Monday, December 19, 2016

Response to Dealing With the Done Deal

(See: Just Above Sunset: Dealing With the Done Deal)

About that electoral college:

If Donald Trump really wanted to make America great, he’d work to get rid of it. But he won’t, maybe because he really doesn’t. It’s not likely to happen soon anyway, simply because too many people — specifically, Republicans — don’t want to get rid of it.

Why Republicans? Because especially lately, they are the party most likely to win the electoral college without winning the popular vote, since about the only way a party can do that is to win more of the low-population states than the other major party, and those states tend to be more conservative than high-population states, maybe because they have fewer big cities, which tend to be more liberal and Democratic.

The major argument often given against doing away with the electoral college has to do with protecting small states, an argument that was refuted quite nicely by The Washington Post back in 2012, in an article that addresses myths about the electoral college, the first of which was, "The framers created the electoral college to protect small states":
The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention had a variety of reasons for settling on the electoral college format, but protecting smaller states was not among them. Some delegates feared direct democracy, but that was only one factor in the debate. 
Remember what the country looked like in 1787: The important division was between states that relied on slavery and those that didn’t, not between large and small states. A direct election for president did not sit well with most delegates from the slave states, which had large populations but far fewer eligible voters. They gravitated toward the electoral college as a compromise because it was based on population. The convention had agreed to count each slave as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of calculating each state’s allotment of seats in Congress. For Virginia, which had the largest population among the original 13 states, that meant more clout in choosing the president.
In other words, that "a-slave-is-three-fifths-of-a-person" bit of trickery that slave states settled on to artificially inflate their populations for the purpose of deciding how many representatives they’d send to the House threatened to come back and bite them in the ass when it came to voting for president, since they themselves would not allow much of their so-called “population” to actually vote. To remedy that, they favored giving the states, with their make-believe “populations”, the power to choose the president over allowing actual people to do it.
The electoral college distorts the political process by providing a huge incentive [for candidates] to visit competitive states, especially large ones with hefty numbers of electoral votes. That’s why Obama and Romney have spent so much time this year in states like Ohio and Florida. In the 2008 general election, Obama and John McCain personally campaigned in only five of the 29 smallest states. 
The framers protected the interests of smaller states by creating the Senate, which gives each state two votes regardless of population. There is no need for additional protection.
Another way of putting that, especially in a day and age when we no longer have to pander to the duplicitous chicanery of slave states, is that the choice is between having the American people choose the president and vice-president, or having that decision be made by the states. And if we decide that the people, not the states, should decide, then it will no longer be relevant what this does to any particular state.

Many present convoluted arguments that, as much as we call ourselves a “democracy”, technically we’re merely a “republic", maybe partly because the citizens don’t actually elect their president. In fact, I would argue we’re really a “democratic republic”, but all silly technicalities aside, there ought to be at least one part of our nation’s management that we, the people, choose directly (given that senators and representatives are chosen only by people who live in those states) and that is the executive branch. If only we could do that directly, then few could deny that we’re a democracy.

Another beneficial result of a popular vote would be increasing turnout, which has averaged about 63% of eligible voters since 1828 when we started paying attention to the popular vote, although it’s down in the low to mid 50s in recent elections. As it is, many people say their vote doesn’t really count, and that happens to be true, especially for anyone not living in a battleground state.

With direct elections, every vote would count, no matter what state the voter lived in, which means candidates who campaign only in big population centers, which might be overlooked and excused by Idaho voters under the present electoral system, would find themselves punished by Idaho voters under the popular vote system.

"Hey, wait a minute!", you say, “Aren’t you a Democrat? No wonder you want the popular vote! Democrats win when the people vote directly!"

True enough, but believe it or not, I’ve always believed in the popular vote, even before I realized that the electoral college is probably biased toward Republicans.  Not only is the electoral college an archaic vestige of an age when ordinary Americans weren’t considered as smart as the elite few who would be chosen to be electors, it’s clumsy and unnecessary and, it turns out, it also gives unwarranted power to the low-population state voter over the one from the populous state.

But just becoming a true democracy should be good for the country as a whole — although we’re not likely to get there in the present day America, in which those few with power, understandably, pretty much don’t believe in democracy and majority rule anyway.

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