically, you’d rather choose to vote for the mafia over the Joker, because at least your fairly certain you understand the mafia’s motives. In FPTP voting most people tend to vote against candidates rather than for candidates. Now there are other systems, but that’s for another article. As for right now, all we need to understand is that for 150 years America has been stuck in an entrenched two-party system, and that has very much affected our American identity.

Heads or Tails
In much the same way that Harvey Dent’s injuries are superficial, so are the labels of Republican and Democrat. They are two valid philosophies on how to approach the governing of our country, at least that was how they started. Two-Face’s injuries may be superficial but they have become the basis for his mental disorder, in much the same way that our political parties have become the basis for our American identity crisis. This has become especially true over the past decade. Each party has always had their extremes, but they always seemed to be able to find compromise, yet that has changed. Gridlock, in-fighting, and extremism have become the common practice of Washington, and it has come to affect the rest of the country.

A new survey from the Associated Press’ NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that we can no longer even agree what it means to be American. Unsurprisingly, the results are split down party affiliation lines. Roughly 65% of Democrats cited a mix of cultural groups and ethnicities as being either very or extremely important to the American identity. Only 35% of Republicans agree. However, 57% of Republicans believe that strong Christian values are very or extremely important to the American identity. Only 29% of Democrats agree. Republicans are far more likely to cite European values and Christian practices as our biggest strengths, while Democrats are far more likely to cite our country’s traditions of immigration and diversity as our biggest strengths. Regardless of party affiliation, 7 in 10 people agree that America is losing its identity.

These results aren’t exactly surprising. What is surprising is that: despite the fact that the amount of Independent voters -or voters unregistered with any party- is up, strong political leanings of voters -especially over the past few years- have sharply divided down demographic lines. Depending on whether you are old, white, Hispanic, religious, college-educated, or live in Gotham city, it is more likely that your political leanings have become sharpened over the recent years in very predictable ways. Overall, 48% of registered voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 44% who identify as Republican or lean toward Republicanism. That only leaves about 8% of American who are truly undecided and independent, and this hyper-partisanship is tearing at our American identity.

Everything is becoming political. The advent of social media, cable news, and the constant echo-chamber-interaction of modern politics has ensured that almost every issue -from religion to Broadway– exists inside a political spectrum. That means when people begin to strongly identify with conservative or liberal leanings, they also tend to mindlessly begin to judge the world through those lens. In many ways, it has stopped being about what do you think of an issue and become more about what does the party think about an issue. In a sense, we have lost a bit of our own thoughtfulness and replaced it with blinded adherence to political doctrines handed down from self-serving political super-villains. We are no longer content to be “fiscally conservative” or “socially liberal” or some other piece-meal-political view. We have begun to pitch our tents under one flag or the other, and that does not lead to a healthy American identity.

The Bicameral America
A phenomenon happened in America over the past two decades where politics became something more than external labels. We equate it to how people feel about sports teams. Of course, we’re nerds so we cling to labels such as Trekkie or Whovian, but the principal tends to be the same. As humans we don’t like complexity, it muddles our minds and takes brain power away from things we enjoy, so we condense ideologies and slap labels on them, like a can of soup. We also do this when it comes to ourselves, and thus we get people who live and die by the New York Giants, or the LA Lakers, or your local high school sports team. We all want to feel as if we are a part of something bigger and then we take that thing and integrate it into our own sense of identity. In one form or another we all do it. Yet, before the 1980’s, people rarely did it with politics. Sure, there were always the exceptions, but back then knowing how someone voted did not always correlate with their self-identity.

Something started during the Reagan years, where people’s party affiliations and labels of progressive and conservative became ingrained with their sense of self. That’s not a good thing, because… well just log onto Facebook. When your political affiliation starts to become essential to the core understanding of who you are as a person, than your liberal aunt isn’t just attacking Donald Trump, they are attacking you. When your conservative cousin badmouths Obama they are -in essence- badmouthing you. The vitriol and hard-line division is not because we are really defending one policy or politician over another. It is because we defending ourselves against each other. This is why people cry at baseball games. -Despite what Tom Hanks believes- When your team loses, you lose. When someone tells to you that the “Yankees suck,” all you hear is that “you suck.”

