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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
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Yes, I'm a ‘College' Dropout


Shortly after the cooling of the Earth, I, then a much younger man, worked in two statewide campaigns in Ohio, during which lifelong friendships were forged and many colorful characters were met. No character was more colorful than "Jumpin' Joe" Ferguson, who in 1970, at the age of 78, was returned by Ohio voters to the state auditor's office, which he had previously occupied from 1936 to 1952.

Ferguson — a short, energetic man — earned his nickname by forever bobbing up and down on his toes, apparently to establish eye contact with his taller colleagues. In 1950, Jumpin' Joe was the Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft, an Ohio icon nationally known as "Mr. Republican."

During that campaign, Ferguson was asked his position on the two tiny Chinese Nationalist islands then belonging to Taiwan but coveted by the communist bosses of mainland China.

Reporter: "Joe, what about Quemoy and Matsu?"

Joe — proving that foreign affairs was not his strong suit: "I'll carry 'em both!"

From that day forward until Bob Taft's landslide Election Day victory, Joe Ferguson's one-size-fits-all answer to any question on foreign policy became, "Beat Michigan."

I like Ohio, which the last time I checked led the nation in state funding for public libraries. The Buckeye State is older, whiter and poorer — 35th in median household income and 37th in college graduates — than the nation. True, Ohio, having sent seven of her sons — Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Taft and Harding — to the White House (not many Mount Rushmore runners-up in that group, I concede), can be rightly called the Mother of Presidents.

But Ohio, as we are reminded at least hourly, is truly the Epicenter of the Political World. Yes, there are other important swing states this year, including Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The remaining 41 states — where almost four out of five Americans live — are reduced to spectators, which the candidates only visit if they qualify as campaign ATM machines.

But the presidential candidate who wins Ohio will almost certainly be taking the oath of office at the Capitol next Jan. 20. You can forget the Big Apple and Big D and L.A. They're all chopped liver compared to Chillicothe, Steubenville and Zanesville.

I guess I should be happy for Ohio, which has not had a lot of good news these last 30 years or so. But let's be blunt. The only reason Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, President Obama and Vice President Biden are living in or near the Columbus media market is because of a historic mistake we call the Electoral College.

The Founding Fathers were not, it turns out, infallible. The Electoral College is absolutely anti-democratic. All Americans are treated unequally. Because each state gets two electoral votes for its two U.S. senators and an electoral vote for each of its House members, every state, regardless of population, has a minimum of three electoral votes.

This means that Wyoming, which in the most recent U.S. Census had 568,300 residents, has three electoral votes, and California, with 37,341,989 residents (which awards it 53 House members), has 55 electoral votes. As Bill Clinton might suggest, look at the arithmetic: Wyoming gets one electoral vote for every 189,493 residents, while it takes 678,945 Californians to get a single electoral vote. This is indefensible.

All we need to know is that of the scores of democracies created since World War II — the great majority of which were informed by the American example — not a single country has adopted, in any form, the Electoral College.

I'm a 'college' dropout. Let's make Americans in all 50 states — not just in nine — count. Let's value every American vote equally through national, uniform voter registration and with candidates seeking support everywhere and from everyone.

I'm sorry, Ohio, the Electoral College must go.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




