Search This Blog

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Where’s the Outrage? One would think that somewhere in this interminable election season that one of the news networks or cable news outlets would spend the time it takes to produce (and the public to consume) one tiny article or editorial on the “Swing State Phenomenon”. But no one has. Perhaps because there is no chance of it being changed in the short term and apparently little evidence that the parties who could change it show any inclination to do so long term. The impacts of the status quo are obvious and given. The major party candidates campaign only in six or eight states where the competition is extremely close. They virtually ignore (except for money raising efforts) the 40+ states that are thought to be safely in one party’s column. The parity that those 40+ states produce is interesting. Two of the three largest states historically favor the Democratic Party & its candidates. When California with its 55 votes and New York with 29 votes are combined they represent over 31% of the total number of votes needed for a candidate to reach the 270 total for election by the Electoral College. This is balanced, of course, by Texas’ 38 votes that have recently been safely Republican. Several dozen small (votewise) states join Texas in being solidly “Red”. This all makes the contest come down to the more competitive, closer races in the “swing” states of Florida and Ohio plus five to seven other states that Obama and Romney both think they could win if everything falls right for them by election day. Most news readers and pundits and most of the country believe that the way it is must be “Constitutionally mandated”. And parts of it are. The Electoral College formally electing the president is, indeed, constitutional. What is not required, however, is that states cast all their Electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote in that state, even if that winning total is only a mere plurality. (Those years where the Green Party or Libertarians or other third parties garner a few votes, some states end up being “won” by a major party candidate who falls short of a majority total.) But the “unit rule” that is employed by 48 states is not required by the constitution. States could decide to cast their Electoral votes proportionally, reflecting a closer approximation to the popular vote their state produced. In a “proportional” world rather than one controlled by the unit rule, California in 2008 might have awarded 40 votes to Obama and 15 to McCain. Conversely, instead of winning all 34 Texas Electoral votes, McCain might have earned 20 to Obama’s 14. When tallied individually by states, the result would still have been an Obama win, but not, perhaps, the “landslide” it appeared to be. Were the “unit rule” to be mothballed one result would be a nationwide presidential election campaign instead of one limited to the swing states. As a voter who has not lived in a swing state perhaps ever, I for one would love to see the candidates attending rallies and campaign events in my state. I would drive two or three hours to see a candidate in person at a stadium rally. But alas, the only candidate I’ve ever seen live was Hubert Humphrey in 1968. (Oh, I did see Obama live in Feb. 2008 prior to his losing the TX primary to Hillary Clinton.) But this year, since the 2012 nominating conventions I don’t believe voters in any of the nation’s eight or ten largest cities have seen either candidate live and in person. Their VP mates or surrogates may have campaigned at fund raising events, but no presidential candidates. Why? No real need. But if a candidate stood to win as many Electoral Votes in a losing effort in Texas as he can in Iowa or Colorado, he well might reallocate his resources more evenly across the country. I understand why states and the major parties prefer the “winner take all” effect of the status quo. A true nationwide campaign would become infinitely more challenging. But it would be infinitely more democratic and fair. And I assume this one change would produce a huge jump in voter turnout nationwide. Of course, this is one reason Republicans likely will never give it a reasonable chance. By the way, were you aware that Maine and Nebraska do not use the unit rule. They allocate Electoral College votes by House Congressional Districts (with the popular vote winner statewide also getting the two votes representing the Senators in their state). Nebraska has used this for only one presidential election, and Maine several more. It has resulted in Maine still allocating all its Electoral votes to the popular vote winner. In 2008 Nebraska cast one vote for Obama and the rest for McCain. Maybe in 2016 I’ll attend a presidential candidate rally. Bet I’ll need to plan to visit a distant cousin in Ohio, though.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Big Bird

I am disappointed, though not surprised at the amount of media attention and Twitter activity devoted to Romney’s declaration that he would eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting since we essentially borrow that money from China. What annoys me is that Romney could and did get away with making so much political hay out of such a straw man. The CPB “subsidy” isn’t big enough to be called a drop in the bucket. It’s more like a drop in a swimming pool.