60
   

Let's get rid of the Electoral College

 
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 10:46 pm
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
You needn't play disingenuous with me, i'm neither an idiot, nor am i suffering in my short-term memory.


I am not being disingenuous with you Setanta. I just don't agree with the point you feel is so salient that I must be either ignoring or fail to understand. It's not failure to understand it, it's failure to agree with it.

Quote:
Given that you made that remark after i made as succinct a statement as i could of my reason for wishing to retain the college--that without it the election of president is in the hands of an urban majority, and that this is a union of sovereign states, i wondered is you were either ignoring my point or had failed to understand it. It now becomes more evident to me that you were simply ignoring the point i was making.


I am not ignoring it, I disagree with the point. I don't see any problem with the election of the president being in the hands of the urban majority and don't think that this point supports the continuation of the disproportionate representation.

Quote:
Whether or not you agree with me, and it was already obvious that you do not, you have no business to inferentially suggest that i have stated or implied something which i have not remotely done.


I have not implied or suggested that you said or implied anything which you haven't and I can't be faulted if you insist on interpreting it that way. I said:

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.


This doesn't mean I think your argument is predicated on the notion that the rural minority has better judgment. I can make that much clear but I can't prevent anyone from interpreting it that way. You haven't gone any further than supporting the disproportionate power in order to limit the power of the urban centers and have said nothing specific of why this should be so. I won't guess at your reasoning behind it and you can speak for yourself on that matter.

My argument is that they don't need disproportionately powerful representation because there is no evidence that their judgment is superior in times when their disproportionate power has had undue influence on national ideology (e.g. the Cuba issue, the Bush steel tariffs) and because I don't think competing local interests are really at stake in the presidential election. In short, I think the big differences are ideological and don't see a convincing argument toward why their judgment in matters ideological (as opposed to regional competition) should be given disproportionate weight.

I can see a case for not letting the majority's predatory will oppress the minority but don't think this is what happens in presidential elections. For example, when Bush lost the popular vote to Gore I don't think any minority was at risk of suppression and the majority will was circumvented in the name of such protection.

The Bush steel tariffs were made in part due to the power of the steel industry in the rust belt, and I subscribe to the criticism that it cost more jobs than it helped, while undermining the American ideology being sold worldwide of free trade. That's as close to an example of the effect the disproportionate representation has in a local interest and I don't think it's the kind of thing that should be given disproportionate power. I don't think that was something good for the country or for the rust belt and I don't think it's a legitimate example of competing regional interests within the United States. I see it as a special interest in a dying mismanaged industry having undue influence on national politics and don't see justification for why it should be so.

In all these discussions about the electoral college, I've never seen someone put forward a good example of such tyranny of the majority protection needed in presidential politics. I understand the value of protecting against the tyranny of the majority, but have seen no supporting argument for the existence of this danger in presidential politics.

Do you know of any cases where you think a legitimate regional interest was protected in modern presidential politics due to this structure?
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 12:45 am
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
I just don't agree with the point you feel is so salient that I must be either ignoring or fail to understand. It's not failure to understand it, it's failure to agree with it.


We knew we disagreed at the outset. I stated in my very first post, the first response to the thread, that i disagreed. Whether or not we agree was not at issue. I stated that discarding the college leaves the choice of President to a hand full of urban areas, and that i feel that this is not consistent with a recognition that this is a union of sovereign states. I don't ask you to agree, but simply to recognize my position as i have stated it. To respond to that with an observation to the effect that you don't have any reason to assume that rural voters would exercise better judgment in the matter is essentially to erect a strawman, because it ignores the argument i made, and erects a false position for you to oppose. It was never my position that rural voters are qualitatively superior to urban voters.

I don't expect your agreement. I do expect that when you do disagree, and object to my position, you will object to the position i have taken, and not to a position i have not taken. You can demure to your heart's content; however, when you cite my post, and respond with a comment about the qualitative differences in rural and urban voters (or a lack of it), when i have not offered an argument on that basis, it is not a matter of interpretation, it is a clear case of your having erected a straw man. In that you didn't address my remark about the union of sovereign states, but only made that observation about rural voters, it was perfectly reasonable that this was the burden of your objection to my argument--as that was not my argument, your objection constituted a straw man.

Quote:
Do you know of any cases where you think a legitimate regional interest was protected in modern presidential politics due to this structure?


