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FOR HISTORY BUFFS:  Kamala Harris is the first vice president of color to take office,  right?    Answer at the end of today’s blog.

ELECTION DAY. Emily Goodman notes the following things about Election Day:

  • Voting on Tuesday started in the 19th century when farmers often had to travel distances to the polling place. They did not want to travel on Sunday but needed to be back home for market day on Wednesday.
  • The US is one of the few nations that does not declare Election Day a national holiday
  • Texas astronauts voted on Election Day; Texas allows this option. The address used by the astronauts was low-earth orbit
  • Can people with limited mental capacity vote? That depends on the state – Ohios state constitution purportedly cautions that no idiot or insane person may vote

EGO?  “I would never name drop – it is tacky. My best friend, Pope Francis, taught me that.


 Buddhism: hurt not others with that which pains yourself

Christianity: do onto others as you would have them do unto you

Hinduism: treat others as you would yourself be created

Islam: do unto all men as you would wish to have done to you

Judaism: what you yourself hate, do to no man. 

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How did we get the Electoral College?

The Founding Fathers established the Electoral College in the Constitution, in part, as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. However, the term “electoral college” does not appear in the Constitution. Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment refer to “electors,” but not to the “electoral college.”

Since the Electoral College process is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution it would be necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment to change this system.

The ratification of the 12th Amendment, the expansion of voting rights, and the States’ use of the popular vote to determine who will be appointed as electors have each substantially changed the process.

Many different proposals to alter the Presidential election process have been offered over the years, such as direct nation-wide election by the eligible voters, but none has been passed by Congress and sent to the States for ratification as a Constitutional amendment. Under the most common method for amending the Constitution, an amendment must be proposed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and ratified by three-fourths of the States.

What proposals have been made to change the Electoral College process?

Reference sources indicate that over the past 200 years more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. There have been more proposals for Constitutional amendments on changing the Electoral College than on any other subject. The American Bar Association has criticized the Electoral College as “archaic” and “ambiguous” and its polling showed 69 percent of lawyers favored abolishing it in 1987. But surveys of political scientists have supported continuation of the Electoral College. Public opinion polls have shown Americans favored abolishing it by majorities of 58 percent in 1967; 81 percent in 1968; and 75 percent in 1981.

Opinions on the viability of the Electoral College system may be affected by attitudes toward third parties. Third parties have not fared well in the Electoral College system. For example, third party candidates with regional appeal, such as Governor Thurmond in 1948 and Governor Wallace in 1968, won blocs of electoral votes in the South, but neither come close to seriously challenging the major party winner, although they may have affected the overall outcome of the election.

The last third party, or splinter party, candidate to make a strong showing was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 (Progressive, also known as the Bull Moose Party). He finished a distant second in Electoral and popular votes (taking 88 of the 266 electoral votes needed to win at the time). Although Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote nationwide in 1992, he did not win any electoral votes since he was not particularly strong in any one state. In 2016, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, qualified for the ballot in all 50 States and the District of Columbia but also failed to win any electoral votes. 

Any candidate who wins a majority or plurality of the popular vote nationwide has a good chance of winning in the Electoral College, but there are no guarantees (see the results of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 elections).

How many times has the Vice President been chosen by the U.S. Senate?

Once. In the Presidential election of 1836, the election for Vice President was decided in the Senate. Martin Van Buren’s running mate, Richard M. Johnson, fell one vote short of a majority in the Electoral College. Vice Presidential candidates Francis Granger and Johnson had a run-off in the Senate under the 12th Amendment, where Johnson was elected 33 votes to 17.

– From the National Archives

THE FIRST JEWISH CHAPLAIN: The Jewish-American History Foundation relates – –

Michael M. (Meir) Allen, born in Philadelphia in 1830, is the first known Jewish chaplain in the United States Army. He was not chaplain to only the Jewish soldiers in his regiment, but for the entire regiment.

As the regulations then stood, only a “regularly ordained minister of some Christian denomination” could serve as a chaplain. Even though there were many so-called chaplains who were unfit for their position, Allen was singled out by the Young Men’s Christian Association because he was Jewish.