11 Comments | Post Comment
Like other things in the Constitution, the Electoral College useful at the time but needs to be replaced with a better procedure. We can use popular votes for a national election now, but this would have been impossible in 1789. We need to have an amendment like to make the Constitution adapt to the times. This has been done before. We have direct election of senators, abolished slavery, and extended voting beyond white, male, property owners.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Paul M. Petkovsek
Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:48 AM
Re: Paul M. Petkovsek... Like the electoral college, the constitution itself needs replacing...And the Senate is not in any less sense, undemocratic... The rich were given the government because they paid the taxes, but that day is dead... You cannot fix the many problems of the constitution as easily as you can replace it...
Look at the preamble... We have only met one of the goals for which the constitution was written: Defense, -and that, very badly... We have consistently been let down by our military who wasted the lives of our citizens... The constitution brought us to Civil War... We fought ourselves to a draw, allowing a worthless freedom to the blacks, but though the war was over property and property rights, in the end, property rights were left stronger than before the conflict... What robbery was the waste of all those lives for freedom only to see us all bound more completely to the support and defense of property...
People reading the constitution and swearing by it forget the reason for which it was written, and that the preamble stands in complete contradiction to this world that the body of the constitution has given us...Do we have those promised goods??? If not, then the constitution is a failure...
The inequality of rights it has given to property and the church in particular, and even to press puts people in defense of their rights constantly, and just as constantly losing... The access money and religion has to government and law means any reasonable defense of the rights of the poor will break them financially...The right the people do have, have no natural support from courts or government... The privilages of property and of church have government and law at beck and call...
The failure of the constitution is not the fault of the preamble- which no one heeds... The moral forms for which the constitution was written; the moral forms behind the social form of government are good, and as Aristotle said: Governments are created for good... Where they fail is in the self serving and class serving elements added to the working parts of the constitution... You cannot have justice, and legalize injustice, for example...
The most insidious thing about the constitution is the way it has been changed- in fact outside of amendment... The parties are not constitutional, but they are departments of the government adding inertia at every step on the process of affecting government to redress grievance... The parties to serve themselves fixed the numbers of members of the House, which is the only part of government that is supposed to be responsive to the people... Deliberately divided districts designed to deny vast numbers of Americans a representative of their choice is not good government, or responsive government...This change was accomplished by the parties for the parties and blessed by the court...
The constitution had a loophole, which is a failure; but rather than close that loophole, Partocracy was driven through it so they, rather than we, could govern... If government seemed more responsive to the people in the past, it was because the ratio between representative and represented was not so huge... Who do these people represent??? They toe the party line; but they are few in number and could be many, and many minds offer the opportunity and hope that some will have intuition and others will have genius...
The congress has two parties and no new ideas... Can we afford this??? Can we afford government made of safe, rotton districts??? The people are frustrated, and the only threat to party partisans is some one more radical still... Fanatics, idealogues, dogmatists, loose cannons, and mavaricks all flowing into office on a wave of bitterness and grief are not likely to cooperate and make government effective against the flow of money betting on ineffective government...
If the people that divided districts send are on principal opposed to reason and freedom they will do nothing to preserve government which even at its worst has been better than anarchy... But we are getting anarchy anyway, with business totally ungoverned, and the people are threatened with real, and unbriddled tyranny... Can you be held forever without challenge, trial, conviction, or habeas corpus??? Then tyranny is reality...The road to hell is paved with good intentions...
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:32 AM
Sir;... We have something in common... I left college when my money left me... I still have some of my text books, but the speed reading required by college which hands you a small mountain of books at the beginning of term took all the fun out of learning... Knowledge is like a gourmet meal having flavors that linger long after the check is paid...It is no fun to hog it down...
I can remember the old lazy boy I used to sit in, with lamps and tables on either side, force feeding myself page after page until my attention flagged, and then passing that book over to the other side, and grabbing another... I had already learned to work when I went to school and it helped me to keep up with better and brighter kids... But ultimately, the question came up... Why am I spending money I don't have for an education I can't make any money with, falling behind in child support, borrowing for tuition -when the books I was getting second hand were as educating to me as those I could only skim and scan...The understanding I was looking for was never going to materialize as an object I could trade even for a penny, but was always a selfish and spiritual pursuit..

Education is not a luxury, but a necessity... The truth, a true grasp of reality is essential to every person, and every society's survival...So is a job, which one must do to have, and while I never stopped reading, and could never read at work, still my work gave me time in its more mundane moments to linger on words read in the near or distant past..What did Nietzsche say??? Does it matter what Nietzsche said... Can I remember what Nietzsche said??? But, is it true what Nietzsche said; if you take one of his big bold statements of life and compare it to all you know about life, is it true, and how true is it...
That has been my education... Miles and miles away from books I could grasp only for moments taking some part away from them as impression and trying in spare moments to catenate them to all I thought I knew...I guess a formal education would have been wasted on me, and that, in the end I would have only been a more edjified ironworker... I don't know how I could have done more if I had thought less, but I know my bosses expected me to try...
I envy educted people... I doubt myself for my want of education; but primarily, a formal education is what most educated people have to free themselves of to really enjoy their knowledge, and act on it... The form, the institution teaches and promotes itself, but the relationship of learner to knowledge is what one must see through the maze of formality to seek directly... Anybody can buy an education, but you have to have some understanding to seek knowledge... Or maybe I was just too cheap to pay the going rate...
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:32 AM
Bravo Mark!!!!!!

