57
   

Let's get rid of the Electoral College

 
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 12:07 am
I don't say it's wrong. The points i make are that without the College, the choice of President would be in the hands of several urban centers, and less directly, in the states in which they are located--California, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania . . .

I also make the point that this is a union of sovereign states, and that the Electoral College, along with the Senate, are the two important measures taken in the constitution to preserve the sovereignty of the states within the framework of the union.
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 12:18 am
@Setanta,
I don't see any reason that it being in the hands of the urban centers is, itself, a problem. There's no evidence that the rural minority has any better judgment in these matters than the urban majority.

That the majority choice would override the minority choice is unfortunate for the minority but that's how it's supposed to work.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:11 am
@Robert Gentel,
Hmmmm...in the Australian constitution such amelioration of the power of Sydney and Melbourne was made institutional in the federal sphere, I believe, to entice smaller and more rural states to agree to federation, since they were concerned that all decisions would end up being made in favour of the big cities otherwise.

I don't think, as you say, that the rural minority has better judgment in many matters than the urban majority...however, when one is attempting to maintain a reasonably contented union, I am not sure that having a couple of areas with all the power would work for long.

I understand the power of the equal value for all votes argument.


roger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:40 am
@Robert Gentel,
Okay, then two wolves and a lamb vote on what to have for dinner.
Robert Gentel
 
  3  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 01:57 am
@roger,
Lamb chops sound like the democratic choice in that scenario, and the electoral college isn't going to stop it. A common example is progressive taxation, the rich are a minority by definition and running a populist campaign often puts higher taxes for them as a plank in the platform.

There is already such tyranny of the majority throughout American politics and in modern society this is more likely to be based on class or ideology than location in a presidential election. If the matters at hand are local, or territorial this can make sense but picking a president really isn't such a thing and I don't believe there's any example in history of such a legitimate danger of tyranny of the majority being thwarted by the disproportionate system.

Given that I feel 2000's overturning of the will of the people by the electoral college system was a large net negative this system isn't a net positive in my books and I can't even envision a realistic scenario where it would be.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 02:21 am
@dlowan,
dlowan wrote:
I don't think, as you say, that the rural minority has better judgment in many matters than the urban majority...however, when one is attempting to maintain a reasonably contented union, I am not sure that having a couple of areas with all the power would work for long.


I don't see artificially changing the political power as changing that underlying fact enough to justify its unfairness in democracy. If you do it enough, you undermine democracy too much. If you do it slightly you make little difference while undermining democracy a little.

In the case of presidential elections (as opposed to Senate representation) I don't see realistic ways that state interests are competing so much as the prevailing political interests in each state are competing. For example, in 2000 Bush lost the popular vote. The political power of the majority was rejected through disproportionate representation.

This didn't prevent the big states from lording over the smaller states in terms of state interests and the results were national and international almost in their entirety (compare steel tariffs, one of the only local examples where Bush made a significant difference, to Iraq and taxes).

The president's influence is going to be the greatest on foreign policy, national policies, taxes and the like. The minorities in national issues should not have disproportionate influenced carved out by territory.

For matters territorial, this can make sense. If their interests are competing based on competing state interests this tyranny of the majority has legitimate reasons to be defined by the location but when deciding, say, how much taxes everyone should pay why should there be disproportionate representation based on location? Why shouldn't the majority have the power in matters concerning the whole country? I get the part where rural folk don't want to have all the decisions made "in favor of the big cities" but don't get how presidential elections can do that.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 02:29 am
@Robert Gentel,
Yes, I thought about the differences between the US and Australian systems (as much as I know them, which is by no means thoroughly) after I said that....and I agree that it is likely less relevant to Presidential elections.