America has become Two-Face because much like Harvey Dent we have internalized our superficial disorder. The American identity has become a split personality because we have become homogeneous in our beliefs. Among engaged voters -those who always vote- 99% of engaged Republicans are more conservative than the median Democrat, and 98% of engaged Democrats are more liberal than the median Republican. That’s up from 88% and 84%, respectively, in 2004. We have compromised our American identity for party politics and it is driving us farther apart. We have stopped looking for the common ground and started fighting over the higher ground. We want to protect our sense of self so we argue that we are on the winning side in a battle that was never really meant to have winners or losers. In a way, we have internalized politics and that is a dangerous chemical to be fooling around with, unless of course you are fine with becoming a super-villain.


Words matter. We’re not just saying that because we’re eloquent writers… and stuff. No, we’re saying it because: words matter. Language is a social contract that exists between all of us and with that agreement comes a certain amount of trust. We judge people based upon how they speak. We tell and read stories to entertain and inform. We trust language as something firm in our lives, and we also tend to believe the things we see written in headlines, in the news, and by our own government. That is why ideas of “Alternative Facts” can be so scary, and why propaganda has been so effective throughout our history.

Nobody in History Ever Lied
The origin of the word, Propaganda, can appropriately be traced back to the Catholic Church. The Sacra Congregti d Prpagand Fid or Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith, was established is 1622. Its objectives were to convert pagans and propagate the Catholic faith. From that came the word we know today, but it is worth mentioning that the word itself did not have a sinister meaning until later in history. It is also worth mentioning that just because the phrase was coined in 1622, that does not mean that the art of deception and promotion did not exist before that time either.

For instance, Julius Caesar wrote and published the Bellum Gallicum between 58 BCE and 49 BCE. They were Caesar’s own first hand accounts -told in third person- of his many victories in the Gallic War. It is very likely many of his writings suffered from at least some embellishment, as the real purpose of the documents were to influence and win favor with the common people in Rome. Caesar knew that if he could influence the commoners to love him, then the Senate could do nothing against him, especially when he eventually marched into Rome at the head of an army and was declared emperor. You see, leaders -whether on Twitter or by other means- have been exaggerating their accomplishments throughout history, not just for narcissistic reasons but as a tool to control others.

That is worth remembering when someone like Donald Trump plants people in the audience of his news conferences, with the explicit purpose of laughing and applauding on cue. That is worth remembering when someone like Donald Trump inflates his own importance and victories on social media. That is worth remembering when someone like Donald Trump refuses to believe or even acknowledge the existence his own words and failures. That is worth remembering when someone like Donald Trump believes that the rules do not apply to him. Propaganda is the art of making opinion of the powerful reality for all, and that is worth remembering too.

There Has Never Been Any Propaganda in War
The tactics of propaganda are not necessary when despotism reigns. In a time before democracy, dictators and supreme leaders did not need to convince their people to do anything. The people did it because they had no choice. However, in a place like Ancient Athens, propaganda became a way of life. The citizenry was actively engaged in the game of politics, and were conscious of their own interests. That meant in order to sway the strong-minded citizenry the Greeks used everything from games, to the theater, to the assembly, to religious festivals to extol their ideas or denigrate those of their opposition. These machinations and subtle manipulations became a simple way of life, and it has continued into modern democracies ever since.

Propaganda has become even more important in today’s world, where democracy is now the dominant form of government. The most obvious examples come in times of war. During World War I the US Government created the Committee on Public Information, to keep the American people committed to fighting the Kaiser and his “evil” German hordes. During the Great War the CPI first used fact, but quickly started embellishing those facts to make American victories seem more impressive. They gave stories to the newspapers, such as how “the First Division to Europe sank several German submarines.” The story was easily proven false when reporters interviewed the commanding officers of the division and learned they had not even encountered any German submarines. The CPI used newspapers, posters, and new technologies like radio, telegraphs, and even the movies to promote their pro-war agenda. They had scores of “four minute men” who were trained to go to social gatherings and talk favorably about the war in conversation. However, this heavy handed campaign backfired and the American public became highly critical of the obvious propaganda tactics of the organization. It was about this time that the word propaganda also came to have negative and sinister undertones.

