SIMON: Electoral College belongs back in 18th Century
A swanky bar in New York City. Dusk spreading across Central Park just across the street. Everything in the joint is posh and polished, glistening and glowing. The dress code is elaborate and strictly enforced. It appears to be no burden on the c...
A swanky bar in New York City. Dusk spreading across Central Park just across the street.
Everything in the joint is posh and polished, glistening and glowing. The dress code is elaborate and strictly enforced. It appears to be no burden on the customers, however, many of whom are wearing custom-made clothing for self-made people.
Donald Trump often implies he is self-made. And he is - as long as you don't count that first million-dollar loan from his father and an inheritance that was upward of $40 million.
At the ritzy joint, there is a Trump tower to the left of us and another to the right of us. The streets are choked with law enforcement and emergency vehicles of every description. The light bars on their roofs flash, and their sirens do that whoop-whoop-whoop thing.
Fifth Avenue has been reduced to one lane in each direction to accommodate the officials, pols, executives and toadies who seek to kiss Trump's ring (among other things) at his golden three-story penthouse.
One magazine reporter invited inside was made to put on booties at the front door. She described the interior as "over-the-top surroundings that might make Liberace blush."
We blush at what might make Liberace blush.
"To be clear," she wrote, "if you have any preconceived notions of what Donald and Melania's apartment looks like, you're probably right."
The reporter was handed a bottle of "Trump Ice" water. "No really, it exists," the reporter writes.
Our national conversation, which turned into our national obsession, which was elected as our national leader only about a week ago, probably dreams of drinking Trump Ice out of the skulls of his enemies. And in his dreams, he smiles.
"You!" a woman in the bar shouts, clutching my arm. "You were right!"
The subject is rare enough to pursue.
"Four years ago," she says. "Four years ago, you said Hillary would not become president! And you were right!"
Heads near us turn, the better to get a peek at the soothsayer, the oracle, the clairvoyant, who has barely sneaked in under the dress code.
I am still unclear as to what the woman is referring to.
I really wrote four years ago that Hillary Clinton could not be elected president? I say.
"You didn't write it; you said it!" she says, naming a TV show that no longer has me on, probably because the network's computer servers are kept in Clinton's basement and she can crash them at will.
The heads that have turned toward me are now muttering unpleasantly. "He knew that Hillary was going to lose, and he kept it to himself!" one woman says.
"He probably made a fortune in Vegas," her companion replies.
"Well, he didn't spend it on clothes," the first woman says.
"You said Hillary represented Obama's third term and nobody wanted Obama's third term, not even Obama," the first woman says.
A lot of people were saying that, I say. It was no big prediction.
But now I think: How many people who didn't vote for Clinton because they didn't want Obama 3.0 would disembowel themselves for a chance to vote for her today?
A lot of people, I am guessing. They would have to live in the right states, of course. Clinton already is leading Trump in the popular vote by more than 750,000 votes, but she would need voters living in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
This is our loony Electoral College system - an 18th-century scheme for choosing a president devised by men in powdered wigs and silk stockings.
The Founding Fathers argued over it a lot but had so little pride in the solution that the term "Electoral College" appears nowhere in the Constitution.
So for the second time in 16 years, the winner of the popular vote did not become president.
Too late crying about it now. Besides, who's to say Clinton would have won in a system based on the popular vote? "Hillary underperformed among women, African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters," Jimmy Kimmel said. "Really, the only place she did very well was among pollsters."
Bernie Sanders harrumphed the other day on TV about Clinton, "It is fair to say that the working class of this country did not believe that she was prepared to stand up and fight for them."
Maybe. The working class certainly is too bright to pay her $200,000 to give a speech.
But Trump has never done a day of public service in his life. Nor would he have gotten his start without family connections and family millions. And the working class apparently believed he is "prepared to stand up and fight for them."
We shall see. But while we wait for another chance, let us consider the words of Leonard Cohen, songwriter and poet, who died the day before Election Day:
"Ring the bells that still can ring.
"Forget your perfect offering.
"There is a crack, a crack in everything.
"That's how the light gets in."
In 2020, we will hope the voters - wherever they live - see the light.