I will leave aside the issue of what constitutes modern presidential politics, while observing that i look at such issues as having continuity over the entire course of the nation's history. On such a basis, i would point to the 1860 election. With Douglas and Breckenridge splitting the Democratic ticket, Lincoln's election served the interest of northern "free" states. Lincoln was a minority President, he won in the electoral college, but he did not secure a majority of the popular vote. I will also note that although i am willing to respond, my argument is not predicated upon a contention of majoritarian tyranny. In fact, in that i would object to the population of a few states electing the President in despite of the wishes of the rest of the states; in that i am looking at this with the sovereign states in mind, i might object that there would be a possibility of a minoritarian tyranny, in terms of the several states. But that's not my argument, either, really. My argument is that the institution of the Presidential electors was a compromise to protect the sovereignty of the several states, just as was the institution of the Senate, with its unique powers of consenting to the appointment of exectutive officers and the ratification of treaties.

So i respond simply for the sake of discussion, and not because i have stated or implied that the college serves to protect regional interests from majoritarian tyranny.

But looking to electoral politics in recent times, i would point to the 2000 election. I don't think that the United States Supreme Court had any business to interfere in the decision of the Florida Supreme Court's to allow a recount--but that is not to say that i have any good reason to assume that Gore would have taken Florida if the recount had been completed. Had Florida's electoral votes been awarded to Gore, he would have trounced Bush in the electoral college, even though his popular vote margin would have been a squeaker--a half million votes or less out of more than 100 million votes cast. The regional interest served (if there actually was one) was the conservatism of largely rural and agrarian states. Gore did not take a single state south of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River, including his home state of Tennessee. West of the Mississippi River and east of the continental divide, Gore took only Iowa, Minnesota and New Mexico. Bush took every western state which does not have a Pacific coastline except those three, and he took absolutely every state south of the Ohio River. They all have in common that they are more sparsely populated than the states which Gore took (with the exceptions noted) and they all have in common that they are not industrial states (Ohio was the closest thing to an industrial state which Bush took), that agriculture is (even if it is just livestock) the principle business of the state.

What is more germane to the argument i make is that Bush carried 30 states to Gore's 20. You should have no doubt that i deplore Bush's presidency--i've certainly made that clear. But i have never deplored it on the basis of his having been elected by electoral votes rather than popular vote. My only suspicion in the matter is the interference in Florida's recount, and as i have already noted, i have no good reason to assume that the recount would have resulted in those 25 electoral votes being awarded to Gore.

Before leaving this, i would be at pains to point out that i haven't argued for a regional interest as a basis to justify the institution of the college, either. That has rather the flavor of a straw man argument, too. However, i don't think that it was your intent to introduce a straw man with that question. I specifically stated that as this is a union of sovereign states, i approve of the college as protecting the interest which all states in the union have in making their voice heard--and 30 of those states, 60% of those states, spoke for Bush.

Finally, it is worth noting that in all of my comments about the college, i have pointed out that i dislike and disagree with the winner take all aspect of the allocation of electoral votes. For my mind, the ideal situation would be the retention of the college, with the elimination of the winner take all allocation of electors.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 12:53 am
By the way, Bush only beat Gore by about 5 electors. Had there been no winner take all system, with only the two additional electors in each state voting according to the outcome of the popular vote, Gore would have won in the electoral college, as well as the popular vote--it was that close.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 12:59 am
Good Lord I agree with Setanta. (At least in part which is saying something)

It truly must be the End of Days.

He is on point when he cautions that a presidential election decided by popular vote will invest too great a power of decision on concentrated population centers.

Why should we care whether or not the votes of the citizens of Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Oklahoma etc are meaningful? Because, as Setanta correctly argues, we are a Union, and what is more likely to disintegrate that union than a sense that the votes of citizens in numerous states are essentially meaningless?

The genius of The Founders was their ability to conceive of the dangers as wells as the virtues of democracy, and to maintain a rational state of mind during the flush of victory and create highly sophisticated safeguards.

Those of you who are happy with the political leanings of the most heavily populated states should appreciated that this need not always be the case.

In addition, a reverance for diversity seems to be a pretty common value within these left leaning population centers. The Electoral College is an engine for diversity. Embrace it.

Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 02:13 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:
I stated that discarding the college leaves the choice of President to a hand full of urban areas, and that i feel that this is not consistent with a recognition that this is a union of sovereign states. I don't ask you to agree, but simply to recognize my position as i have stated it.


I hereby recognize this position as Setanta has stated it.

Quote:
In that you didn't address my remark about the union of sovereign states, but only made that observation about rural voters, it was perfectly reasonable that this was the burden of your objection to my argument--as that was not my argument, your objection constituted a straw man.


