Monday, August 13, 2007

Dear Cali: You Don't Matter Like That, So Please Stop Trying

Congratulations, State of California! Your efforts to make your presidential primary "matter" again have contributed to a recent calendar shuffling that's given us a 2007 caucus date! High-five! Bet you're proud. I mean, it was, like, soooo smart to move your date up so candidates would need to visit the state to nab precious votes and even more important dollars.

But wait, what's this? OTHER states moved theirs too???/?? I'd have never seen that coming. Bet you didn't either. That's a shame. Really it is. I mean, it's almost like mainstream media has determined to bow to the will of Iowa and New Hampshire and allow them to set the pace by buying their narratives whole cloth rather than challenging that either great, yet small, state should be able to select the leader for the ENTIRE country without that leader needing to address the needs of any interests aside from (subsidized) corn farmers and (price-controlled) dairy farmers. Almost!

But wait again, maybe we can make ourselves matter again this way. What if, stick with me now, we award our electoral votes based not on the winner of the popular vote, but on the winner of the congressional race? Then the Reeps gets some votes! That'd be super fair. Your vote will count again! Phew, finally. And, I should add, it's a relief to know yet another reason why it isn't my fault that things never change. And if I don't vote regularly, here's another reason not to until this change is adopted. (How do you say "Not My Fault" in Latin, and can we get that printed on money?)

Other states are trying this too, so you're only kinda leading-edge right now, Cali. That's so unlike you!

At least in North Carolina it's clearly constitutional. Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the selection of electors is up to state legislatures "in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." When power is delegated to the electorate in referenda, the legal authority gets fuzzy; the Constitution, of course, supersedes state law. In any event, the Hiltachk referendum will face a challenge in court.
Ah, the initiative process. What would we do without it? Besides adhere to traditional ideas of representative government, I mean.

Oh - and a side note, dear California: while I agree with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter that this idea is stupider than stupid (or cleverer than clever, depending on the party in power, I suppose), he's not totally correct because he also forwards the popular vote plan as a sound alternative:

Is there a better way to make every vote count? Yes, and it doesn't require a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College. All it would take is some good mischief in state legislatures. In February, a bipartisan coalition of former senators led by Birch Bayh, Jake Garn and Dave Durenberger unveiled a campaign for a national popular vote. Under the plan, state legislatures would pass bills that pledged to award their state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. It's not clear which party this would help, but if adopted by as few as 11 states, it would guarantee that the candidate with the most votes actually won the election. Anybody got a problem with that?
Me! I have a problem with that! Hello! Over here!

Two times - just two times - in the history of this country the electoral votes failed to match the popular vote. Unfortunately, the second time was during the era of the Twenty-four Hour News Cycle. I was on the losing side (hell, weren't we all?) in 2000 and I STILL don't think it's a broken system.

Giving less populous states a protected voice in selecting the president is important and right. Giving two less populous states ALL of the say, however, is wrong. Don't confuse bad coverage of the process with the process being bad.

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