The signs are all there: 2004 will be the most hotly contested
presidential election in U.S. history.
After all the money is spent, all the characters are smeared,
all the polls are closed and all the votes are counted, Americans
may likely witness the most stupefying product producible in an
A tie vote.
The Electoral College, which by design gives a slight
statistical advantage to rural states, breaks the tie in favor of
George Bush. This is the point, however, where a far more serious
conflict rises to the surface: Will the losing majority of American
people again accept the outcome as legitimate?
What happens if they don’t?
What will happen if Kerry wins in the same fashion?
The possibility of this particular technicality deciding the
outcome of two consecutive elections is proof of the Electoral
College’s obsolescence in American politics. Originally crafted by
the framers without consideration of political parties, the rise of
partisan politics in the early years of the United States
necessitated the creation of an impromptu crutch to stabilize the
Electoral College, also known as the 12th Amendment.
In the years following the Civil War and after a few close
electoral votes, the Republicans in control of Congress (a faction
that would today be identified as liberal) decided to capitalize on
the support they enjoyed from populist farmers and other rural
constituents. Between 1889 and 1890, Congress granted statehood to
Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and
Technically these states lacked the minimum populations required
for statehood, but Republican control of Congress was so firm that
new laws altering the requirements for statehood were easily
ratified. Rural states, by virtue of their overrepresentation in
the Senate, now had an advantage in the Electoral College.
Over the next century there wasn’t an election close enough to
be swayed by the advantage given to small states (1960 was close
but not affected), and while everyone knew the election result of
2000 was a possibility, everyone just hoped it would never
Then it happened in 2000, and people just hoped it wouldn’t
happen again. Now its possible occurrence during a time of
unprecedented ideological division could pose a rather serious
threat to the American conception of freedom.
Some form of this scenario could easily be played out in the
months to come. The latest Gallup poll showed both tickets locked
in a statistical dead heat, as they have been since the beginning
of the year. Barring the development of a major internal scandal,
this race will be a dead heat up until election day, regardless of
what happens in Iraq, acts of terrorism or minor bump in the
John Kerry’s ability to campaign in stride with an incumbent
president is indicative of his sprawling support base. In terms of
financing, Kerry is doing the impossible.
Riding high on a flood of liberal opposition to Bush, Kerry has
raised more campaign money than any other presidential challenger
in history and more than any other campaign except Bush/Cheney ’04,
according to MSNBC. Furthermore, Kerry is currently outpacing Bush
and could easily pull ahead by summer’s end.
Kerry has raised the vast majority of his funding from online
donations composed of hundreds of thousands of individual
contributions totaling less than $1,000 each. This is the real
indicator of how deep and divided the American political landscape
has become; middle- and working-class people are donating whatever
they can afford. The token donation has become a simple avenue for
The addition of John Edwards to the Kerry ticket only serves to
tip the scales more toward the middle. While he will provide Kerry
with some badly needed congeniality, his role in the election will
likely be geared toward the tastes of the undecided woman voter.
Once again this race could easily boil down to a few counties in
So the race could again be decided by a technicality, and the
will of the majority may be usurped in favor of a corrupted and
archaic system of voting. The Electoral College, even though it was
created as protection by the forward-thinking Framers, just may be
our Constitution’s single tragic flaw.