During the Second World War, many Americans came to associate the term with fascist regimes, such as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. So, in Word War II the government instead subsidized the Writers’ War Board. It was an independent agency that expressly promoted government policies through art, literature, and even comic books. The WWB made movies with big celebrities, sold war bonds, and created pro-American posters to support the war effort. Officially, the US Government took the stance of having no propaganda, but the civilian led WWB has been called “The greatest propaganda machine of all time.” It was so good that -as a nation- we still internalize a lot of Wolrd War II through the images and ideas that were first created by the WWB. In essence their propaganda became part of our history and our culture.

However even after the war, concepts of propaganda could still be found in most civilian life. If you are a child of the 80’s or 90’s -as we are- you may remember the Ad Council, and it might surprise you -as it did us- that it was established in 1942 to drum up support for the war. The Ad Council then moved on to domestic issues for the government and private agencies. They became a form of domestic propaganda, working on everything from those famous “War on Drugs,” commercials to their “Campaign for Freedom,” which promotes the War on Terrorism. However, domestic propaganda does not only come from the government. It also comes from companies trying to sell their products, or even news agencies trying to boost their ratings. In 1898, we even invaded Cuba -in part- because William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer sensationalized the sinking of the USS Maine to sell papers. In some ways, their actions were no different than Fox News declaring that there is a “War on Christmas,” -which considering that Christmas advertisements start going up on October 15, there clearly is not.

Words Don’ Matter
Everything we have mentioned so far as been pretty obvious propaganda. Most people would look at the examples of World War II, the sinking of the Maine, commercial advertisements, or even Reagan’s War on Drugs, and probably agree with us. However, it is the subtle manipulations that tend to be the most effective and most sinister. Word usage and word choice can change your brain. Words like peace and love can strengthen our frontal lobes and promote cognitive functioning. While, negative words can increase our fear centers and produce stress hormones. So labeling something like a “War on… Anything” will put most people into a fight or flight mode. However, labeling a law that expands government surveillance and reduces civil liberties as the Patriot Act, will put people at ease. Arguably it is also catchier than “The Government Taps Your Phone Act.”

We tend to think of propaganda as grand campaigns of misinformation, but the truth is that they don’t have to be splashed on posters or on your TV screen to manipulate how you think and feel. Words are powerful. They shape our perception of the world around us, and changing words to have different meanings or falsely labeling actions or laws can have an incredible impact on people, even as we know it is happening. These days, the manipulation of language has never been so apparent as than during the infancy of the Presidency of our current President Infant. Donald Trump is a man who labels his opponent as “Crooked Hillary,” or “Lying Ted.” He -despite his limited vocabulary- is actually a master at using subconscious secret code words. Words like “get” or “achieve.” He uses props as a tool of distraction, because of course he does. Remember Donald Trump is a reality TV producer. He knows how to put on a show.

Now you have his surrogates on TV openly lying about easily disprovable facts and then calling them alternative. In our opinion, this is perhaps the most dangerous and chilling thing that has come out of the Trump White House. Calling lies by any other name is how reality starts to warp. Remember, words have power, and the phrase “Alternative Facts” is already trending. We laugh at it now, but it is entering the lexicon like a slow moving virus. If it gains ground than it will give Donald Trump and his team a safe and reliable place to hide their lies. We cannot let that happen. We cannot play their propaganda game. We need to call things what they are, and a lie is a lie.

Donald Trump Lies for the Good of the Nation
According to The Oxford Companion to American History, the word propaganda is defined as: “the deliberate attempt by the few to influence the beliefs and actions of the many through the manipulation of ideas, facts, and lies.” In the end, even the word propaganda is a work of propaganda. It is a word used to downplay what is essentially a campaign of manipulations, lies, and falsehoods. In the past, we have justified certain actions as propaganda, because we understand their end game. The Catholic Church wanted to propagate their religion. America wanted to support their efforts in the World Wars. Businesses and advertisers want to sell you things. However you feel about those goals -right, wrong, or indifferent- at least we understand them.

