This is the second U.S. presidential election that grabbed my attention. Election 2008 was magical: the possibility of America’s first female or black president. Four years later, the magic is gone. Many promises for change remain unfulfilled. Middle Class America floundered while our elected representatives failed to work together for our interests. A vocal minority group of extreme religious conservatives launched a war against women’s rights. Using their vast wealth and new status of personhood, big corporations have compromised a faction of our officials and can now finance candidates for public office.
The U.S. electoral system is so complex and costly that there is no level playing field for all participants. We have more than ten political parties, yet only the Democratic and Republican parties enjoy prominence. Third Party and Independent candidates lack the financial clout and coverage by mainstream media to appear in the national polls. Without the minimum of 15 percent ratings, as stipulated by the Commission on Presidential Candidates, no Third Party candidate participated in the national presidential debates.
After raising over a billion dollars each in campaign funds, presidential candidates face another challenge to win the election. Gaining the national popular vote is not enough. The favored candidate and his running mate must each obtain 270 or more votes from the Electoral College. Every state, based on its population size, has at least three electors on the Electoral College. California, a state with a strong Democratic base, has the highest number with 55 electors.
On October 24, President Obama visited Los Angeles for an appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” His few, brief visits to Southern California, to energize his base and raise campaign funds, are costly events for selected participants. The closest I have come to seeing him is watching his helicopter and its escorts fly overhead.
President Obama and the Republic candidate, Governor Mitt Romney, focus their campaign trips on the nine so-called swing or battleground states where neither party has dominant support, courting them with frequent public appearances. In what I consider a quirk in the U.S. electoral system, the voters and electors in these states get to decide who will become our next Commander-in-Chief.
The top two swing states by number of electors are Florida and Ohio. But it is Ohio that stands out as the most favored electorate. Electoral pundits have noted that no Republican presidential candidate has ever won the White House without winning Ohio.
While the voters in Ohio and the other swing states are doing their part, the rest of us must also get out and vote for senators who will give priority to working for the good of all Americans and not for the interests of third party handlers. A head without a functioning body is impotent.
Our vote counts. Whatever your choice – whether it is one of the major candidates or a Third Party candidate – be counted. Be engaged.