Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Open Letter To My Congressional Representatives

I have just submitted the following letter to my Congressional representatives through their webpages. I suggest you contact your own representatives with similar messages.

Dear Senator Wyden/ Senator Merkley/ Congressman Schrader,

Like many Oregonians, I was deeply dismayed upon learning that Donald Trump had won the Presidency last week. This feeling only deepened when I realized that he would win despite having failed to achieve even a plurality of the national popular vote. Because he has won the electoral vote, the fact that Hillary Clinton received more votes than any candidate in history (apart from Barack Obama) is irrelevant.

I am a high school and middle school social studies teacher, and it was my responsibility to explain to my students the following day why Donald Trump would become our next President, despite having received fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Many of my students come from families with immigrant members, or are members of the LGBT community, and so have good reason to be fearful of the next four years, and frustrated that our democratic institutions had seemingly failed to prevent this outcome.

For their sake, and the sake of every vulnerable and marginalized person in this country, I am counting on you and other Democratic members of Congress to stand up for human rights during Trump's administration. I am hopeful that Republican members of Congress will also step forward on behalf of those who may suffer devastating setbacks in the next four years.

In practical terms, there is not much that anybody can do to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President next year. However, recently Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation which would amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and elect the President by popular vote. I ask that you support this bill and, should it fail to pass during this session of Congress, that you support or sponsor similar bills in the future.

The Electoral College is an antiquated system, designed deliberately to provide a counter against the popular will; to put it plainly, it is fundamentally undemocratic. It has outlived its era, largely because it has not usually contradicted the popular vote. However, it has now done so twice in my lifetime. Demographic changes suggest future splits between the popular and electoral votes may become more common, a development which would dishearten voters and undermine our democracy.

There is precedent to a major change in our procedures for electing federal officials. The Twelfth Amendment modified the Electoral College itself, while the Seventeenth Amendment provided for the popular election of Senators. Other countries have used and subsequently abandoned systems similar to our Electoral College. It is time we abandoned a system which can only hurt, and never improve, our electoral process.

Abolishing the Electoral College may not totally prevent a future Donald Trump from eking out a narrow victory. However, it would make it considerably more difficult, and empower voters who will not have to worry that their vote will be discounted by a tragic and embarrassing glitch in the system. I ask that you will make the passage and subsequent ratification of this amendment a priority.

David Miller

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I always used to pity people who had bumper stickers from losing political campaigns on their cars. I always assumed that if a cause was doomed, I'd be canny enough to avoid plastering my vehicle with a daily reminder of failure. But to be perfectly honest, I was not canny enough at all.

People like me made several errors in judgment throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Our two biggest faults were as follows: underestimating the appeal of coded white supremacy to disenchanted white folks, and assuming that Trump's endless stream of scandals, gaffes, and ill-considered impulses would matter in the slightest. As to the former, that was unforgivably short-sighted. As to the latter, who could blame us? Usually, when a candidate behaves as barbarously as Donald Trump, they fail. But then again, few in recent memory ever have behaved as barbarously as Donald Trump.

As results were returned on Tuesday night and it became increasingly clear that something was dreadfully wrong, I felt intense waves of anxiety pulsing through my heart. It hit me that with Trump in the White House, a Republican-dominated House and Senate, and the prospect of multiple nominations for the Supreme Court, the nation was soon to find itself walking a tightrope without a net. A lot of people are going to find themselves vulnerable, and suffering, in the coming months. All this from the election of a man who could not even achieve a plurality in the popular vote.

I felt sick to my stomach. And a precious few hours later, I had to wake up, drive to school, and teach a lesson on just what the hell happened to a class of confused and dismayed children. Maybe I'm lucky that my students are, by and large, anti-Trump. It spared me the pain of facing my tormentors directly. But as comfortable as my classroom walls made me feel, I never forgot that a house with Trump/Pence signs and a Confederate flag stood just a short walk up the road.

I've been critical and supportive of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Right now, I sympathize with them completely, as I can only imagine that this turn of events has left them both feeling lost and humiliated. Obama's legacy is complicated and imperfect, but it was won with the best of intentions; now, all of its most admirable points are in danger of being swept aside. It kills me to think that what good came of his historic presidency could be lost; it pains me to think of how Clinton might have improved it.

This is not to say that all is lost, and that we should lay down and die. The only thing that can save us from being run over by a Republican agenda is concerted citizen action on the issues that matter most. I contributed to the Clinton campaign; from now on, I will be contributing to Planned Parenthood, to protect the health and rights of women from a man who thinks he's entitled to their bodies at his pleasure. I'll teach my heart out on the issues that matter most. And two years from now, I'll vote to support a Democratic effort to retake the U.S. Congress.

Donald Trump and his contempt for the rule of law are a direct threat to our constitution and our country. But as long as we hold dear to what matters, we have a chance to turn things around.