The Electoral College

Most pundits see this year’s presidential election as too close to call. 1

The reasons for this 2 will be discussed ad nauseum over the upcoming weeks and months.

However, given there is a full moon overhead, and on occasion even pundits have been correct, it seems a good time to review that most hoary of tropes, American Idol.

Wait – I meant the Electoral College, though it’s an easy mistake to make: The American Idol analogy, certainly not original to us, is apt:

The popular vote in both the presidential election and AI is exactly the same; people go to the polls or text/sms in their votes for their fave, right? Well, almost; those votes will actually be cast for an elector, probably Nikki, Keith, Randy and Mariah (and seven more geniuses in Missouri) who will then accordingly pledge to cast their vote for either Obama or Romney.

Though, often enough, they don’t necessarily have to cast their vote according to your sms/text vote. 3

Thus in a tight election it is not necessarily the total numbers of the popular votes that matter so much 4 as the distribution of those votes. Which is how many pundits believe Obama may win re-election, by claiming the larger number of electoral votes rather than the popular vote. 5

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Very soon the TV talking heads will start debating the relative merits of the Electoral College, throwing in (wrongly 6) strained analogies to the 2000 presidential election. And once again the quadrennial cry to rid ourselves of the ‘burden’ of the Electoral College will be raised amongst the other loons.

WNBTv strongly believes in and wholly endorses the Electoral College. One of the best reasons for this is set out below:

The electoral college, set forth in the U.S. Constitution, is a great tool for reducing social conflict across regions of the United States. You might think that’s a crazy claim — don’t we see maps of red and blue, and aren’t the red places — the places supporting the Republican — mostly in the South and Midwest? Indeed, and that pattern across regions is key to explaining how the electoral college defuses some social tension.

[I]t’s safe to say that if your state is polling 65% for a particular presidential candidate, neither candidate is likely to campaign there any time soon.

And that’s great news for social peace. We rarely hear too much about regional issues in the U.S. other than farmers vs. everyone else. But if the presidency was decided by majority rule, I’m sure we’d hear a lot more about regional differences. Could a presidential candidate get 75% of the votes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida by promising broad-based Gulf Coast subsidies and a few other goodies? Could a candidate get 85% of California’s and New York’s votes partly by offering housing subsidies for people facing high housing costs?

I don’t know: But if we got rid of the electoral college and had a popularly elected president we’d sure have a chance to find out.

As it stands, presidential candidates are trying to appeal to the median voter in each state across a large number of states. That’s how you get to be president. This reduces regional tensions because candidates are never trying to get 90% of the votes in a state. When you’re pitting 90% of one region of the country against 90% of another region of the country, you’re substantially raising the probability of social conflict. Too many civil wars are based on regional differences for this to be no big deal.

If that last seems hyperbole then perhaps you are tone deaf: the tacit racism and hatred of women exhibited during much of this years’ presidential campaign, and to a larger extent the local Senate races, has been anything but muted. Romney’s Take Back Our Country screed is not aimed anywhere but the white Americans who abhor the black man in the White House.

Were it left to the populace at large America would undoubtedly re-institute slavery, throw debtors in prison (or the new workhouses; Chevrolet and Ford’s assembly lines) and remove reproductive, voting and most other rights from women.

The Electoral College might be seen as the only institution that saves America from herself. 7 To call for its abolishment is to call for a less civilized nation.

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Show 7 footnotes

  1.  WNBTv believes otherwise: we predict Romney will win the contest pulling away (Ha ha ha- in his dreams!)
  2. Most of which were risibly predictable; as a nation who’s average IQ is 98, nuance (hell, even plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face facts) is all too often elided by an electorate too entranced with their own “opinions” to bother with logic or, indeed, common sense.
  3. Mariah is such a wild card!
  4. Though that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try. That’s right; I’m looking at you, Al Gore.
  5. Though they’re wrong there – Obama will garner significantly more of the popular vote then Romney, wait and see.
  6. There is, as yet, a notable difference between theft and the Electoral College.
  7. Yet more fun reading on a possible outcome.

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