In Boxers know that I’m no fan of the electoral college system, with its clumsy 18th century muddle of ideas and imbalances.
The system already shifts huge amounts of voting power away from the states where most Americans actually live, while boosting the voting power of rural states in some cases three-fold.
Because of the unequal geographic distribution of racial groups in America, this phenomenon empowers white communities, while diminishing the influence of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.
In a democracy, there’s almost no good excuse for giving one group of people more inherent weight or power than another group of people, particularly in the voting booth.
So it’s with mixed emotions that I note that Republicans may finally be pushing an idea that will finally, at long last, break the electoral college, making is so untenable that repeal will be unavoidable.
As I say, the electoral college already redistributes voting power away from high population states, such as California, New York, Texas, Florida and Ilinois, gifting that clout to states such as North Dakota, Montana and Vermont.
Now, some conservative activists want to tilt the playing field even further, allocating electoral college votes based not on the voting results in states, but by the voting results in congressional districts.
Because so many House districts have been aggressively gerrymandered to favor Republicans, the change would make it incredibly difficult for any Democrat to win the White House.
A convincing analysis by HuffingtonPost found that the 2012 election would have produced a Mitt Romney win, under the system proposed by Republicans, despite the fact that Barack Obama drew 3.5 million more votes.
If that sounds improbable, consider this: Democrats in House elections nationwide drew far more votes last year than Republicans
Yet because the district lines have been cunningly drawn by conservatives, the GOP maintained a sizable majority.
By grafting the gerrymandered congressional map onto the already tilted electoral college system, you would produce a Frankenstein democracy.
A minority of Republican-leaning voters in rural and suburban white districts would control our national politics.
Democrats are, unsurprisingly, outraged. This from the Washington Post.
“They can’t appeal to a majority of voters, whether it’s here in Wisconsin or Michigan or in the rest of the Midwest, so they are undermining a majority of voters,” said Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R) has expressed interest in changing the state’s system.
“The Republicans realize that where they are today, they can’t win a presidential election. It’s an audacious attempt to rig the system.”
In the short term, I suspect that Republicans will feel a certain buyer’s remorse at flirting with this kind of short-term, cynical skew-the-playing-field gamesmanship.
In the last election, conservative efforts at voter suppression appear to have produced the opposite effect, mobilizing and energizing voters. This latest stunt can only further alienate black, Hispanic and Asian voters from the GOP.
But in the longer term, I wonder if this effort to hotwire the electoral college won’t finally discredit it entirely.
When Americans see that the principle of one-person-one-vote is threatened — and it is, in this case — they may demand the kind of big reforms that have gradually produced a more democratic nation.
We expanded voting rights to younger people in 1971, eliminated voting bans for delinquent taxes in 1964, limited the terms of presidential service in 1947, allowed women to vote in 1920 and mandated direct elections of US Senators in 1913.
That’s a long, honorable legacy. Dissolving the electoral college might be the next step in insuring that ours remains a government of the people, by the people and for the people.