The Red and the Blue

Condoleeza Rice’s replacement of Colin Powell as US Secretary of State shows that America’s recent presidential election continues to produce powerful reverberations. But understanding what that election tells us about America is important not only for Americans, but for the world.

This year’s presidential vote proves that America’s democracy is healthy, but that some things could be better. Contrary to the election in 2000, when President Bush lost the popular vote and barely won the vote in the Electoral College, Bush prevailed this time by 3.5 million votes. While some Democrats remain bitter, there is little serious questioning of the legitimacy of Bush’s victory.

America remains closely divided into red states (Republican) and blue states (Democrat). If 100,000 votes changed in the red state of Ohio, John Kerry would be the president (albeit with a minority of the popular vote).

The Electoral College was included in America’s constitution to protect small states in a federal system, but it now means that the political campaign focuses largely on the dozen or so battleground states where public opinion is closely divided. More fundamentally, there is something unseemly about electing presidents without a popular majority. So it is time for a serious debate about amending the constitution to abolish the Electoral College.