0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 03:48 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
Each state then and today can choose how to allocate electors, and even how they are chose within the state (there would be quite a howl, though, if it did not follow the popular vote, and it would be worth their jobs for state legislators to attempt to take it out of the hands of the electors). Some states (or at least one, Colorado) allocate the Electoral College votes according to the popular vote, with the two votes equivalent to the Senators going to the candidate who polls the most votes. The problem which maddens most contemporary American commentators is the "winner take all" nature of the system as it now stands. That is a product of the post-Civil War politics of the Republican and Democratic parties, the only two survivors of the war (four candidates ran for President in 1860), which warily circled one another looking for advantage, but which both agreed that it were best not to have any other competition. A winner take all system for Electoral College votes was agreed upon between them in the latter part of the 19th century, and passed by the state legislatures, all of which were in the control of one or the other of the two parties.

I agree with the points you made about the 3/5ths compromise and the electoral college. I don't see how the two are connected, except indirectly (the apportionment of representatives among the states would affect the number of electors each state received).

As for the winner-take-all method of allocating electors, however, I think you're mistaken. Soon after the adoption of the twelfth amendment, most states adopted the winner-take-all approach. In 1804, the first election after the adoption of the twelfth amendment, when many state legislatures were still appointing their electors, every state except one (Maryland) gave their votes to a single candidate. In 1808, only 3 out of 17 states split their electoral votes. By 1832, only one state (Maryland, again) still split its electoral votes, after which it stopped doing that. Between 1832 and 1972, only one state (Michigan in 1892) had something other than a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes. So there wasn't any post-Civil War agreement between the Republicans and Democrats to institute the winner-take-all system: that system had already been in place for at least thirty years prior to the end of the war.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 07:25 am
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
I don't see any reason that it being in the hands of the urban centers is, itself, a problem. There's no evidence that the rural minority has any better judgment in these matters than the urban majority.


That's hardly the point. It is a matter of whether or not the interests of states with rural populations are fairly represented in a nation which is a union of sovereign states. That was a point i made which you either choose to ignore or failed to understand.

Quote:
That the majority choice would override the minority choice is unfortunate for the minority but that's how it's supposed to work.[/qu0te]

The constitution seeks to prevent both majoritarian and minoritarian tyrrany. Once again, either you choose to ignore or you fail to understand the points i made about the Senate and the electoral college being compromises which made the union palatable to "small" states, those with small populations.

So in fact that is not how it is supposed to work.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 07:50 am
@dlowan,
Quote:
in the Australian constitution such amelioration of the power of Sydney and Melbourne was made institutional in the federal sphere, I believe, to entice smaller and more rural states to agree to federation, since they were concerned that all decisions would end up being made in favour of the big cities otherwise.


That is interesting, Miss Wabbit. In Canada, the then two Canadas (Canada East, now the province of Qu├ębec; and Canada West, now the province of Ontario), when proposing confederation in 1867, basically bribed, or were were importuned to bribe the maritime provinces to join their new dominion. The cost of participation was the continued funding of the Intercolonial Railway which served New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The ICR was a money-loser from start to finish, and would never have been undertaken, or if undertaken, sustained by a private commercial venture. Yet when the Federal government finally gave up the "artificial resuscitation" of the ICR, there was an immediate collapse of much of the small business in the maritimes. It had been, after all, a good idea, in that the loss of revenue proved to be greater than the subsidies which had sustained--but that was long after confederation.

Canada's government has a very plutocratic tenor, and always has had. When British Columbia (on the Pacific coast) offered to join in 1871, the price was government support of a transcontinental railway system. This was all in prospect, but the railway companies which hopefully formed had been unable to get John A. and company to open up their pocketbooks. (John A. MacDonald was the hard drinking father of confederation [one of them, and the only one, to hear the Tories tell it] and Tory PM for two generations after 1867.)

Similarly, when rebellion broke out in Manitoba again in 1885, the foundering railway companies offered to help to raise troops, equip and transport them, in return for promises of funding and loan guarantees which would eventually reach tens of millions of dollars, large sums in the 19th century. The result was the Northwest Mounted Police, which became, in one of Queen Victoria's last official acts, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The principle is enshrined today in the equalization formula. Under that program "have not" provinces receive government subsidies underwritten by the revenues from the "have" provinces. This year, Ontario slipped down into the ranks of the "have not" provinces, to the chagrin of the Provincial Parliament. These days, Alberta is the rich man of Canada, with fabulous revenues from their oil sands and the production and export of natural gas. Alberta is so filthy rich now, that there is no provincial sales tax, and the Albertans are the lowest taxed people in Canada.