The problem with Trump’s new alternative facts is that they only seem to serve one end goal, the ego of Donald Trump. They do not serve a national good or even a bottom-line. They are all about Trump and how he wants us to perceive him. This is extremely worrying. When propaganda only serves the needs of one person’s ego you get countries like North Korea or Zimbabwe. Remember, Julius Caesar used propaganda not for the good of Rome, but for the good of himself, and a few short years later the Republic of Rome was never the same. We are not necessarily condemning or condoning the practice of propaganda itself. To an extent it is a fact of modern life, but when it is used to prop up the perception of one individual above all others, especially a -now- powerful world leader, than that is when we start to worry.

So it is worth remembering that these are not alternative facts, and we will refuse to call them as such. History has shown what happens when you stop calling a lie a lie.


electoral college

It’s time to pack your bags, get your books, and load up the car, because we are off to college. No, we’re not talking about the type of college where you sit in a classroom, live in a dorm, and get up to outdated stereotypical 90’s hi-jinks. We are talking about the Electoral College. We can only assume that there is less drinking… though maybe not this year. Our Electors have been in the news a lot recently, but before we judge them on their actions or inaction it will probably be beneficial to go back and look at the system as a whole, from a historical point of view.

Keg Stands for Democracy
According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the US Constitution: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

It may not have escaped your notice that there is nothing in there about popular election. That is because the Framers were not crazy about the American population voting directly for the President of the United States. Instead, they saw the President being elected more like how the Pope is elected, through the College of Cardinals -Go Fighting Cardinals!- Electors were meant to be the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State, and they were meant to select the President regardless of state or party loyalties. Before we go any further, you need to understand that this process was established not because the Framers thought the American population was stupid, -Well, everyone but Hamilton anyway- but because the Framers were dealing with different issues and fears that we don’t even consider today.

We have talked before about how our Founding Fathers were more concerned about issues we don’t even think about anymore. The Electoral College was set up because the Framers were dealing with thirteen colonies all jealously guarding their own power and fearful of a federal government. Our system was therefore meant to be a balance between states’ rights and federal authority. It was believed that if the President was elected through a popular vote, the public would not have enough information to make an informed decision. After all, at the time the the population of the US was 4 million people, all spread down a thousand miles of Atlantic seaboard. The fastest form of communication was a man on a horse. So the Founding Fathers believed that people would just end up voting for the “favorite son” of their own state, and nothing would get accomplished, or the vote would always go toward the states with the most people. So the Electoral College was created as a way to safeguard the rights of smaller states and assure the governors and legislators of all the states that they had a say in picking the President.

Now, you may still think it is a stupid system, but remember that you are looking at it through 21st Century eyes. When the Constitution was written, the world was a different place. Back then, the President did not have the kind of power he has today. In fact, until the 1930’s the President’s power was limited. Aside from a few exceptions, such as Lincoln and Roosevelt, Congress was seen as the more powerful entity. It is also worth mentioning that people like Washington hated the idea of political parties. Madison and Hamilton believed they were inevitable, but thought they would still be amicable toward one another. They created the Electoral College to be a tool of state’s rights, not for the benefit of political parties. The Framers did not anticipate the hyperpartisan world of 2016, and they did not foresee America being split by red and blue states.

Learning in College
Here is the thing, the system never really worked, even in the beginning, and the cajoling and backdoor politicking it encouraged had some pretty poor consequences. The Electoral College had a hand in the Election of 1824 where John Quincy Adams was elected over the more popular Andrew Jackson, and it may even be -at least- partially responsible for getting Hamilton killed. By the 19th Century it was pretty clear that the Electoral College needed to be changed, and it was. After the Election of 1800, and the rise of political parties, the 12th Amendment empowered the Electors to cast only one vote for a political ticket, instead of the two individual votes -for President and VP- they originally cast. Also, electors became selected by the voters, as opposed to the state legislators. By the mid-century all the states were voting for their electors making it a permanent tradition in US elections, but still not technically a law. Currently, 29 states have laws that force electors to vote based upon the popular election result, making the electors all but honorary positions.

