The radical right wing Tea Party controlled Republicans have a new plan to guarantee that Pres. Obama is a one term President. Just throw aside the twentieth century’s fair play in politics rules and revert to the nineteenth century’s parties in power stay in power however they must.
In Pennsylvania the Radical Republicans want to change the way electoral votes are won. Since as long as anyone can remember the popular vote in PA was accumulated statewide and the electoral votes awarded to the winner. In fact, that is the way that all but two states currently run their Presidential election. Only Maine and Nebraska award votes by Congressional district. Under the proposed PA plan the winner of each Congressional district - gerrymandered by an all Republican controlled process this year - gets one electoral vote and the winner of the state gets two. Most projections show that either candidate is likely to win PA electoral votes by a margin of one or two. Which means that a candidate has more to gain by campaigning and paying attention to the voters of a small state like Vermont than Pennsylvania.
I believe the electoral college is an anachronism and a throw back to times when the people weren’t trusted to select their own rulers. It was a compromise that was involved in the big state/small state conflict as well as the legislative/executive dichotomy and the concern of whether candidates could campaign in a spread out country with little inter state transportation and that was in 1787. By 1796 Presidential contests had become national campaigns and by 1828 the popular election of electors had replace the state legislatures’ selecting the electors.
Throughout the early and mid-nineteenth century states changed their system of choosing electors depending upon which candidate would have the advantage or which state machine wanted to control that states votes and whether that machine thought it could best control the voters, the districts or the legislature. This type of politics continued with the admission of Nevada as a state in 1864 to guarantee Lincoln 3 more electoral votes (he didn’t need them). The readmission of southern states was often timed to impact the elections of 1868 and 1872. In 1876, the infamous Tilden-Hayes election, when the Republicans stole it for Hayes, Colorado was admitted as a state in August too late for popular elections so the legislature chose 3 Republican electors. Tilden won the popular vote, Hayes the electoral after a stacked commission gave him disputed ballots but the 3 from Colorado were crucial. In the latter nineteenth century the admission of western states and the division of territories (Dakota for example) into two states was often done because Republicans expected to get more Senators and more electoral votes.
Then came Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive movement. Popular vote and winner take all became ingrained and even when Democrats had almost total control of the states and DC, e.g. the 1930's and post 1964, no changes were made in the system to advantage one party.
Many people, including myself believe that the electoral college should be abolished and the President should be elected by direct national popular vote. There is even a way to do that without amending the constitution. Each state (and some already have) could choose to give its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. If all the states did that we’d have direct national election.
The same tea party controlled radical right wing Republicans who want to abolish the social and economic programs of the twentieth century and do so in the name of strict construction of the Constitution, now want to use that Constitutions most obsolete provision to rig the Presidential election. They want to abolish district electoral vote in Nebraska where Obama won 1 vote while McCain got the rest and institute district electoral proportionality in Pennsylvania and any other large state that Obama or a Democrat is likely to win.
If these tea party radical right wing Republicans are successful we will likely see a President elected without a plurality of the popular vote. In the context of the polarized politics of today that will be the final nail in the coffin of the national government. Our President will have no moral authority to lead in domestic or foreign affairs. And a broken system will be broken more. The belief of people that their vote counts will be further reduced as they see the permanent political class exercise crass political power to maintain that power.
Trust-busting, financial reform, Social Security, Civil Rights, Medicare, Environmental Protection, Earned Income Credits, and almost every positive and progressive program enacted after 1901 was done so at the urging and lobbying of the President of the United States. The President was seen as the one person who represented and spoke for the entire nation. Since the tea party radical right wing Republicans can’t find a national program they like little wonder they now want to destroy the office they don’t like as a further way to dismantle the national government and return us to a confederation of fifty states. The President ends his speeches with “God Bless the United States of America”; but, I suggest we’re reaching the point where we had better end speeches with “God HELP the United States of America”.
20 Sep. 2011