Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Citizen Me

I've been following Teddy Partridge's liveblogging of the Prop 8 trial. Since transcripts won't be available for a couple of months, and the SCOTUS upheld the defendants' appeal on youtubing the proceedings, this is the best source for the trial I can find. Alliance Defense Fund has a twitter feed, but I find it hard to follow and hard to search. It's unfortunate, because I wanted to get a defense-sympathetic report to compare.

Although it's liveblog, and thus necessarily paraphrased, here's a section I want to highlight because it's relevant to the recent discussions I've been engaged in regarding voter registration. The witness is for the plaintiffs, and is a historian who wrote a book about marriage in America:
Yes, the form of the republican government was a government based upon consent and voluntary allegiance. Not as a subject, as in Great Britain, which had subjects and not citizens. In breaking away from GB, the founders of teh [sic - yay liveblogging!] American republic formed a union based on voluntary consent. Their best analogy, seen in newspapers and pamphlets at the time, was marriage. In popular periodicals, that analogy was frequently made, that they should consent to be governed as people consent to marriage.
What's absent on the right at the moment is any sense that they have consented to government, if the government is run by the Democratic party. If Republicans aren't in power, it must be because Democrats stole the election. It must be because ACORN stole the election. And if Republicans don't win the next election, the true believers will have to grab their guns and kill everyone who doesn't agree with them. They just can't believe that other Americans - who have all the rights they do - can possibly disagree with them on anything; liberals must just be bad guys.

Someone named Geoffrey Britain gave a response I'd like you to consider, to a comment I made at Jim Simpson's place. My question was regarding a hypothetical method of removing the electoral college, and how anyone could believe that would lead to a tyranny: "Wouldn't it merely decrease the importance of "swing states" in the presidential election, and thus let the true will of the people be heard?" The answer:
The tyranny, would be the coastal urban populations over the rural conservative populations. If simple majority rules then if I don't share the majority's view I have no say in how our government shall be run and am in effect a second-class citizen.
Of course, Mr. Britain is not speaking for Mr. Simpson; however, I have found this attitude prevalent among many on the right. It probably comes out of the myth of us being a "center-right country," whatever that means. In other words, he's saying if the side he votes for doesn't win, then he's not just a minority, but an oppressed minority. It reminds me of last fall's Republican assertion that health reform in the U.S. Senate needed "80 votes" to be legitimate. It's a sense of entitlement that I find obscene.


  1. The National Popular Vote bill would make every vote, everywhere, relevant and equal.

  2. Under the current system of electing the President, presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided "battleground" states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 "battleground" states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
    Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

  3. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

    The bill is currently endorsed by over 1,659 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%. Support is strong in every partisan and demographic group surveyed.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


  4. The issue raised by the National Popular Vote legislation is not about whether there will be "mob rule" in presidential elections, but whether the "mob" in a handful of closely divided battleground states, such as Florida, get disproportionate attention from presidential candidates, while the "mobs" of the vast majority of states are ignored. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided "battleground" states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 "battleground" states.

    The current system does not provide some kind of check on the "mobs." There have been 22,000 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 10 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. The electors are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

  5. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your comments. Although my post was not about the National Popular Vote bill, and I haven't studied the subject at all, it does seem to me logical and consistent with a small-"d" democratic ideal. That's why I asked the question at Jim Simpson's place; my guess was that it would expand the presidential election to all fifty states instead of just the battleground states. He alleges "But direct elections will be the last nail in the coffin for our beloved Republic." Haven't gotten him to explain that statement. Hope you can.

    I hope you return to post more comments. In the future, however, if you've got an in-depth argument that isn't directly to the point of my post, please just link to it. Thanks.