first introduced my daughter Rebecca to the idea of the American Electoral College three years ago, when she was 6. I realize now that might not have been such a good idea. But how else to deal with a girl who kept pointing at the TV screen and saying, “Why blond man?”
Sure, I could have told her that blond men have more fun, or make more noise, or huff and puff until all houses come down, but Rebecca doesn’t fall for humor. When she asks why ice cream is a certain color you’re better off reciting chemistry than telling her how cute she is.
So I launched right into it, explaining that states had a certain number of delegates depending on their population and that together these delegates formed a “college,” and the college got together to add up their votes. If the candidate won more “people” votes but lost some key states here and there, he could lose on paper — like the blond guy. This was to make sure every state got a chance to contribute, and places like California, which has half the population of China, couldn’t vote in a president on its own (at least in theory).
Rebecca listened to all this but eventually decided I hadn’t really answered her the way she wanted to be answered, leaving the blond man riddle unsolved.
A few days later she came up with an alternative theory of the crime. The Electoral College wasn’t really called that. No, it was the Electrical College.
Correcting her was futile.
The Electrical College, she explained, had picked the blond man because he had been electrocuted, which was why his hair was blond. This is what happened when you stuck your fingers into sockets too often, something he’s probably done while trying to recharge his phone or talking to a bear, since he seemed like the kind to have a talking bear.
The Electrical College wasn’t a body, or even an institution. The Electrical College was every home with electricity and phone chargers and bears and a desire to electrocute someone, so they could then appear on television.
I explained that not all presidents were blond and this one might even dye his hair, but Rebecca insisted he didn’t because he wasn’t dead yet. That would happen only when he was struck by lightning, another piece of the Electrical College puzzle.
I tried a more rational approach, as in, “What does this have to do with being president of a country?”
Everything, she said, because electricity was everywhere and needed a boss to keep things balanced, or battery power would run out.
In this way I learned the Electrical College was in fact the nation’s power company, and the Electrical College had settled on the blond because he was all over the web and knew what he was talking about, or, in the vernacular, was plugged.
As the years passed Rebecca’s explanation began to sound a lot better than any political one, since the big blond increasingly behaved like an irritated bear no mouthfuls of garbage could tranquilize.
The other day Rebecca told me she was going to vote for the blond electrician again. When I reminded her she hadn’t voted and wasn’t old enough, she told me whatever I said was irrelevant. All she needed to do was plug in a device and her vote was cast. Anyone who plugged in or recharged was for the blond and his bear. Silly me for not understanding how the Electrical College works.
Rebecca is adamant about her theory but doesn’t own a phone, for which I am grateful. But others do, and I’ll be making a bunch of calls asking them to please not recharge in the coming days, or even weeks, since bears, blond ones in particular, are prone to plugging in even after what most of us would consider a deadline.
Years ago I studied political science in college. What a waste. Anyone who wants to understand anything needs a know-it-all daughter who has a theory about why dogs like popcorn. For now, though, I’ll worry about how to tell the folks at the Electoral College their services are no longer needed. Call it shock therapy.