Category: Politics

You’ve got to hit the red button

red button

Our worship service at The Chapel 1ended.

You can exit the sanctuary down the crowded main aisle. Or go out the side exit – that’s a nice shortcut.

On a recent Sunday, quite a few people, eying the shortcut, headed over to the side door.  But the door was locked.

A crowd began to build up and mill around. Some people got discouraged, gave up, and headed over towards the main exit. But — then — someone reached up to the left of the locked door and punched a red button. The door swung open! Those folks who waited now began to stream out.

When we are faced with temptation, we have a choice, just like the people by the door. Do we trust that there’s a way out — or do we give up?

It’s likely that this verse is familiar to you:

 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

But less familiar is the following verse:

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14).

Note, an idol does not have to be an actual figure that we bow down to. Rather, it is anything we are tempted to make more important than Jesus. If we give in to temptation, we are worshiping an idol instead of Jesus. But we have a choice: we can flee from our tempting idol to something else.

I hereby confess one of my own idols: vastly overestimating what good politics can accomplish.

To worship my idol, I was spending way too much time watching MSNBC and Fox News. The former was enraged that our president was ruining our country. The latter was enraged that our wonderful president was being destroyed by his enemies. Both sides were making an idol out of how the correct politics would cure so much of what is wrong with our country.  I was getting sucked up into their anger; all their futile arguing was giving me agita; I gave in to the temptation to enter their vitriol instead of doing something worthwhile.

So, during Lent, I started a fast from those two networks. Lent ended several months ago but…my fast has not ended yet.  Sometimes I do miss the fights, and I am tempted to hear how the two sides are reacting to the latest Presidential tweet; but don’t think I am missing something of lasting value by not tuning in.

Now, if politics is the idol I am fleeing from, I need to flee to something else.

So, I have fled from politics to…. more of Jesus. This sounds spiritual, but it’s not only spiritual: On a visit for a routine checkup the nurse took my blood pressure—and, not knowing about my FOX/MSNBC fast, she said, “Your blood pressure is way down; have you started taking a drug for it?” Nope — it wasn’t a drug; it was what I stopped taking — exposure to angry arguments!

I encourage you to reflect on what your own idol might be. Yours might be politics, too; but it could be sex, money; or something else. When our idol tempts us — we know that God not only gives us a way out but also provides something to flee to.

When we hit our own red button, we’re turning from our idol to the satisfaction that only Jesus can provide.

  1. https://www.thechapel.org/

The Electoral College – Updated

With the 2016 electoral college having voted for Donald Trump, here are my updated thoughts on the electoral college. My updates are in blue in the middle of the post and at the end.

Before we had a United States of America, we were a loose confederation of states. So, as we moved towards getting a national constitution, there was much debate about how much power each individual state should surrender to the new national government. And people in states with small populations did not want to be swamped out in decision making power by the states with larger population. So, a compromise was reached: in the Senate, each state has equal power with two senators, and in the House the more populous states have more power with their representatives being allocated in proportion to their population.

Our founders considered whether to have the President elected by a direct popular vote, but decided against it. One of the reasons was that you might have Candidate A who was very popular in one region of the country, and ran up a huge plurality of the vote in just a few states. Candidate B might win in many states, each by a small margin. With direct popular vote, Candidate A wins. With electors, candidate B wins. The founders preferred a President who had support over as wide an area of the country as possible.

So instead of direct popular vote, we have electors. In the Constitution, Article 2 section 1 says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”

In deciding the number of electors, the same compromise used for the House and Senate was reached for states with small and large populations: For each state there is one electoral vote for each congressional district and 2 votes for each senator, thereby giving states with smaller population 2 more electoral votes than they would get based only on their population. In addition, as per the 23rd Amendment, Washington DC gets 3 votes.

Note that each state is free to decide how it allocates its electoral votes. Presently, in all but two states, the winner of the popular vote in that state gets all of the state’s electoral votes. This “winner take all” is a tradition that developed in the 1800’s and is NOT mentioned in the constitution. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have changed their laws to give the 2 electoral votes for their number of Senators to the winner of the popular vote in their state and each of the remaining electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district in the state. In 2012 President Obama got one electoral vote in Nebraska for winning one of the congressional districts there, and Mitt Romney got the other 4 for winning the statewide popular vote and each of the other 2 congressional districts. And in 2016, Donald Trump got one electoral vote in Maine for winning one of the congressional districts there, and Hillary Clinton got the other 3 for winning the statewide popular vote and the other congressional district.

What we call the “Electoral College” is the name we give to all of the electors for all of the states considered together. That name is NOT in the constitution. Each state has a meeting to allocate its electors following the election. On January 6, 2017, there will be a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes which have been submitted by the states.

I’d like to conclude by discussing 2000 since in that year George Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore but won the electoral college vote.

Al Gore had strong popularity on the 2 coasts and less in the middle of the country. He won California and New York together by over 3,000,000 votes. But in all the other states, Bush won by about 2.46 million votes, which gave Gore a popular vote victory of 540,000. If Gore’s popularity had been more evenly spread out, winning a few more states, he would have won the electoral college vote.

