Sunday, October 17, 2010

Non Representing Representatives

This is good...other than his call to abolish the Electoral College.

His "Non representing representatives" and "sucking from the hind tit of a dead cow" lines are worth the entire view.

Granted, the electoral college needs to be fixed; but it should not be eliminated. It's the winner take all rules, which thwart the very purpose of the Electoral College by allowing the bigger population centers and special interests to control the election, that need to be eliminated.

Under the original Electoral College, electors were chosen from each voting district (be it a county or precinct) who were each to nominate two candidates, one of whom had to be from another state. The intention was that electors were chosen to represent all the people in a state, not just their party. Their job was to nominate the best two people for the office of president. Parties, candidates, and therefore popular votes were seen as harmful and not needed or welcome. However, despite Washington's warnings about the dangers of the party spirit, electors were chosen based on who they would nominate. Parties picked candidates before the electors were chosen. Under the electoral college as modified in 1804, the electors nominated one person for president and one for vice president. The electoral college was further subverted by parties choosing electors (i.e. multiple potential electors for each slot with each potential elector representing his party) and forcing their electors to vote for the party nominee. This significantly subverted the original intent of the electoral college. However even this damaged electoral process is better than a simple popular vote as it allowed the minority voice to have a voice in electing a president and prevented the big population centers from dominating elections. However the current winner take all rules have subverted even this last vestige of the electoral college.

For example, consider a simplified election consisting of California (55), Nevada (5), Utah (5), Texas(34), Oklahoma (7), and Montana (3) where the numbers represent the electoral votes. Under the current winner take all, a candidate could win California by a 51 to 49 margin by carrying a sufficiently large majority in Los Angelos and the Bay Area and win the entire election (55 electoral votes to 54 electoral votes), effectively silencing the rest of the states. This is exactly what the electoral college was designed to prevent - a single faction controlling the election. As this example demonstrates, our current adulterated electoral college even allows a non-representative minority (only 28 out of 109 total votes or 26% of the popular vote) to elect the President. Our current system retains the flaws of the electoral college while eliminating its republic-preserving benefits.

A simple popular vote would be a slight improvement over this electoral college winner-take-all scenario, but such a pure democratic process would still allow a tyranny of the popular majority. The electoral college, even as amended, insures that the winner has support from a broad cross section (i.e. majority) of political regions and not just a simple majority of people. It ensures power is derived from a compound source - not a simple source such as a popular majority. If there was no electoral college, a single faction comprising a majority of voters could elect the president. A single faction with a simple majority of votes could elect anyone they wanted and get any law they wanted.

The modified electoral college also insures that the Presidential choice is not controlled by a pre-existing body whose votes could be prostituted - such as is routine with our current congress. Our congressional candidate has received over $1mm dollars in campaign contributions, far more than previous cycles despite lacking a serious challenger, simply because he is in line to be chairman of a house Ways and Means subcommittee.

Now re-consider the previous election scenario with two changes. First, instead of a winner take all, implement a minimally functioning electoral college (i.e. with parties, candidates, and popular votes) and second, assume the minority faction is now a majority faction with over 50% of the total electorate, but still concentrated in the major urban centers of California. If just one voting precinct in California goes for the other candidate, that one electoral vote when combined with the 54 electoral votes from all the other states will determine the President by a 55 to 54 electoral vote. Even though these 55 electoral voters represent a minority with respect to the popular vote, they represent a majority in terms of voting regions. The effect of even a minimally functioning electoral college, is to turn one big election into thousands of small, regional elections. The winner has to have a majority across all the voting regions over which the electorate are spread. This prevents a single faction, even if they are the majority, from pushing their agenda on everyone else. In that sense, the electoral college makes the presidential power derived from a compound source, not a single source. On that point both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists were agreed.

Of course, even better would be be a return to the electoral college as originally designed - the electors nominate the slate of candidates and the Congress chooses from that list. Voter fraud would be next to impossible and we could save several billion dollars on a meaningless popular campaign.