As you can see, the Electoral College has never been static. It has been shifted and amended to deal with many new aspects of the growing nation, but it is still not the same as a populist election. Even during the debacle of 1800, the idea of moving to a popular vote system was not really considered. The horrors of the French Revolution tainted the idea of populist rule for a lot of the founders. In fact, even as early as 1788 people like Alexander Hamilton were rapping about the dangers of a populist movement: The process of [electoral college] election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union. Hamilton envisioned the Electoral College as a place where the most qualified political thinkers gathered and had a serious discussion over who was best suited to be President, so as to avoid demagogues from being able to ride into office on a swell of ridiculous promises made to an overly-zealous electorate. In France, that sort of populist movement led to the guillotine, but in America it has now led us to something far more dangerous and with much worse hair.

It is also worth mentioning that slavery played a part in the continued existence of the Electoral College -because of course it did. This is America and our demons haunt every institution we own- At the nation’s founding, James Wilson from Pennsylvania proposed and argued for a direct vote over the Electoral College, but James Madison of Virginia argued against it, The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. In other words, the Northern states had more free-white men of voting age than the Southern states did, and a direct election would result in more Northern victories. However, when counting non-voting slaves as two-fifths of the electorate population -even though they were not allowed to vote directly- than that gave Slave states an advantage when it came to the number of Electors they received. Thus, the slave state of Virginia became more power in the Electoral College system than the free state of Pennsylvania. That might also be why four out of our first five Presidents were from Virginia.

Final Exams in History
So what is the point, professor? Well, think about this: four times in our history this system has put the unpopular candidate in office over the popular one. By almost ever metric the Electoral College is broken. It does not even protect small states or low population areas from the power of big cities and large states. If anything it encourages candidates to spend most of their time campaigning in just a few swing states, while neglecting the larger country. If we had direct elections, than candidates could not afford to miss the “fly-over” states anymore than they could afford to miss New York or Los Angeles. Even worse, the system disenfranchises voter turnout. Voting Republican in California or Democrat in Texas feels like throwing your vote away, because it is. That is bad. People don’t show up to vote in national elections don’t vote in local elections either, and those are arguably more important. In a direct system, every vote would matter, no matter where you live, and that is a lot more incentive to go to the polls.

After the 1800 election, the 12th Amendment irrevocably changed the way we elect our President. Among other things, it openly acknowledged the influence of political parties and empowered them to select one candidate for President and one candidate for Vice-President. This idea literally ushered in the possibility for a populist President. It laid the ground work for the Electoral College we know today, not Hamilton’s idea of a room full of thoughtful electors, but just people nominated by political parties to rubber-stamp the predetermined election results. It created the idea of a popular vote in all but practice. Perhaps even more ironic, in 2016 the Electoral College system functioned exactly opposite as Hamilton intended. It did not prevent the election of a populist demagogue, but instead ensured it. If we had been using a direct vote system Donald Trump would have lost by over 2 million votes.

But this article is not really about Donald Trump. No, it is about Hamilton and Washington and Madison and Adams and all the rest. We have to remember that our Framers empowered us with the ability to change the constitution as we saw fit, because they may have gotten the Electoral College wrong but they still knew what they were doing. They lived in a world of 4 million Americans spread across thirteen colonies with only a few dirt roads connecting them. They could not envision the rise of the Internet, or transportation, or cable news networks, or even political parties -which only took less than 8 years to fully form. Yet, they gave us the tools to amend our founding document because the world changes and our needs inevitably change with it. That was why we ratified the 12th Amendment, and maybe that is why we need to change the Constitution again to do away with the Electoral College.


