Michael KreponHope

Quotes of the week:

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”

“Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” –Thomas Paine, from The American Crisis and The Rights of Man

I was going to write this week about whether Donald Trump’s “count every U.S., Russian and Chinese warhead” proposal was a good idea, a scam, or both. But that can wait. There’s something more important to write about, something that speaks to this moment, and something that also speaks to our common commitment to prevent mushroom clouds.

Hope. Hope sustains, but doesn’t spring eternal. Without hope, loss has the closing argument. Loss and depression. We look for hope and find it in unexpected places and people. And then we can revive. Hope can carry us to a better place, if enough of us do the lifting.

Like you, I couldn’t find much hope of late. My beloved country was reeling. I questioned the resilience of our democracy. I couldn’t bear to watch the images of George Floyd’s death. Alessandra and I splurged after my retirement and went to Tanzania to see animals on their turf, uncaged. Darwin’s survival of the fittest played out before us, along with serenity and beauty beyond our powers of imagination. The knee on George Floyd’s neck brought back primal images from that safari, images of the hunter and the prey.

And then, street protests began. Fox’s Trumpophiles kept looping images of fires and vandalism. I refrained from allowing hope back into my heart. And then the protests began to build, and the strength of disciplined social protest rekindled my hope.

Thank you, Donald Trump for having no sense of guardrails and for publicly considering the use of active duty troops to quash social protests, finally prompting his first Secretary of Defense and other four stars to clear their throats. And thank you, Donald Trump, from the bottom of my now-mending heart, for using the Bible as a prop. Our law and order President treats the Bible as if hawking merchandise on the Home Shopping Network, breaks laws, stokes division and chaos, and doesn’t follow scripture. A majority of my fellow citizens know without a shadow of a doubt that this dog won’t hunt.

Will the clarity of this moment be sustained until November? Will the Electoral College reflect majority sentiment? There will be many glaring headlines between now and then. But I’ve got my hope back.

And since, after all, this is armscontrolwonk.com, I’ll answer the mail with this closing thought:

Hope is also a necessary ingredient for succeeding at arms control. Cynics don’t accomplish great things in our line of work. Pessimists deconstruct; optimists build. Those who hold out hope succeed at reducing nuclear dangers and weapons. We’re going through hard times, but don’t give up hope.


  1. Sandra (History)

    Wow! You have struck a chord, a very deep cord. May hope prevail! Thank you

  2. s e (@oldgulph) (History)

    Because of statewide winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . .

    2 of the 3 most recent presidents entered office without winning the most national popular votes.

    5 of our 45 Presidents have come into office without having won the most popular votes nationwide.

    A recent study shows there’s a 45% chance that a close presidential election ends with the winner of less popular votes becoming President.

    Another recent study warns that 1 out of every 3 presidential elections where the popular vote margin is within 3% will feature a mismatch between the popular vote and the electoral college.

    There are several scenarios in which a candidate could win the presidency in 2020 with fewer popular votes than their opponents. It could reduce turnout more, as more voters realize their votes do not matter.

    If Hillary Clinton had gotten 93.7% (rather than 88.2%) of the black vote, equaling Obama, she would have tied Trump in the Electoral College. The election would have been thrown into the U.S. House (with each state casting one vote) and the election of the Vice President would be thrown into the U.S. Senate. Congress would decide the election, regardless of the popular vote in any state or throughout the country.

    The National Popular Vote bill is 73% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country

    • E. Rhym (History)

      Consider a sports analogy.

      Alabama scores 3 touchdowns while Auburn scores 4 field goals, and Alabama wins the game 21-12, because touchdowns (with extra points) score 7 points while field goals score only 3.

      Then some genius sportswriter comes along and says Auburn should have won because they scored 4 times while Alabama only scored 3 times.

      The game is played to win according the rules at the outset. You don’t get to change the rules after the game to claim victory — and you don’t get to assume the outcome would be what you desire had the rules been different at the outset, because it would have been played differently.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      Electing a President is not a sports game that can be played according to any arbitrary rules set forth in advance. In a democracy, the selection is supposed to reflect the will of the people. That will is completely frustrated if a candidate with fewer votes “wins” the election, due to an antiquated electoral college that never functioned the way the founding fathers intended. Change the rules to better reflect how a democracy should function.

  3. iconstudio337 (History)

    Instead of fretting about a narrow edge in the Electoral College, we should look at the huge percentage of people who don’t bother to vote. It’s voter turnout that matters and voter suppression is a mighty tool.

  4. E. Rhym (History)

    Nonsense, Jonah! We live in a representative democracy, and our presidential election mirrors the Constitutional construct for our entire government, wherein the popular vote does determine the electoral college in a way gives the citizens of every state a proportional voice in the choice of our president.

    IF the winner of the presidential election were decided by national popular vote, the campaigns would have been run differently. For instance, I do not think it is too far a stretch to surmise that President Trump would have picked up a lot more votes in big population states that vote solidly Democratic, like California and New York, than Democratic Nominee Clinton would have picked up in small population states that vote solidly Republican, like Kansas and Wyoming.

    But in the process you destroy the proportional balance brilliantly embedded in the Constitution, which seeks to balance, among other things. the interests of the entire country.

    • Jonah Speaks (History)

      We balance the interests of the entire country by allowing the people to have substantial power and influence within their state and local governments, and by respecting minority rights, not by allowing a minority to elect the President. Since the electoral college never functioned the way the founding fathers envisioned, their “brilliance” does not extend to this particular matter.

      The notion that Trump could have won the popular vote, if only there were no electoral college, is rather fanciful. Unfortunately, the notion that the Russians influenced the election in Trump’s favor because of the electoral college (by concentrating their interference in only a few states) is not so fanciful.

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