2007-09-06

Post #600, in which I rant about something rational for a change

(if the Electoral College counts as “something rational”)

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I like to defend large media against either brand of political rancor, whether right or left (because let's face it: both sides are peopled with loonies who think the media's out to get them), but the front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle today was so deliriously Democrat-leaning that I can do nothing but cry foul.

Although I encourage you to go read the article, you might not. So let me tell you what's wrong with it, starting with the title and subtitle:


WINNER-TAKE-ALL? NOT NECESSARILY
Move to split state's electoral votes by congressional district could elect a GOP president


Now for those of you modern Americans without an opinion on the Electoral College (even after the last two elections), let me tell you what your opinion should be: The Electoral College is antiquated and we're ready to switch over to a more directly democratic (little d) method for picking a president.

For you farners, here's the deal: Each state votes for president. Whoever wins the popular vote in a state gets all it's Electoral College votes. California, for instance, has 55 Electoral College votes (out of 538 total, so it's a lot). California tends to vote for Democrats, but not overwhelmingly so. Which means that millions of votes basically get tossed out when the state's 55 electors fly to DC and turn in blue ballots. No one should like this. No democrat (little d) at least, that's for sure.

California ElectorateSo some Republicans in Sacramento have come up with this brilliant idea to let the state's Congressional Districts pick their own Electors, one by one.

Skip this little-text explanation on why we have 55 votes if you don't need it:

So! Bicameral legislature! The Senate = two seats per state. The House = 435 seats split amongst the states by population. The Electoral College = The Senate + The House, divvied up by legislative seats. California has two Senators and 53 Reps, ergo we have 55 Electoral votes. Savvy?

Now, in this proposed plan, the winner of the state, instead of getting all 55 votes, would get 2. And each Congressional District (an area electing a single Representative) would get 1 vote each. And how they voted would determine which Elector they send to vote for president.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I'm from Kern County. A county that never votes Democratic (the opposite of Park City, Utah, you might say). So except for the few Demos scattered here and their, our vote for president hasn't counted since . . . Reagan, I think.

Me, I don't know what party I'll be voting for in 2008 yet. There are worthy candidates on both sides and we'll just have to see how things go. But our friends the Democrats have been screwed by the Electoral College recently, winning the popular vote nationally but losing anyway, so they've been moaning (and rightly so) about how the Electoral College sucks and is a big meanie.

And so this proposal, a step closer to onevote=onevote, should be welcomed by them. But no. It isn't. And why not? Because without California's 55 votes, they don't think they can win. And, as always, winning first, principals second. This is why I really don't much care for either of the Big Parties. Crap like this. Just check out these quotes from the article:

Howard Dean: "This is not reform. It's just another Republican attempt to rig an election. This is partisan, it's wrong and the Democratic Party will not stand for a repeat of 2000."

Uh huh. Now, I'll admit that short term, this is extremely likely to benefit the GOP, but as California goes, so goes the country. If this move proved trendsetting, the presidential election would be brought closer to the people--and isn't that what being a progressive is all about? And might this not have won you 2000, had it started happening twenty years ago?

Barbara Boxer: "We need to beat this and will do whatever is necessary. Sure, it's expensive, but this is our democracy, this is the presidency."

It's amazing to me that she thinks the-believing-people's donations to her party could be better spent running an anti-populist campaign than actually promoting her party's candidate. But whatever. She's just my Senator. What do I care if she makes $165,200 per annum to spout nonsense?

I just can't help thinking that the timing of this proposal really sucks. The Democrats (big D) will paint this in an evil light and defeat it at the polls and it will be tainted and thus never come up again--all because the Big Election takes place five months after the vote on the proposal--if it even gets on the ballot.

If this weren't so near an important election, if we could talk about this without talking about Party, if we were just a weeeee bit more mature, could anyone really honestly ethically be against this idea?

Correct answer: No.

But the drive to find correct answers is weak in partisan politics.

Can you prove me wrong?

15 comments:

  1. Whatever it takes to keep republicans out of power, I say. Democracy's a sham anyway, why gravitate to the lowest common denominator when it's rationalism that deserves to win out?

    Word.

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  2. Thank you. That's exactly the attitude I'm talking about. After all, if you're right, why should we let the people vote at all?

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  3. .

    Well this is exciting. I have no idea who Ms/r Oregon up there is, but this post has already been read by someone in the Senate. I wonder if it was Ms Boxer herself?

    Hey, Babs!

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  4. ROFL about the comments above.

    I actually quite agree with you on this one. Not that that is surprising to me.

    That proposed system makes much more sense in a democratic (little d) society.

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  5. I completely agree that excessive partisanship is anti democratic (little d) and that the Democrats (big D) on principle should support these type of measures.

    I do, however agree with the Democratic leadership that this move by the Republicans has little to do with principle and everything to do with political opportunity and they should be a bit worried because states that have large numbers of votes and typically have all their votes go red despite a somewhat split population aren't being changed- just California. So, in the name of fairness, democracy, and populism we would likely elect someone who lost the popular vote because we moved to a system closer to the popular vote in California but not elsewhere.