We know that you believe you did the right thing. We know that you didn’t cast your vote out of racism or hatred, but because there was something there that you believed.  Maybe you sincerely believed that one candidate was going to make your own life better, or maybe you were just mad as hell at the system. Maybe you voted for the candidate you wanted or maybe you voted against the candidate you hated. Maybe you felt ignored. Maybe you felt angry. Maybe you believed that it was better to burn it all to the ground than work within the system we had. So, you voted for Trump, and we can respect that.

That was what you believed. Now we ask to respect what we believe, because it is not that at all. We believe that Donald Trump embodies everything we fear. There are many people in America who are afraid today, not angry, not sore losers, but actively and physically afraid. Our new leader threatens everything we hold dear, and even everything you hold dear.

You think Trump will help get your manufacturing jobs back? Trump doesn’t even use US manufacturing in his own company. And here’s the kicker, US manufacturing jobs have been back on the rise 2012. The Presidential candidates -all of them- have very little power in controlling the globalized market. Yes, they can tax and tariff, but in the end that will only do more harm than good. Putting tariffs on manufactured goods from overseas and Mexico will only raise the price that everyday Americans pay on items by that same amount, some estimates put the price hike on products as high as 45%. Paying that much on products does not help the average American, whether they voted Democrat or Republican.

You think Trump has a tax plan that’s going to fix our economy? He will for the wealthy and the corporations. His plans will cut taxes on the rich, reducing their tax burden from 39% to 33%. Most middle-class tax rates will remain the same -about 25%. However he is going to standardized exemptions and deductions, which means that most middle to low income families will get less exemption and less deductions on their annual income tax. He is also going to do away with Estate Tax, meaning that money inherited will no longer be taxed. All of this benefits the people in his tax bracket. The kicker is that low income families will feel the worst of the squeeze, with their lower tax rate being offset by a larger loss in exemptions and deductions. His plan is going to reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over the next decade, and 47% of those tax cuts and relief will go to the top 1%… to the Trumps of the country. Even worse, according to the Tax Policy Center his plan could increase the national debt by nearly 80 percent of gross domestic product by 2036.

You think he believes in good family values? You think he respects Christian values? When has he ever acted as Jesus would act? When has he ever showed compassion? When has he ever acted humble? When has he ever appealed to love instead of fear and anger? No. You may have small town values, but not Trump. He lies, constantly. He does not love thy neighbor, especially if they are an immigrant, a minority, or a woman. He brags about his sexual exploits. He treats women as objects. He has never shown an ounce of charity or altruism. He cares nothing for the poor or needy -refer back to his tax plan. He is an adulterer, and does not value the sacraments of marriage. He is as far from a good Christian as you can get.

You think Trump will close our borders and make us safer? His polarization, his us versus them attitude, will not keep us safer. His fear mongering has been wrong from the start. America was the safest it had been since the birth of this nation, but like some self-fulfilling prophecy his very candidacy has made us less safer. Bullying and hate speech have been on the rise for the past year. His candidacy has been used by terror groups as recruitment propaganda. An isolationist attitude toward the world is only going to make America even more hated and feared. Its not going to fix the problems. Closing our borders and withdrawing from international politics is only going to cause more problems, especially amidst the resurgence of Russian power and aggression. Its not going to stop terror attacks, it will only make us less informed in fighting and preventing them. Our society -like it or not- is a global society. Isolationism for any country is a daydream at best and a dangerous and misguided principal at worst.

We’re going to do what? Ban all Muslims? Because the terrorists who sneak into our country would obviously never lie about their religion to serve their greater purpose. We’re going to build a wall? Because forget that 40% of illegal immigrants actually arrive by plane, but they can’t can fly over walls. Right? How about in the inner cities? Are we going to crack down hard on criminals and lock them all up? Because that has been working so well in the past. We need to fear people who are different than us? Because building bridges between people of different races, sexual identities, national backgrounds, or even political opinions is… what? stupid?… No, no its not.

Listen folks, normally we would make some jokes, maybe relate this topic to some pop culture reference like Hunger Games or the Star Trek mirror universe, but not today. We can’t today. Everything about what just happened has been absurd enough and the only thing we can think to do is write about it.

