The first votes in the presidential election are less than a month away. This is Trahant Reports.
2016 starts with one more debate about the Affordable Care Act. The House of Representatives is set to pass this week yet another repeal of the law. This one will actually get to President Obama’s desk … where it will be quickly vetoed.
You see the bill has no chance of becoming law. It’s just a statement, saying that Republicans are against the Affordable Care Act (as if we did not know that).
I have been wondering about what statements Indian Country could make about elections — we can raise an idea even if we know it will not become law. One way to do that is using what’s called a “counterfactual.” This is an exercise in thinking that starts with “what if …” and then you propose a speculative, even preposterous idea.
What if the framers of the U.S. Constitution had gone beyond the commerce clause and really incorporated tribal nations into the mainstream of political discourse?
My answer to my own counterfactual: Add tribes to the Electoral College.
It’s not like the United States is a democratic model now. It’s not representative. The Senate represents millionaires not people. There are 38 million citizens in California who get the same two votes out of 100 as the 576,000 residents of Wyoming. Collectively, Indian Country has eight times as many people as Wyoming and not a single vote in the Senate. By land mass, Indian Country’s 50-plus million acres are bigger than almost half the states. Even breaking that number up by population, Cherokee’s 819,000 people Is still larger than Wyoming.
My counterfactual argument starts with the premise that the system is not democratic, so include tribes. If not in the House or Senate, then why did not the Electoral College, the small number of people who actually will elect the next president?
How could that work? Based on the number of tribal members or citizens, a grouping “tribal nations” would add up to at least ten, almost eleven electoral college votes.
It would work better because the presidential debate narrows to about ten competitive states. The other 40 states already greatly favor either Democrats or Republicans. So that narrow field of competition makes it nearly impossible for topics such as federal-tribal relations, Treaty rights, or subsistence to get attention.
Another problem with the crazy way the U.S. elects presidents, is that the electoral college could actually tie with 269 electoral votes. If that happened, the House of Representatives would decide the next president, setting up a certain Republican win. In 1800 Thomas Jefferson won that way.
In my counterfactual, Indian Country could break that tie.
And we could host a platform for a broader discussion about issues such as the place of tribal nations in the country and in the world.
The problem with a counterfactual is that at some point that “what if?” falls apart. You can’t prove speculation.
But what Indian Country can do … Is go out and vote. That would be the best method of making this system a bit more democratic.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.