Tuesday, July 20, 2010

National Popular Vote Arguments

A supporter of the National Popular Vote Initiative dropped by and anonymously left several lengthy comments on my previous piece. I won't be a repository for their propaganda; it can all be found verbatim on their website.

But I will address the main points raised.

And the main point to note is nowhere do the NPVI people address the fundamental (and little appreciated) structure of the Electoral College formula, that it was never meant to be a direct proxy for a citizen popular vote, but rather is a weighted average of TWO popular votes: one by the people, and one state-by-state.

Because those were the two power groups mentioned in the Constitution that ceded limited powers to form a Federal government, and thus are separately represented in Congress (House and Senate), and in choosing the President -- by the same Congressional formula.

The NPVI supporter ignores the state represention issue entirely, and thus we end up talking past each other.

On to the carefully-crafted misdirecting rhetoric:

The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters.
Nor would a strategy to win 51% of the popular vote force a candidate to reach out to all states and voters. Indeed, such a strategy would foster targetting specific demographics, without regard to geographic diversity. If states only existed as subdivisions of Federal political power, this wouldn't be much of an issue -- but they aren't.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.
Again, that is not a bug, but a feature. It's not meant as a poor proxy of a popular vote, but is a blend of TWO votes.

For example, though Gore in 2000 won the popular vote by a whisper-thin margin of 48.4% to 47.9%, Bush won the state-by-state vote in a LANDSLIDE of 59% to 41%!

Blended together by the electoral formula, Bush wins. There's nothing perverse or unfair in that outcome AT ALL.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."
Indeed it is. The states can certainly do this. It's just foolish and wrong, as it further marginalizes states as separate political entitites with their own rights. The Founders believed the only thing strong enough to stand in the way of a government is another government.

There is no valid argument that the winner-take-all rule is entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution.
That too is true. If we wanted to make the popular vote piece of the electoral formula more representative, the reform I'd support is for States to assign their Electoral votes as 1 vote per Congressional district won (for the People's representation), plus the State's 2 votes to the overal state winner (for the State-by-state "popular vote"). Two states (Maine and Nebraska) already do this.

But, they'd never do that, because it would put a big piece of California and other large "blue" states in play for Republicans, and no Democrat could ever be elected President.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).
Irrelevant. They surely don't understand the real issues at stake, and have been misled to believe the Electoral College gets in the way of their popular vote for no good reason. The importance of the States is largely forgotten by most -- but not by me.

I'll take the National Popular Vote movement more seriously as a principled stand, if it also stood for abolishing the Senate as an irrelevant body getting in the way of direct representation in the House.

Instead, it will increase the risks of populism and demogoguery, and identity-group politics at the further expense of the already near-moribund States, which are supposed to stand as important bastions between us and a Federal government that naturally trends to tyranny.

Too much pure democracy is a bad thing -- as Franklin put it, two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.


Blogger Unknown said...

"two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner" .. That is indeed aptly put by Franklin.

I loved your post.

This is Nancy from Israeli Uncensored News

4:17 AM, August 30, 2010  

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