    If I were running the Democratic party leadership I'd say something along the lines of "We would love for this to happen everywhere, and we'll do everything in our power to help make it happen in California if the Republican leadership will make sure it happens in Texas, Florida, and Ohio as well. Otherwise we know that you are insincere and this is just a political ploy. If you are insincere we will oppose this move that appears democratic because we know that it will, in fact, lead to an outcome that less accurately represents the wishes of the people in this country as a whole. Right now all votes from California staying together balances out all the votes from Texas staying together and democracy is almost preserved. We've been saying for years that we want a more democratic system and demand a move to one. However, we will not support efforts designed to less accurately represent the wishes of the American people, even if they appear to be more democratic, they would in fact be thwarting democracy."

    Thats what I'd do. I mean really, don't you think Mike Duncan and Howard Dean could sit down together and talk about this and then make it happen? Splitting Florida would serve the best interests of both parties. Texas would make up for California. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania might hurt the Democrats a bit, but I think they'd go for it since all of those states could easily swing either way. Plus, at that point they don't have to feel it's a trick and can know that California isn't going to be the only state doing it.

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  6. I've created a monster. A helpful, helpful monster.

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  7. .

    Indeed you have.

    And Michael: I think your suggestion is excellent.

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  8. That's how we do it in Canada - each seat is won individually. However, we don't just have two parties. It's nice because literally everyone can get a seat in Parliament, but it's bad because then the party in power (even though they have the majority vote) doesn't necessarily have over 50% of the vote. If they get ganged up on (which often happens) basically nothing gets done...ever. And that's Canadian politics. As far as this goes - I think it's a fantastic idea, but I agree with the idea that it should be nationwide.

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  9. I've never really liked the Electoral College. After spending so much time learning about democracy and the importance of voting and things as a child (in New Jersey (where they seem to make a bit bigger of a deal out of elections than they appeared to where I lived in Utah)), I was sorely disappointed when I learned about the Electoral College, and how they're the only ones that *really* get to vote and have it matter. It never seemed quite fair to me, even though they vote based on what their state decided.

    Also, I have never really liked either the Republicans or the Democrats. My parents are big Republicans, my dad was in charge of the neighborhood Republicans for awhile and had meetings at our house with a bunch of other Republicans prior to an election one year. It never made a lot of sense to me though. There's bad Republicans and bad Democrats, and good Democrats and good Republicans, and it makes much more sense to me to actually look at the candidate and see what they're actually saying and what sorts of things they might actually end up doing than to completely cut out half the candidates from your consideration just because they're from a different party than you are.

    I guess my biggest issue with our bi-partisan electoral college system is that a lot of voters don't seem to really be very informed about the votes they're making, but then, even the ones who are informed aren't ultimately the ones voting. I think I'd have an easier time living with the two party system if the electoral college was switched out for the congressional district votes you outlined. It would make it seem at least a little more like an individual's vote actually really mattered.

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  10. .

    And a little bit's more than nothing, I always say.

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  11. There are some bad Democrats (which means, you know, they're sort of like Republicans. Think Lieberman), but there are no good Republicans.

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  12. .

    I'm curious: does everyone in Corvallis feel this way, or is it just you?

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  13. I can't help but be reminded--especially by Michael's comment--of the whole raging debate that led to our bicameral system in the first place: little states wanted states each state to be equally represented; big states wanted each citizen to be equally represented. Of course, we as citizens tend to like the sound of things that give us rather than our states equal representation--such things make us feel special, like we actually matter to our government--but, let's face it, many of the founding fathers who were in favor of such representation weren't for it on the basis of principle.

    I'm all for Michael's suggestion for the Democrats to support the Republican's idea if the Republicans commit to follow through and make the same sort of changes in other states, but my abysmal opinion of humanity's ability to learn anything from itself tells me that they probably wouldn't. Even our noble Founding Fathers whom I so respect argued and debated and quarreled for DAYS after the bicameral compromise was presented because they passed the first half of it (whichever half that was; I forget) and then they couldn't get the second half to pass because those who were solely interested in the first half didn't follow through and compromise like they said they would.

    No honor among thieves; no principles among politicians--and I don't foresee that changing any time soon. I would cry out against the injustice of a theoretically Democratic government that doesn't actually let its citizens have their say, but the fact of that matter is that the Founding Father's set this up as a Republic because they understood that people in general are too stupid to be trusted to make big decisions, so they hoped that the aristocracy would be a little wiser. Unfortunately, the aristocracy continually fails to have much wisdom, and the rest of America doesn't really seem to care.

    So. Yeah. Whatever. I would sure like to see a vote be worth a vote, but I gotta be honest, my faith in The System (if I ever had any) is waning.

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  14. .

    Welcome to adulthood, Schmetterling.

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  15. .

    New plan.

    Have it as a California Constitutional Amendment, but have a caveat that it doesn't take effect until X other states pass a similar vote-distribution plan.

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