For most of Canada's history, poorer provinces--usually the more sparsely populated or rural provinces--were fobbed off with one example of Federal largesse or another.

Quote:
I don't think, as you say, that the rural minority has better judgment in many matters than the urban majority...however, when one is attempting to maintain a reasonably contented union, I am not sure that having a couple of areas with all the power would work for long.


Eggs-actly . . .
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 07:53 am
@Robert Gentel,
I see an argument about democracy being undermined as nugatory. The several states exercise a democratic control of their institutions almost unknown anywhere else in the world. Officials in states, counties and municipalities are almost never appointed, unless appointed by elected officials. In fact in most states, high ranking cabinet officers such as the Secretary of State, the Treasurer, the Attorney General, etc., are elected rather than appointed. Americans vote on local tax rates and school levies, and routinely vote on ballot initiatives.

I can't agree with an argument predicated upon a contention of a weakening of democracy.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:00 am
@joefromchicago,
I defer to your superior knowledge of electoral politics. My point was about the enshrinement of "winner take all" through state legislation. Many, many years ago--long enough ago that i cannot recall the author or the work--i read a contention to the effect that the Reps and Dems had taken steps to assure the winner take all system in the legislatures of the several states in the 1870s and 1880s.

However, i do feel certain you will recall several instances in which electors have voted "quixotically," and especially, i recall that in the 1820 election, even though every elector in the college was pledged to James Monroe, one of them voted for John Quincy Adams, who had not run for the office. The argument of the author i read was that the Reps and Dems instituted the legislation to invalidate any attempt at rebellion by electors, with the happy coincidence that it would effectively exclude any third party which organized for the purpose of the national election.

As i can't produce a source, nor vouch for that author's argument, i don't insist upon it.
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:14 am
@Setanta,
I agree with Robert, Setanta. (had to look up nugatory) Razz

I really think the popular vote should be the one that chooses the president. Didn't much care for Al Gore, but I wonder if things would have been different with him as president instead of George W.

Besides that, I have never seen Peter Jennings lose his cool as he did when he declared Al the winner.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:17 am
book mark
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:19 am
Well, Miss Letty, your objections and Robert's are likely to be meaningless in the face of the difficulty of amending the constitution. It might happen, but i really doubt that a sufficient number of states would sign on to throwing away their electoral rights simply to gratify a popular impulse--consider the term limits hooraw of a few years ago.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:20 am
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
The founders also were concerned, in the day of the wooden printing press, that voters would not have enough information to choose among presidential candidates.

This was funny, because here in the day of the Internet where information is plentiful and bullshit falls from the skies like rain, most people still don't know anything about the candidates or their government.

Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:21 am
@rosborne979,
hehehehehehehehehehehehehe . . .
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:22 am
@Setanta,
Bet the republicans are sorry about that amendment, boss. Eisenhower could easily have won a third term in office.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:37 am
Well, i wasn't referring to the amendment which limits the presidential term. Rather, i was referring to the term limifs frenzy of the early 1990s, in which states themselves voted limits to the number of terms their Representatives and Senators could serve. In some of those states, the state supreme courts threw out the legislation. In Idaho, the legislature itself repealed the measure years later.

An unintended consequence of such measures was that states which instituted term limits saw their state delegations' power evaporate in the House and the Senate, where committee seats, and in particular, the powerful position of committee chairs went to members based on seniority, therefore effectively excluding the members from states with term limits from the more important committees, due to the impossibility of them attaining meaningful seniority.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:45 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
hehehehehehehehehehehehehe . . .

Hehe Smile

It's amazing isn't it, the amount of information available to the general public seems to have little effect on the proportion of accurate knowledge in the population.
 

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