The truth is that women’s rights are in serious dangers. Trump’s supreme court nominee will have the ability to overturn Roe v Wade, and he’s promised to do it too. That means women are going to face tougher uphill battles to gain access to their own reproductive rights. In a Trumptopia, women will have no right to control their own bodies. It is darkly comical that Trump talks so much about hating Islamic extremists, yet he shares that particular value with them. This is a disaster for half the American population.

The truth is that programs like healthcare are going to be cut. Obamacare will almost certainly be killed. You may rejoice but that means 24 million Americans will lose their health plan. That is a national disaster.

The truth is that not taking in Syrian refugees is very very dumb. The USA already has one of the most stringent vetting process to accept refugees, and that goes doubly for Syrian refugees. Not doing our fair share to help people in need not only makes us look bad, but it hurts us economically and politically. Refugees bring in economic wealth and growth to areas that they are resettled in. You have a greater chance of being shot by a toddler with a hand gun than a Syrian refugee. This is a humanitarian disaster.

The truth is that science programs are in legitimate danger, including NASA. However, we should take it as a given that The Paris Climate treaty is ruined. Trump will do everything he can to back out of that deal. He has repeatedly called climate change a hoax. He will not implement any of the desperately needed changes that this country needs to become energy independent and green. They are bad for business, especially his business. This is a global disaster.

The truth is that almost every person knowledgeable in economics, politics, science, military, international relations, domestic relations, national security, humanitarian rights, and common human decency said Trump was a bad bet. But we showed them… Trump now has the Presidency, and is the head of a populace movement. The Republicans control the House and the Senate, but even the more moderate and level-headed of them will not oppose his will for fear of facing his disapproval and losing their seats. We are facing the legislative equivilant of the French Revolution, guillotine and all.

With that said. America has pulled through worse. We have overcome far dire consequences. As a people, as a nation, as a brotherhood of humanity if we come together we can endure and we can thrive as we always have. Maybe today isn’t a day for despair. Maybe today is a reminder that we need to be better versions of ourselves and come together to help each other. This country’s strength has always resided in its ability to put partisanship aside and do what is best for everyone. We sincerely hope and believe that we can do that now.

We have to…


So, our time on the road is coming to an end. As we make our way back to the Big Apple we find ourselves reflecting on our weeks of traveling across America. Sure, we could dwell on all the fun we had, all the interesting sights we have seen, or on all the things that went wrong. Yet, that has not been our real takeaway from this experience. Ultimately, our journey has always been about the people. We have met people from New York to New Orleans, from Chicago, IL to Fayetteville, NC, and for the most part everyone has been kind, caring, and amazing. It has not mattered whether we were in a blue state or a red state, Americans have proven to be truly special people, and that is something worth remembering in today’s climate.

Gateway to Understanding
The news media has this tendency to cast everything in a bad light. We get it, good news doesn’t sell. However, sometimes this leads to a skewed perspective on the world. Talk to anyone who does nothing but stare at their Facebook feeds all day long. “The world is coming to an end.” To look at all the bad news and to watch what is going on out there you might think these are the end times. After all, violence is up, the economy is out of control, Donald Trump is being elected President. Surely the four horsemen are not far behind. Yet, that’s not the America we found out there, and its also not the first time we have thought like this either.

Traveling across the nation is also about traveling through our history. We spent some of our days visiting Native American sites, Civil War battlefields, and even Dollywood. When walking through such historic places it is almost impossible not to find yourself reflecting on the good the and bad of our collective history. That was especially apparent in St. Louis, where the Dredd Scott case took place. For anyone not familiar, Dredd Scott and his wife, Harriet were slaves who sued for their freedom. The case was lost, but the Scotts were eventually granted their freedom by their masters. The Supreme Court case made national headlines at the time, and proved to be a polarizing issue in the lead up to the Civil War. The court ruled that the Scotts were property and had no right to sue under the US legal system, but the legal battles raised awareness of the issues surrounding slavery and the decision helped galvanize support for the Emancipation Proclamation.

