Tag Archives: Shaunak Vaidya

The Curious Case of Bernie Sanders

The Story So Far

Bernie Sanders is an unconventional candidate. His opponent has already secured the 2,383 delegates necessary for a presidential nomination, yet Bernie continues to campaign. In fact, he remains confident still that he can win, hoping that the upcoming Democratic National Convention will gain him the remaining delegates, and even sway those previously committed to Hillary Clinton. (Curiously, however, Bernie Sanders has in the past denounced the chairwoman of the DNC after she said she would back Bernie’s opponent in the election.) Why might Bernie Sanders be continuing his campaign? What might he be trying to accomplish? In my mind, a few factors are driving his decision-making.

Serving the Greater Good

Bernie Sanders appears to be solidifying his base for the long run. This may sound odd at first, but I do believe that he is trying to gain support for the party by furthering his campaign against the presumptive nominee.  Not unlike fans of Trump, Bernie supporters are very passionate and loyal. People who believe in Sanders’ message are likely to put their faith on Hillary if he were to tell them to do so. At this point in the race, Sanders has to be thinking about unifying his party for the election in November. If Hillary is nominated, his backing will then include his wealth of supporters for the Democratic nominee. I think it’s likely that Bernie is thinking about the future of the Democratic Party rather than his own campaign.

Still Holding On

Then again, Bernie is still vehement about not conceding. Could someone so ardent and optimistic about his campaign be putting up a façade to net more supporters only for the Democratic Party? I think not. With almost 1900 delegates and a few weeks more to campaign before the Convention, it’s actually a plausible, albeit unlikely, goal to get the nomination. However, in my opinion Bernie truly believes that a monumental upset could be achieved. Yes, it will take an immense amount of persuasion and some really bad press for Hillary but I don’t think these things are impossible. His fan base seems more than happy to comply as well. This is most likely the main driving force for his actions.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Because the two reasons above conflict each other, Bernie Sanders has lead an unorthodox campaign in an election rife with breaking the norm. I can well imagine how hard it can be to run a campaign while a vast majority already has picked the opponent. On the other side of that argument, Bernie needs 502 more delegates to win the nomination, and there are currently only 84 left. Still though, with 565 super delegates committed to the Clinton campaign, there are more than enough that can change their mind and support Bernie. Bernie Sanders is in a tough spot. Should he keep running and try and beat the odds, or should he give in and focus more on the unification of the Democratic Party for November? Either way, as of right now his political future remains unpredictable.

Shaunak Vaidya is a student at Saratoga High School with a passion for politics.

A Quick Primer on the Electoral College

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When someone says the words “the United States Presidential Elections,” a myriad of thoughts come to mind. Many a time, passionate feelings are drawn up from pugnacious partisans. The months leading up to the election end up being the most politically charged of the last four years. For the general public, whether their interests lie in the candidates personally, or the issues at hand, polls show that a surprising majority of the public does not know how the election process truly works.

Why is this a big deal? In order to have more people go to the poll, we need an informed electorate. Voters need to understand what is the Electoral College? Why does it exist? Who really chooses our President? How does the popular vote matter?

On voting day, voters don’t vote for the President. They vote for a select group of “electors” who have declared their allegiance to a particular Presidential nominee. Yet, to add confusion to the process, many states list only the Presidential contenders on the ballot and not the electors. Cracks in this system have lead to some of the biggest presidential upsets in American history (more on this later). I believe that the Electoral College is, now more than ever, necessary to ensure a proper election. Here is a brief introduction to the what the Electoral College is and how it plays in to the Presidential election process.

 

What is the Electoral College?

The Electoral College is a voting system that was devised when our first Congress failed to elect a President on its own, in 1787. After direct voting was deemed way too chaotic, our Founding Fathers created the electoral system. This is how it works: once the Presidential contenders are decided, and after the main polls close for the people, a special group of electors called the Electoral College, from every state, meets in December to cast their votes for the President and the Vice President. The body is as large as the Senate and House combined, plus three representatives from DC. It is their 538 votes that truly matter, and the Electoral College originally intended for electors to pledge their allegiance more toward a party and not a candidate.  This uniquely innovative process was a testament to America’s independence as a young country. However, like all things in government, it began to show flaws.

 

What’s wrong with it?  Why do we even use it?

When it comes to voting, one of the most important tenets is accurate representation of the people. The big problem with the Electoral College is that the electors do not always reflect the popular vote, most famously in the Bush v. Gore election, where Gore secured 48% of the vote (Bush received 47%). This happened other times, too, such as in the case of Andrew Jackson v. John Quincy Adams election. However in this instance, Jackson won both categories, but the minimum votes for a majority in the Electoral College was not met. The decision went to Congress, who declared Adams the winner.

Situations like these make it pretty clear to see why it angers some, because through the direct system of voting, the leader in the popular vote is intended to always win. The problem with trying to surmount issues like this is that in some cases the electoral system is shown to be absolutely necessary—especially when there is a noticeable disconnect between the party’s choice and the leading candidate, as we are currently seeing in the Republican Party. In the event where citizens are supporting a candidate that the party rejects, it’s up to the electors to come to the best decision. Since they are partisan voters, the electors will take into account the interests of the party over that of the citizen.

Previously, only some states held direct popular elections for the electors, and in other states, the state legislature decided on the electors. That was subsequently changed and now every state holds statewide popular elections for electors. Maine and Nebraska were the last two states to fold into this system. This was in 1972 and 1996 respectively.

Forty-eight states and Washington, D.C. adopt the “winner take all” strategy, awarding electors as a single voting unit. Maine and Nebraska use the “congressional district method” to select electors. This means that one elector in each congressional district is selected by popular vote. The remaining two are selected by a statewide popular vote.

Most interestingly, the electors who form the Electoral College never meet as one body, but cast their votes for the President and Vice President in their state capitals or district capitals

Is there really a flawless voting system? To me the answer is probably not. In all honesty the Electoral College may have its faults, but I think the simplicity of it outweighs the rare cases where it fails. A phrase that I think fits perfectly is “tried and true”.  The numbers don’t lie either. The candidate with the popular vote has only ever lost 4 times in 46 presidential elections. Whether you love it or hate it, I have a feeling it is here to stay. Maybe this is the election that will inform the public about the Electoral College. The upcoming election year will definitely be an interesting one to observe. I’ll be curious to see how relevant the Electoral College will still prove to be.

 

Shaunak Vaidya is a high school student in the Bay Area.