Many proposals to reform the electoral college system have been made over the years, but none have been enacted since the 12th amendment ins 1804. With the 2000 election in mind ,several Democrat controlled states have passed a law, the National Popular Vote Bill, saying that the winner of the national popular vote would get ALL the electoral votes in their state. The bill has been enacted by RI, VT, HI, DC, MD, MA, WA, NJ, IL, NY, CA. These states were won by Al Gore in 2000. But to prevent the bill from backfiring against them, these states have said the bill only becomes law in those states once the states passing it control a majority of all the electoral votes. That’s 270 electoral votes, and so far, states with 165 electoral votes have passed it. They are 105 short.

The latest polling data show that it is possible that Donald Trump’s performance in the battleground states could give him enough electoral votes to become president while still losing the popular vote to Hilary Clinton. If that happens I am sure we will hear once again about proposals to reform the electoral college.

My Post-Election Update on Popular versus Electoral votes

The possibility I mentioned in the last paragraph of my original post has come true.

Donald Trump’s performance in the battleground states did give him enough electoral votes to become president while still losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Indeed, if you compare it to 2000, the very things that happened to Al Gore were greatly magnified for Clinton. Her margin in New York and California skyrocketed from Gore’s 3,000,000 to just over 6,000,000. And Trump’s margin in the rest of the country expanded from Bush’s 2.46 million votes to 3.14 million.

Since the election, I have seen some articles about reforming the electoral college via the National Popular Vote Bill mentioned above. But which states that Trump won would have the political desire and will to pass a law that would have given all their electoral votes to Clinton and not to Trump?

As I mentioned in my first post, “The founders preferred a President who had support over as wide an area of the country as possible.” The same feature of the electoral college that doomed Gore also doomed Clinton.

The Electoral College

With the election coming up soon, here are a few thoughts on the electoral college.

Before we had a United States of America, we were a loose confederation of states. So, as we moved towards getting a national constitution, there was much debate about how much power each individual state should surrender to the new national government. And people in states with small populations did not want to be swamped out in decision making power by the states with larger population. So, a compromise was reached: in the Senate, each state has equal power with two senators, and in the House the more populous states have more power with their representatives being allocated in proportion to their population.

Our founders considered whether to have the President elected by a direct popular vote, but decided against it. One of the reasons was that you might have Candidate A who was very popular in one region of the country, and ran up a huge plurality of the vote in just a few states. Candidate B might win in many states, each by a small margin. With direct popular vote, Candidate A wins. With electors, candidate B wins. The founders preferred a President who had support over as wide an area of the country as possible.

So instead of direct popular vote, we have electors. In the Constitution, Article 2 section 1 says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”

In deciding the number of electors, the same compromise used for the House and Senate was reached for states with small and large populations: For each state there is one electoral vote for each congressional district and 2 votes for each senator, thereby giving states with smaller population 2 more electoral votes than they would get based only on their population. In addition, as per the 23rd Amendment, Washington DC gets 3 votes.

Note that each state is free to decide how it allocates its electoral votes. Presently, in all but two states, the winner of the popular vote in that state gets all of the state’s electoral votes. This “winner take all” is a tradition that developed in the 1800’s and is NOT mentioned in the constitution. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have changed their laws to give the 2 electoral votes for their number of Senators to the winner of the popular vote in their state and each of the remaining electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district in the state. In 2012 President Obama got one electoral vote in Nebraska for winning one of the congressional districts there, and Mitt Romney got the other 4 for winning the statewide popular vote and each of the other 2 congressional districts.

What we call the “Electoral College” is the name we give to all of the electors for all of the states considered together. That name is NOT in the constitution. Each state has a meeting to allocate its electors following the election. On January 6, 2017, there will be a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes which have been submitted by the states. The candidate who gets 270 or more electoral votes will be declared the winner.

I’d like to conclude by discussing 2000 since in that year George Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore but won the electoral college vote.

Al Gore had strong popularity on the 2 coasts and less in the middle of the country. He won California and New York together by over 3,000,000 votes. But in all the other states, Bush won by about 2.46 million votes, which gave Gore a popular vote victory of 540,000. If Gore’s popularity had been more evenly spread out, winning a few more states, he would have won the electoral college vote.

Many proposals to reform the electoral college system have been made over the years, but none have been enacted since the 12th amendment ins 1804. With the 2000 election in mind, several Democrat controlled states have passed a law, the National Popular Vote Bill, saying that the winner of the national popular vote would get ALL the electoral votes in their state. The bill has been enacted by RI, VT, HI, DC, MD, MA, WA, NJ, IL, NY, CA. These states were won by Al Gore in 2000. But to prevent the bill from backfiring against them, these states have said the bill only becomes law in those states once the states passing it control a majority of all the electoral votes. That’s 270 electoral votes, and so far, states with 165 electoral votes have passed it. They are 105 short.

The latest polling data show that it is possible that Donald Trump’s performance in the battleground states could give him enough electoral votes to become president while still losing the popular vote to Hilary Clinton. If that happens I am sure we will hear once again about proposals to reform the electoral college.