I've been a vehement mouth of this philosophy for the past 45+ years!

It's overdue for retirement!! It's time to make this a TRUE DEMOCRACY and make EACH VOTE COUNT!!!!!

Had that been the case, especially in the 2000 election, Al Gore would have rightfully been elected president, we'd never have gone to war in Iraq to save face for G.W. Bush's Daddy, and there's even a very remote chance that 911 would never have happened.

But this i am certain of, the Electoral College MUST GO. The Republicans will, of course fight this tooth & nail, because they are the Greatest Reapers of its benefits...

Comment: #4
Posted by: Bill Fiala
Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:17 PM
Re: James A, Sweeney If you don't like the Constitution of these united States, feel free to join a country who's constitution you do like.
Comment: #5
Posted by: David Henricks
Sun Oct 28, 2012 7:00 AM
Re: David Henricks;... As long as it is my right to take out the trash I will take the trash out of the country... I have worked for this land, cared for the people and still do, and my people have fought for this country and in at least one instance, probably for and against this country before we had a constitution, as a Hessian... I don't think we are the problem, our 47% or their 47% or any of the in betweeners... Certainly some on both sides have been misled, but it is hard for me to not find something about the people I don't like... If the constitution is what is setting us at odds, then it has to go... And some on the Surpreme Court have agreed with me that property rights have been in conflict with personal rights, and are even while each rests on the same premise, of respect for others and civility... If the constitution, and property rights taken to extremes have led us into disrespect and incivility contrary to all rights and community, then both have to be reconsidered... The constitution is simply easier to replace completely than tinker with to no ones satisfaction... The seemingly difficult solution is the simple solution because it is the only solution... We are not the enemy, but the constitution is the enemy of us...
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Oct 28, 2012 9:35 AM
What about California having 37 times the population of Montana, yet gets 53 time the number of Representatives in the House? I think a system which forces the national candidates to consider the less populated states as well as the big population centers is not all bad.