I see. Well I hadn't intended to do this all over again with you (we've argued this before haven't we?) but if you really want me to argue this point I will, albeit in shorthand:

Doing away with the disproportionate power wouldn't "leave the choice of President to a hand full of urban areas". The rural areas would have votes are worth just as much and their voters would have just as much of a chance to influence the outcome as any other voter. It would only remove the disproportionate influence they have, and would not remove it altogether. The citizens of those states have as much of a voice as any other citizen and any feelings of disenfranchisement with an equal voice to any other citizen is an inordinate sense of entitlement on their part.

Just being from a smaller state, shouldn't mean they are entitled to a more powerful vote and I argue that they have no reasonable basis to feel disenfranchised when they have the same political power as any other citizen.

If the citizens had competing regional interests (the situation roger introduced with the wolves and lamb example) I would see this as more reasonable, but the competition in presidential elections tends to be on ideological lines more so than regional and I don't think they should have a stronger ideological vote just because they are in a less populous state.

Quote:
... The regional interest served (if there actually was one) was the conservatism of largely rural and agrarian states....


This is what I was referring to as an ideological interest instead of a competing regional interest. But since you aren't making the regional interest the criteria I'll leave it at that. I don't see political ideology as an interest that needs to be overvalued in less popular states.

Quote:
They all have in common that they are more sparsely populated than the states which Gore took (with the exceptions noted) and they all have in common that they are not industrial states (Ohio was the closest thing to an industrial state which Bush took), that agriculture is (even if it is just livestock) the principle business of the state.


As an example, a significant agricultural difference in platforms would be something I'd see as a legitimate regional issue. And when these come up I almost invariably think that giving them more power is a disservice to the country, with special interests getting subsidies and protectionism they should not get at the expense of other countries and states.

Quote:
What is more germane to the argument i make is that Bush carried 30 states to Gore's 20.


I understand that, but don't the number of states should trump the popular vote any more than I think the number of electoral college votes should.

Quote:
I specifically stated that as this is a union of sovereign states, i approve of the college as protecting the interest which all states in the union have in making their voice heard--and 30 of those states, 60% of those states, spoke for Bush.


If the popular vote determined the presidency their voices would be heard just as much as any other citizen.

Quote:
Finally, it is worth noting that in all of my comments about the college, i have pointed out that i dislike and disagree with the winner take all aspect of the allocation of electoral votes. For my mind, the ideal situation would be the retention of the college, with the elimination of the winner take all allocation of electors.


This is my biggest qualm with the process as well, but for me it leads me right into getting rid of the system altogether.

With 3 electoral votes, the proportional allocation would already be taking some great mathematical liberties with rounding and much of the disproportionate influence is already taken away. I dislike the degree of mathematical accuracy those kind of numbers represent. There should be more atomic representation if it is to be proportional and fair.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 02:17 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
Why should we care whether or not the votes of the citizens of Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Oklahoma etc are meaningful? Because, as Setanta correctly argues, we are a Union, and what is more likely to disintegrate that union than a sense that the votes of citizens in numerous states are essentially meaningless?


Their votes would have just as much weight as any other citizen and would certainly not be "meaningless". The notion that they need disproportionate influence to have a meaningful vote is silly.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 08:34 am
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
Just being from a smaller state, shouldn't mean they are entitled to a more powerful vote and I argue that they have no reasonable basis to feel disenfranchised when they have the same political power as any other citizen.

I could be wrong, but I think part of the reason the Electoral College exists is an extenuation of the fact that we are a collection of States, not a collection of People. We are the United States of America first and the United People of America second.

Back at the time of the founding, the States were considered the primary unit of sovereignty and they were seeking a way to unify them. But now, over 200 years later, people have grown up under the Unity for so long that they accept the Unity itself as the primary sovereignty. Today people chant USA USA USA, but back then it would have been VIRGINIA VIRGINIA VIRGINIA.


Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 09:13 am
@rosborne979,
Good point . . . in 1787, Virginia had a population as great as or greater than any two other states.

On reflection, i am rather amused, because, intended or not, RG's advocacy of an elimination of the college, combined with a casual acceptance of the primacy of urban areas in the presidential election constitutes favoring regional interest--the urban interest. Urban is a region just as surely as farmland is a region.
cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 09:43 am
Let's get rid of the Senate while we're at it. Makes about as much sense.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 10:48 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
Good point . . . in 1787, Virginia had a population as great as or greater than any two other states.