Similarly, while we were touring the famous St. Louis courthouse and learning about the case, one of our team picked up a newspaper. It was a souvenir reprint of the original newspaper that was published on the day the St. Louis Arch was completed. The main story was -of course- the towering new monument, completed in 1965. Yet, once you got pass that fluffy and inspiring article a further examination of the paper showed nothing but stories of political scandals and news of Vietnam. After all, 1965 was not exactly a calm year for the United States. So, picture holding that newspaper in your hand on the day it was printed. Despite the main story, it would not have been hard to look at all the scandal, war, conflict, and violence and believe that, “The world was coming to an end.”

Road Tripping Across History
That is kind of our point. Maybe we always think the world is coming to an end? Maybe that’s how it always goes.

In hindsight, we know that the world didn’t fall apart in 1965, and that slavery eventually did end, as did the Civil War, World War I, and the Cold War. It may seem that we live in a crazy world of turmoil, politics, terrorism, Pokémon, and heaven knows what else. It may seem that this is the worst time the world has ever faced. There are school shootings, and the government is coming for your guns, and taxes are out of control, and liberals are running the White House, and conservatives are running the Congress… But when you really look at history you begin to realize, that may just be the human condition. After all, wouldn’t you have felt the same if you lived through the Civil War? Didn’t they feel the same when Pearl Harbor was bombed? Didn’t people feel like the world could end any moment if the Russians ever dropped that bomb? And don’t even get us started on the 80’s -that was just one agonizing fear sandwich of a decade.

Our point is that during the Dredd Scott case all the slave owning white people probably thought the world was turning itself on its head, in the same way many evangelical Christians probably feel about Marriage Equality. When it was finally decided all the abolitionists probably screamed about the “backwardness of the country.” During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln had people who hated and blamed him as much as he had people who loved him, much like our current President. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War in Afghanistan, the Iraq War… and maybe, we are a country doomed to repeat our own history. Maybe we are a people doomed to repeat our own panic attacks, because we always think our time was worse than anything before. Maybe it is time we all took a step back and looked at the world in comparison to our ancestors.

Two Steps Back, One Look Forward
The truth is that the world and America are going pretty well. According to, “combat deaths are the lowest they have been in 100 years.” We’re smarter than ever before. We’re living longer than ever before. Violent crime is way down. The number of people living in poverty has been cut in half in the past two decades. 22% of the world is getting energy from renewable resources, The US deficit has been cut by nearly 50% since 2009, and our taxes are among the lowest in the developed world. We have smart phones, and the Internet, and Netflix, and the ability to travel to anywhere on the globe in hours. We have rockets and robots on Mars, and even robots that have left our solar system. Our medical care is better than any time period before, and childhood death is so low that any incident has become unthinkable, which is something that was not true even 100 years ago.

Objectively, any person from any other time period would look at our world and claim that we lived in paradise, and yet all we see is the darkness. We tend to focus on the bad because of our perspective bias. We don’t know any other time or any other place, so we have no way to compare our personal experiences to that of someone else from another era. Couple that with the fact that we tend to look at the past with nostalgia. We see our childhood through rosy-colored glasses. We like to think it was amazing, and the world was better back then. Yet, while we were happy and content playing stickball -or whatever- there was racism, and war, and sexism, and poverty. We look at the past as better, but it really wasn’t. So we believe the cable news networks, or the nostalgic listicles, or the orange polticial candidates that tell us the world has “gone to hell,” and that “America was better in the old days,” because we feel as if it is true. It’s not.

Listen, we are not saying that is still not problems that are in dire need of fixing, because there are. Climate change is real, systemic racism still runs rampant, and terrorism is one of the defining problems of our times. All we are saying is that maybe we can try and dwell on the good sometimes too. On our trip, we met a lot of Americans of all religions, races, and political persuasions. We learned that they are all good and decent people, reasonable in their beliefs and their respect for life. We sometimes tend to construct these bloated ideas about other places or we demonize other people, and we never bother to verify those assumptions with our own experiences. Well, we here at The NYRD have done just that, and we can reassure you, life is pretty sweet, but there is no place like home.

New York, here we come.