Even though they never really campaign in the Mountain West, if they take too many positions contrary to our interests, we have some power to influence the national discourse. There are a lot of people who would like to ban industry in our state and reduce all the inhabitants to selling trinkets to the tourists.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Steve McGregor
Sun Oct 28, 2012 10:28 AM
Re: Steve McGregor... Montana went to the Supreme Court, and got a supreme a few years back... They had narrowly missed getting two representatives in the house, and thought the limits on the numbers in the house was unfair... It is, and I don't like it a bit, but nothing is worse at this point than places like Montana and Alaska having two senators, and California only having two... It is so incredibly undemocratic that it makes a sham of the word democracy in America...
Limiting the numbers of representatives make it easy to divide districts, and deny vast numbers representation...No party is better or worse than the other in their gerrymandering, but it is criminal, and it has destroyed the effectiveness, and responsiveness of the government... The Supreme Court looked at the loophole in the constitution, and said the House is free to make the rules that govern its own behavior... What this meant was that Montana had only half the representation per person of a state with the right number of representatives for its population... How much less representation do we have per person than our founding father had??? We have but a fraction...Do we deserve less??? Did the curse of Cain fall on us, but not on our forefathers???
The sense of the correct ratio in the house that the founding fathers tried to live with meant nothing to the Court, and what mattered is that people early on found the loop hole and the parties took advantage of it to deny the people democracy... Hooray for them, and pity for us...
Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #8
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Oct 28, 2012 5:09 PM
The founders of this nation intentionally established the country as a republic and understood the dangers of a democracy in a country this large geographically and population-wise. Our Pledge refers to "the republic for which it stands". So concerns for every person's vote counting have no Constitutional basis. In the early days of the country, there were no popular elections for President. Any citizen should know this information, but most don't becasue the government-run education system teaches children that our country is a democracy and is based on the two-party system. It is neither, but that is the brainwashing that goes on in our public schools. I, too, was taught this nonsense and only after I began my own study learned the effort that went into establishing a government for this country that was intentionally different from governments throughout history that had failed. Only with the gradual takeover of the government by the two-party system has the government been transformed into what it is today - government of the parties, by the parties and for the parties and the groups that fund them. Look at how much of the government rules and election control the two parties have set up over time and they fly in the face of the founders. Constitutional reform - hardly. Elimination of the two-party system and their control over the government, elections and our lives and you have a much better start to solving our problems.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Douglas S. Parish
Mon Oct 29, 2012 4:58 AM
Re: Douglas S. Parish;... A democracy properly conceived is a whole lot more free of abuses than any republic has ever been, and a republic is a de-evolution from gentile institutions that served humanity through its infancy, and brought all people alive today into the modern age... Only an educated and advanced people could look at others of their group with contempt mingled with fear as we see enshrined in our Constitution... Such a feeling would be a luxury in a true democracy, and no free person would entertain the thought for a moment... Democracies are formed out of the need for justice as much as the fear of enemies, and republics represent a fear of the poor given the defense of law...
By the time of our Constitution, it is certain there was some familiarity with Edward Gobbon's book on the Decline and Fall of the Romen Empire, but there was common knowledge of the way republicanism had failed Rome, and out of the force of democracy and of necessity became tyranny...
Still the Americans out of their envy of Rome and Roman power elected to become a republic after the example of Rome even with the example of gentile government before them in the Iroquois Confederacy, and essentially, all over Native America...It is fair to say that writers of a certain familiarity to the planter class, like Plato, held a great deal of contempt of democracy and of the common man, which is reflected in our republic...The Democracy of Plato's familiarity was only a remnant of an earlier age, and he was inclined as we still are to associate private wealth is social virtue, and to believe in the rule of the best, Aristocracy...
We have a Aristocracy of sorts, but in most respects oligarchy and Plutocracy...I do not accept the genius of any class or individual over the genius of the people... If there are times a people must act in concert for their collective defense, that is still best accomplished by the will of a free people... In a democracy, the power of each individual over his own behavior does never become the power of the individual over the many...Our republic shows the fear of the few for the power of the many... They made the constitution nearly impossible to change democratically... They might have looked at the course of the Spartans whose Constitution was practically impossible to change, having been given by a man who swore his people to abide by it until his return, who then left, and starved himself to death... Dead Constitutions do not serve living people... More than that, the fear of democracy will always grow rather than lessen... If the people can be kept from power in their own affairs because they are ignorant, they can then be kept ignorant to excuse their powerlessness...
The Constitution allowed the poor people some democratic control in their lives through the house; but the parties have conspired to limit that control...For the most part, the constitution has limited the power of democracy to deal with internal or external issue... The thought that slaves were once counted as a portion of the population in regard to representational apportionment though they were never otherwise counted as humans was an affront to the free... But the powerlessness of the people to deal with slavery by contitutional means was one factor that led directly to war, and in the end left the government more powerless against property...
So much of the government is beyond the influence of the people as raw numbers, and so much is within the influence of money representatives that our situation is hopeless...If your government cannot govern the churches and economy, then it will be at the mercy of them...What can a president do, for example, to set business right after their excesses has brought so many to bankruptcy??? There is no direct link between business and government, but it is the first thing a government class teaches, that free enterprise and democracy are nearly synonymous... They are not the same, and yet the republic that denies the power of the people acting through their government to organize their affairs and govern their social relations is essential to free enterprise... For free enterprise to exist the people must be constrained...
There is something else about the constitution that is poison to democracy... The government assumption of debt for private gain should always be held under the greatest scrutiny...Yet; our government came into being with the assumption of debt for all the bonds and bills of colonial America incurred during its fight for independence... Many of these bills, bought as articles of speculation for pennies were paid at face value...All of this debt was loaded onto the people just as Jefferson predicted... This activity has continued through today, with public debt being traded for private gain, and it empowers the rich at the expense of the people... It is a criminal use of government, and it should stop...
Comment: #10
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:57 AM
I recall a meeting with Jumping Joe where Mark was present. The topic was the apportionment of Ohio and my role was making computers work as servants of the state. Joe had one of three votes authorizing funds and he turned to me and asked if the computers can make sure a certain Republican would be defeated. I knew nothing about the person Joe asked about so Mark said it was a sure thing. Joe agreed to the funding and the rest was history
Comment: #11
Posted by: George Burch
Wed May 1, 2013 11:06 PM
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