Monday, December 17, 2012

Contempt for the Constitutional System

The Republican Party is apparently urging Democratic-leaning swing states to abandon "winner takes all" in favor of a pro-Republican redistribution of electoral votes.
Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party's path to the Oval Office.

Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party's majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.
The historic norm has been for the electoral vote to be awarded on a state-by-state "winner takes all" basis. The goal here is to leverage Republican gerrymandering and control of state legislatures into a system that subverts both the popular vote and the rationale for maintaining the Electoral College.

Under the current system, whatever its faults, the Electoral College gives smaller states a voice in presidential elections - without it, campaigns would focus almost exclusively on states with high populations, and the urban centers of smaller states, as that's where the votes would be. With it, not only do the smallest states benefit from the provision of a minimum of three electors, but politicians pay attention to states and regions that would be of marginal interest if the goal were simply to win a national, popular vote.

The goal of this initiative is to undermine the strength of Democratic states and regions by, in effect, eliminating their relevance to the national election - or even by providing a significant majority of the electoral vote to a candidate who was trounced in a state-wide popular vote. It's easy to see why Republican partisans would get excited over the idea of taking states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin out of contention, to be followed by Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. But if the governors of those states are stupid enough to go along with the idea, they'll be less relevant to the next presidential election than West Virginia and North Carolina. There is, of course, no Republican move to redistribute the electoral vote in "red states".

If you take yourself out of the picture, you may well get a, "Thanks, you're a great guy" from the partisans who want you to chop your state off at the knees, but once you've made your state irrelevant to the next presidential election... who do you imagine is going to show you love? There's a reason why Iowa works so hard to maintain its prominent role in presidential elections.

Alas, there's little sign that the targeted Republican governors value either the democratic process or the long-term welfare of their states. My guess is that if you offer them enough of a personal reward, they'll happily sell their states down the river.

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