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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Strib Stupidity: Let's Forget About The Constitution

I love it when politicians talk about abolishing the Electoral College. Most of them don't have the foggiest notion what the college is about, or why it was put in place. But today, as pointed out by Captain Ed, the Minnieapolis Star Tribune (Strib) takes that the extra mile, and really shows that they have no clue what they're talking about.

This country could form a more perfect union by accepting a novel idea: that the president of the United States should be elected by the people of the United States.

Stop. The president is elected by the people of this country. He is chosen by the voters, and should he receive the majority vote in the state, all the state's electoral votes go for him; winner takes all. The idea floated by both the Strib and Hillary Clinton a couple years ago is preposterous; that we don't elect the president, by a slate of electors does. No, we do. We vote in the general election, and the electors make their slate according to what the majority of voters in the state chose.

That's not the way it's done, of course, and, given the Constitution's enshrinement of the Electoral College, things aren't likely to change. To quit the college would take approval of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures, so fuggedaboudit.

And rightly so they should forget about it. To remove the electoral college system from the Constitution would require the necessary supermajority of Congress and ratification by the states to do so. Your chances? Slim and none, much like any amending argument that is going on right now. From the protection of marriage to protecting the flag, the population doesn't see it as a necessity to tinker with the Constitution.

But now comes a gaggle of bipartisan reformers with a cheeky idea worth considering. What if legislatures, one by one, entered their states into an interstate compact under which members would agree to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote? The compact would kick in only when enough states had joined it to elect a president -- that is, when a majority of the 538 electoral votes were assembled. As few as 11 states could ensure that the candidate with the most popular votes nationally would win the presidency. As a result, the Constitution and the Electoral College would stay intact, but the college's fangs would be removed.

OK, somehow the Strib just journeyed to Oz; they sure as Hell aren't in Kansas anymore. First, there's no way that such a compact can be put together and held together. There will be too much infighting within the respective legislatures. Second, I think the Supreme Court would have something to say about this seeing as how it is wholly unconstitutional. The Electoral College was set up specifically to ensure the states with the largest population wouldn't choose the president, outright. The Electoral College gives every state an equal voice, and it's not based on size. It's based on their popular vote, and whoever wins that wins the precious electoral votes.

That approach would be more democratic than current practice. Recall that Al Gore lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush despite getting a half-million more popular votes, and that Bush nearly lost the 2004 election despite getting 3 million more popular votes (a shift of only 60,000 votes in Ohio would have thrown the election to John Kerry). So, both parties have reason to fear the college's distortions.

Al Gore tried to steal the 2000 election by doing recount, after recount. Surely this was an effort to bore his opponent into concession. But however you look at it, Gore acted like a petulant brat in the aftermath, and I still question his popular vote total. The popular vote margin for Gore over Bush can be explained very simply. Those half a million votes were nice, but they would have been better if they were in a make-or-break state, like Florida rather than scattered throughout the land. And that's nice spin on the 2004 election seeing as how Ohio could have been called for the president by midnight on election night, but the media refused to call it. By morning, the totals were too far out of reach for Kerry, and they knew that. But, that never stops the media from spinning things, just like this "fear" they're referring to when it comes to the electoral College.

That the Electoral College has "worked" in all but one election since 1888 isn't a good enough reason to stay with the status quo. The college has a perverse impact on campaigns. With no incentive to compete in states that are predictably red or blue, candidates concentrate on the battleground states -- only 13 of them in 2004, down from 24 in 1960. That's not the national campaign voters deserve. In the last election, 92 percent of campaign events took place in just 13 states, which also absorbed 97 percent of advertising during the campaign's final month. Three dozen red and blue states as large as California, New York and Texas and as small as Delaware, Utah and Wyoming were mere spectators.

No, not spectators. In an election, it comes down to numbers. "Battleground states" are key to a candidate's victory. Those states must have the most amount of time, energy, and money spent in them. It's not that the other states don't matter. They do. But California has been a blue state since Reagan left office. The same with New York. State like that, while inroads will be made, will remain that way for a while. The best hope a candidate has is to turn it purple. The same goes for the South with a Democrat. The Democrat party has alienated many in the South, and the chance that they may have of taking a majority of the southern states is slim and none. (In 2000, Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee; in 2004, Kerry didn't take a single southern state.)

Now that Minnesota is a battleground getting lots of attention, it's a lot to ask the Legislature to do the right thing and endorse the new compact. But it really should. So should other states -- both red and blue -- join, for the sake of a better democracy.

The Strib's editors seem to forget that we already have a democracy; a better one would be to get two parties that work together a little better with less temper tantrums. The answer to a better democracy doesn't come in tinkering with someting that is already fine. In addition, the Strib seems to forget that we are a republic, not a full-blown democracy. The electorate (citizens) constitute the legitimacy of our republic, which is based on the rule of law. We do have laws, and the highest ones we have reside within the Constitution. The Electoral College is part of that, and it can't be trumped by a bunch of states that don't like it any longer. If the Strib really wants this changed, they should do so via the proper amending procedure. A state compact would be, and should be, challenged to the Supreme Court, which would rule that the compact is unconstitutional; the inability of the compact to ensure a fair and equitable choice for president.

Publius II


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. I know of no one smart enough today to improve our Constitution as written. The Electoral College is in the Constitution for a reason. It's unique but it is ours! Rawriter

1:38 AM  

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