People tend to forget the relevance of States, in the United States.
Quote:
On reflection, i am rather amused, because, intended or not, RG's advocacy of an elimination of the college, combined with a casual acceptance of the primacy of urban areas in the presidential election constitutes favoring regional interest--the urban interest. Urban is a region just as surely as farmland is a region.

Even though RG's position might result in the favoring of urban interests, my sense is that the motivation of his argument is driven more around the idea of "one person, one vote" as the only way to equitably balance the needs of every person. The example he gives of this is that urban centers should naturally get a heavier priority because they hold more people ("people" being the fundamental unit of valuation).

However, if you set "a person" as the primary point of valuation, rather than the "collective success of the nation" or "the equal representation of the sovereign states" as the primary point of valuation, then I think you have the potential to fracture the Union.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 11:01 am
@rosborne979,
Quote:
However, if you set "a person" as the primary point of valuation, rather than the "collective success of the nation" or "the equal representation of the sovereign states" as the primary point of valuation, then I think you have the potential to fracture the Union.


when doing anything there will come a point where ideology has to go by the boards....there will always be a point where guiding principles are best compromised to reach a goal. In order to build a strong and stable nation the concept of one man one vote can only be useful to a point.

I think that by now we should have all seen enough brutality from fundamentalists to be leary of those who can't see grey, who are not willing to compromise.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 11:16 am
@hawkeye10,
Quote:
when doing anything there will come a point where ideology has to go by the boards....there will always be a point where guiding principles are best compromised to reach a goal. In order to build a strong and stable nation the concept of one man one vote can only be useful to a point.

I think that by now we should have all seen enough brutality from fundamentalists to be leary of those who can't see grey, who are not willing to compromise.

I think that's exactly why the system was designed the way it was. And should remain that way.
Foxfyre
 
  2  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 11:23 am
From a purely practical standpoint, the electoral college serves the purpose of keeping the system more honest than it otherwise would likely be. Put the sole power to elect the President in those few urban areas, and it doesn't take a genius to know that those few urban areas will be the only areas where campaigns will be conducted. And it will likely be the one and/or party who can buy or manipulate or import or manufacture or otherwise generate sufficient votes in those few areas who will be elected. Every single time. It invites the entire system to become completely corrupted instead of only marginally corrupted as it is now.

As has been noted, the electoral college results in the vote of somebody in New York City or Los Angeles having only fractionally less clout than somebody in Albuquerque or Jackson Hole. Do away with the electoral college, however, and it effectively takes away the vote of somebody in New Mexico or Wyoming.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 11:23 am
@rosborne979,
Quote:
I think that's exactly why the system was designed the way it was. And should remain that way


Absolutely, a stable system with a good feedback mechanism is always the best long term approach. Americans have way undervalued stability over the last generation, it is a large party of the reason our economy melted down. We kept chipping away at the structure that provided stability to the ecomomy as we chased short term profits, until the whole thing collapsed.

It is far past time for adult supervision with in the American society...the greedy uneducated juveniles must be kept in line. The foolishness, the extreme risk taking, must end.
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 11:46 am
http://able2know.org/topic/33827-1
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 12:36 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
I could be wrong, but I think part of the reason the Electoral College exists is an extenuation of the fact that we are a collection of States, not a collection of People. We are the United States of America first and the United People of America second.


I don't think you are wrong, but I don't think that says anything in support of the electoral college's usefulness. It is to say what is and what was and not what should be.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 12:39 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
I don't think you are wrong, but I don't think that says anything in support of the electoral college's usefulness. It is to say what is and what was and not what should be.


the electoral college usefulness is proven by the fact that America is the most stable democracy that has ever existed.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 12:39 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
However, if you set "a person" as the primary point of valuation, rather than the "collective success of the nation" or "the equal representation of the sovereign states" as the primary point of valuation, then I think you have the potential to fracture the Union.


I've seen no evidence that the disproportionate political power has any positive effect on the "collective success of the nation" nor that "equal representation of the sovereign states" is either the ideal or the status quo (they certainly are not "equal").

Do you have examples of where this disproportionate political power has positively impacted the nation?
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 12:49 pm
@hawkeye10,
hawkeye10 wrote:
the electoral college usefulness is proven by the fact that America is the most stable democracy that has ever existed.


That's some laughably foolish logic. You can't throw a blanket justification on everything in America based on the country's success.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 01:06 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
That's some laughably foolish logic. You can't throw a blanket justification on everything in America based on the country's success.


the foolish one is the one who thinks that they know better than the founding fathers, after the founding fathers have accumulated a record for success more than 200 years deep.
 

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