Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Eliminate the electoral college

Some people have noticed that Democrats got the popular vote in 2012, but somehow, Republicans managed majorities in both houses of Congress. This has been verified by Politifact. At the same time, Barack Obama was re-elected. Republicans are so unhappy about this condition that at least in Michigan, there is a proposal floating around to change the rules so that Republicans have a better chance to nail the trifecta: House, Senate and President.

Through the wonders of computers, various groups have tallied the votes for Congress and the president and they arrive at pretty much the same conclusion: in 2010, Republicans used their new found majorities in the state houses to draw districts that would favor their party. Another way of putting it is that Republicans drew districts that would disenfranchise Democrats in their states by splitting their votes. This can leave us with the somewhat uncomfortable condition of having one party in Congress butting heads with the President in the White House.

There is some talk of reform of the Electoral College. I'm not even sure that reform is even possible since it was designed from the beginning, to prevent the common man from having a say in presidential elections. As Dave Stewart of US News and World Reports describes it:
"The presidential elector system is an anachronistic vestige of aristocratic attitudes, both undemocratic and easily manipulated. Its survival until 2013 reflects the power of inertia and founder worship. We should change it."
Mr. Stewart offers this tidbit to show the attitudes of 1787 when the Electoral College was created:
"According to George Mason of Virginia, popular elections were the equivalent of asking a blind man to choose between colors."
He goes on to note that times have changed. Most men and women are not so isolated. News travels in seconds rather than days. Literacy is nearly universal. There is no reason that the president cannot be elected by popular vote. Eliminating the Electoral College would also eliminate the gamesmanship that goes on with the laws regarding how electors are awarded.

Such a plan would create an effective check on gerrymandering. No matter how the districts are crafted, there would be no way around the popular vote, ensuring that a president willing to veto will provide the check on power in Congress we so badly need now. Imagine what life would be like if we had a Republican President in tow with a Tea Party Congress. Why, they'd make every department of government miserable except for the Department of Defense. What's not to love in the DOD?

I can't see a better way to turn the country around. Congressional districts look more like sprawling amoebas with each census. Requiring a popular vote for president will go a long way to reducing the temptation to gerrymander districts. Without an Electoral College to manipulate, a minority party backed by an even smaller, very wealthy minority, just might have to listen to everyone else when writing laws that determine our collective fate.

If we're lucky, the elimination of the Electoral College might happen sooner than we expected.
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