Why the Electoral College, thoughts on Obama

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The Providence Journal reminded us recently that our little state agreed in 2013 to commit our future presidential electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote, even if that presidential candidate has lost Rhode Island's popular vote. Our state will do so as soon as enough other states sign on to the compact.

This is wrong on so many levels!

The Electoral College guarantees popular support across the majority of states, not just within a few population centers. Do we really want our president selected solely by a half dozen metropolitan areas? Should Rhode Islanders' votes not count in favor of doubling the power of voters in Los Angeles?

The Electoral College promotes the interests of small state groups. Do we really want farmers in South Dakota, fishermen in Maine, and environmentalists in coal country to have no say in electing our president?

The Electoral College protects ethnic and special interest minority groups since even a small minority in a big electoral state may make the difference in that state's popular vote and its Electoral College count. These minority voices would be lost in a nationwide popular vote. It is this very leverage in key states that keeps presidents more sensitive to ethnic and minority groups' concerns.

The Electoral College does all these things by ensuring that no one region has enough electoral votes to elect a president. Without it, the popular vote in a few urban areas would always prevail and eliminate the interests of minority groups across the country. Because of this regional requirement, candidates are incentivized to build coalitions across states and regions rather than only serving the narrow interests of large urban centers.

The logic behind the Founding Fathers' creation of the electoral college is the same as its logic in creating the U.S. Senate - two senators per state, regardless of the state's population - so that large population states could not overrule the interests of small states. The Electoral College ensures that large population centers cannot overrule the interests of the majority of states.

For all these reasons, we must change the illogical and likely unconstitutional law in R.I. that could invalidate our future votes.

Obama's actions too little, too late

Too little, too late! That's what most Americans must now be thinking about recent lame-duck actions taken by President Obama.

After years of fearful kow-towing to Russia on everything from Russia's bullying role in Syria, to its invasion of Crimea, to its thinly-veiled cyber war against the U.S. and its corporations, President Obama has finally, in the last days of his tenure, decided to "get tough" against Russia. If only he had exhibited some courage against Russia during his eight years in office. He didn't.

Similarly, after eight years of milquetoast approaches to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian problem, years during which Obama pursued the same failure-producing approach taken by past presidents – both Democrat and Republican – Obama has decided in the terminal days of his presidency to suddenly "get serious." If only he had exhibited some strength and resolve on this issue during the previous eight years. He didn't.

On a thousand other important issues during the past eight years, Obama achieved little as he fiddled, diddled, equivocated and procrastinated, all the while insisting on a unilateral, "I know better than Congress and the American people" approach. If only he had exhibited some humility and bi-partisanship. He didn't.

Obama's end-of-term actions are like those taken by a dying man whose life was marked by greed, avarice and cruelty to others. With his death around the corner, the man suddenly tries to redefine his life by becoming generous in his last days.

It doesn't work. The dying man will be remembered for his life's malevolence, just as Obama will be remembered for his eight years of feckless failure.

A Warwick resident and former Beacon columnist, Lonnie Barham is a frequent contributor to these pages.

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