What does Fixing a Bicycle have to do with Fixing our Destructive Presidential Election System?

To a striking degree, voters of different political persuasions agree that things are going wrong with our government and our political system.  Shared national values are fraying as a result.  Most voters agree on many of the things that are going wrong—hyper-partisanship, citizen distrust of government, intensive divisiveness, and a conviction that they are not being represented by the system.  To be sure, they don't agree on how to reform the system, but fundamentally they do agree that it needs to be reformed.

When I was a kid growing up during World War II, the popular story line was that Americans were good at fixing things.  When GIs landed in rural France they endeared themselves to the liberated villagers not only by handing out chocolates but also by repairing their bicycles.  To fix a bicycle, one first needs to determine what is wrong with it and then roll up his or her sleeves to make the fix.  That was the reputation Americans had, it was legitimately earned, and we were proud of it.

The same was true of our political system from the earliest days of our country.  We did what we needed to make things work.  Our founders were visionaries, it is true, but they were also practical.  Europeans, by contrast, tended to be guided by ideologies and spent considerable time in ideological debate.  This approach—from the divine right of kings, to the perfectibility of humankind, to communism's "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," to the empty and cynical slogans of totalitarian states—got them into trouble.

In contrast, American political rallying cries—Teddy Roosevelt's "Square Deal," Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal," and Harry Truman's "Fair Deal"—have been grounded in the practical mentality of the Yankee peddler.  In addition to improvisation and practicality, these slogans reflected a commitment to fixing things, making them better.

As a country, we need to fix our political system, and it doesn't matter all that much, beyond certain fundamental values the great majority of Americans share, what collection of beliefs each participant brings to a table where the root causes of our problem are identified and remedies are fashioned by collaborative discussion and reciprocal horse trading.

Making Every Vote Count's leadership has come together from different political perspectives.  Like a rapidly growing number of other groups and individuals, which are concerned about the serious problems in our political system, board members of disparate views on many issues are joined in the conviction that a major source of these problems is  a very specific segment of our Presidential election system -- how 48 states allocate their electoral college votes under a very unrepresentative winner-take-all system -- not in the Constitution, itself, and that it is fixable. This defect is the equivalent of the broken bicycle chain that prevents it from being used properly.

So, let's put aside ideologies, but not our national values, put our hands into the grease of the malfunctioning bicycle chain and devise and implement the needed fix.  That's what our founders did in 1787, when the damaging flaws of the Articles of Confederation had become apparent.  The difference here, however, is that we don't have to throw away the old bike.  We need to fix only the one defective part of it.  In the case of our Presidential election system, an increasing number of commentators, scholars, and public and political figures recognize that the appropriate remedy can and should be implemented at the state level, not at the level of the federal government.  We should get on with the job.