He had received some rabbinical training from his religious leader, Rev. Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia, and possessed a certificate of chaver which meant that he was an observant Jew who had studied the Shulkhan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). He was a melamed (Hebrew teacher) of the Philadelphia Hebrew Education Society and frequently officiated as a cantor at Isaac Leeser’s congregation. However, he was not a “regularly ordained minister”, certainly not of a Christian denomination, and so not qualified for the position of chaplain.

Rather than face the shame of losing his commission and being expelled from the regiment, Allen resigned as chaplain. In 1866 he moved to New York City where he married Julia Spanier, of a distinguished German rabbinic family and became the director of Hebrew studies at the Talmud Torah (Hebrew School) of the Spanish-Portuguese congregation Shearith Israel.

In 1873, Allen emigrated to Germany in order to be with his wife’s family in Hannover, Prussia. A letter written to a friend back in the United States shortly after his arrival in Hannover expresses his deep commitment to Orthodox Judaism and his satisfaction at the religious devotion of Hannover Jewry. He wrote, “Our Holy Religion is observed by our people here as it was in times gone by, when no reforms had crept in to mar the observance of our rites and ceremonies.” He went on to say that this was due mainly to the influence of his wife’s uncle, the Landesrabbiner (Chief Rabbi) of Hannover Province.

Chaplain Allen kept a journal during the month of September, 1861. It contains little of historic interest but gives a good account of how an Orthodox Jew in the Union Army observed the Jewish holidays. Because writing on the Sabbath and holidays is forbidden by Jewish law, Allen probably recorded the entries for those days (which are very brief) at some later date. The text of the journal was printed in the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society in 1961.

KILL THE MESSENGER! Stephen G. Mehta relates that:

In some sense, mediators are simply messengers in a war of the parties.  They send and interpret a message from one side to the other.  And we all know sometimes what can happen to the messenger.  Well I thought I might briefly look at the origin of the phrase, “Don’t shoot [or kill] the messenger.”

According to Wikipedia, “Shooting the messenger” is a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news.  It appears that the original basis for the statement may have come from a related sentiment expressed as far back as 446 B.C in Antigone by Sophocles as “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news”.   Later, it was used by Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2 (1598)[and in Antony and Cleopatra: when told Antony has married another, Cleopatra threatens to treat the messenger’s eyes as balls, eliciting the response ‘gracious madam, I that do bring the news made not the match.’

As a side note as to why people for a long time have been worried about shooting the messenger.  I think it goes back to fight or flight.  When people hear a message that they don’t like, it invokes the fight or flight reaction in that person.  Rather than run away from the message — and its implications — they choose to fight.

ANSWER FOR HISTORY BUFFS: Almost 100 years before Kamila Harris, a Native American from Kansas was the first US multi-racial vice president.   He was Charles Curtis, who served under Herbert Hoover 1929-1933.  Curtis’s mother was a Native American who belonged to the Kaw Nation.  He was raised on a reservation.

According to Washington Post columnist Jillian Brockell, Curtis studied law and was admitted to the Kansas bar.   He was first appointed to the Senate in 1907 at a time when senators were chosen by state legislatures.  He was known for his winning personality, serving on the House Indian Affairs Committee. By the 1920s, he was Senate majority leader.

He was not particularly close with President Hoover.

At its lowest point, his Kaw Nation dwindled to fewer than 200 people. The Nation has renewed itself and now numbers nearly 3,600 people.


Washington Post

Editorial: Voters made clear: The war on drugs isn’t working (“On Election Day, voters around the country opted to relax state drug laws. New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and Mississippi voted to legalize medical marijuana. Oregon went further, decriminalizing small quantities of all drugs. These movements mark a welcome shift in decades of destructive drug policy.”)

Trump’s record-breaking spree of federal executions could come to an end under Biden (“Even in a year that has tallied a record number of federal executions, Lisa Montgomery’s case stands out.  Montgomery, 52, is scheduled on Dec. 8 to be the first woman in nearly 70 years to receive the federal death penalty.  Her punishment is being carried out on an unusually fast timeline — all amid a pandemic.”)


U.S. criticized for police brutality, racism at U.N. rights review  (“Major powers, including allies, criticized the United States for its human rights record on Monday during a U.N. review, citing the use of the death penalty, police violence against African Americans and the separation of migrant children from their families.”)

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