The best argument for finally ridding ourselves of the Electoral College, besides that it is a regular reminder that our sainted Founding Fathers created an explicitly undemocratic and exclusionary form of government when they invented a system that no other country has been fool enough to imitate, is that it assigns far too weighty a responsibility to states that are completely incompetent and mostly run by horrible assholes.
And so this particular miserable election has come down to essentially three states: Florida, Virginia and Ohio. But mostly Ohio. Ohio is a depressing place already, as is much of the post-industrial Midwest, and this attention is not making them any happier. Florida is full of lunatics and run by criminals. Virginia might elect George Allen again. This is no way to run a country.
Thanks to the Electoral College, and our bizarre system of assigning electoral votes, and our decentralized and easily demogogued system of determining who gets to vote, and when, and how, the minority of voters who show up to vote in midterms and off-year elections choose the men who control the ballots and the polling places, and those men (and, once, Katherine Harris) do everything they can to ensure that people have a hard time of it.
(It’s depressingly rare that presidential elections end up riding primarily on the results in states with pristine histories of clean and fair elections. Though I heard Romney’s “expanding the map” to Minnesota, so who knows.)
At least this year the important states are rather large (if New Hampshire ends up being the deciding state I swear to god I’m moving to Switzerland) and reasonably diverse. But they’re not as large and diverse as the states that have been complete afterthoughts in presidential politics for a generation — New York, California, Texas — and the prominence of Ohio in particular fuels the gross Beltway press fetishism for the precious votes of Real America (white, rural or suburban America).
A purely popular vote-based election, in which Obama actually tried to turn out supporters in Crown Heights and Berkeley while Romney barnstormed the old Confederacy for three months, would definitely horrify Washington mandarins devoted to the Great White Independent, but it might help battle the popular perception that winning with blacks, Hispanics and young people doesn’t “count.” (It would also give slightly more power to minorities in “red” states and those oh-so-bitter conservatives in “blue” ones.) We already have a form of government that heavily favors rural areas and small states — the next senator from the state of Nebraska will effectively have veto power over all the priorities of every member of California’s entire congressional delegation — and yet we constantly wonder why Americans, especially young ones, are so apathetic about actually voting.
So let’s abolish the Electoral College, please. Ohio will probably be grateful. (Then we can work on abolishing the Senate, expanding the House, instituting ranked or runoff voting nationwide, and establishing simple national suffrage.) (Seriously, will some idiot centrist billionaire throw money at those things, please.)
Tue, 11/06/2012 (All day)