“Be it resolved,” writes Annie, “that since this is my blog, I can talk about the Electoral College without giving the arguments in its favor.”
Those who disagree are free to do so with your comments.
There’s always a lot of talk about getting rid of the Electoral College, and then we get the litany of reasons why it’s needed. Such a situation brought me to this post.
It all started, as I find various topics come to mind these days, with a tweet. I had tweeted: “It’s time we get rid of the damn Electoral College.”
That brought about a number of positive comments and retweets, as well as some objections. Fine. But one person who disagreed observed (I’m quoting verbatim):
“It may not be completely proportional but there needs to be limits otherwise tyranny of the majority will happen.”
Tyranny of the majority? OK, thought I, this is a topic I need to address in my little blog.
We know that the Electoral College is written in the Constitution. It was a compromise between the founders who wanted the president to be elected by Congress and those who preferred he be chosen by a popular vote of “qualified citizens.”
You’ll recall who those folks were, right? Male landowners. That decision had already been made in determining how many members of Congress would be selected under the “three-fifths compromise”: slaves, though they did not of course have a vote, were counted as three-fifths of a person in determining the total population.
According to law professor Wilfred Codrington III, writing in The Atlantic:
“Commentators today tend to downplay the extent to which race and slavery contributed to the Framers’ creation of the Electoral College, in effect whitewashing history: Of the considerations that factored into the Framers’ calculus, race and slavery were perhaps the foremost.”
There were other concerns as well—all of them sounding rather quaint in our current situation:
“Fearful that the president might fall victim to a host of civic vices—that he could become susceptible to corruption or cronyism, sow disunity, or exercise overreach—the men sought to constrain executive power consistent with constitutional principles such as federalism and checks and balances.
“When the idea of a popular vote was raised, they griped openly that it could result in too much democracy. With few objections, they quickly dispensed with the notion that the people might choose their leader.”
Too much democracy, indeed. I’d love to imagine the Framers’ ghosts hovering over this election. Anyway, we move on to the heart of the issue: power.
Southern delegates opposed the direct election because, as James Madison wrote:
“There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.”
Employing the three-fifths compromise, the South’s congressional delegation gained 42 percent, so they chose the elector approach. The first evidence of how well it would work came in 1870, when it gave the advantage to Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, over John Adams, the incumbent president and an abolitionist.
I’m not going to go into more historic depth on this issue here, but I found The Atlantic article most enlightening. At this juncture, when we’re finally reexamining the systemic racism in our institutions, it seems to me imperative that we take a closer look at the Electoral College–for that reason and others.
One side note of interest about the Electoral College is offered by Jesse Wegman in The New York Times, who writes in support of another approach that I’ll describe shortly.
Wegman includes Donald Trump’s view of the matter, expressed on election night, 2012, when he feared that Mitt Romney would get a higher popular vote than President Obama but still lose the election. Trump tweeted:
“The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy.”
Since two of the five elections in which the Electoral College winner had fewer popular votes than the loser have occurred since the year 2000, and the most recent has brought our democracy to the brink, I believe it’s incumbent upon us to do something about the issue ASAP.
People are growing increasingly unhappy with the fact that just a small number of swing states get nearly all the candidates’ attention—both before the election and after.
It’s worth noting that the arguments against the Electoral College have been made by several bipartisan organizations, such as The League of Women Voters and Common Cause. I’ve long thought of them both as we referred to them years ago: the “goo-goos”: for good government.
Common Cause succinctly described the problem:
“Two-thirds or more of Americans live in so-called ‘spectator states,’ which include large states like California and Texas, as well as 12 of the 13 least-populous states. Why? Because it doesn’t make sense for candidates campaigning to spend in states that are a guaranteed win or loss under the current system….We believe no American should be a spectator of democracy.”
But to remove the Electoral College via constitutional amendment is a slow and laborious process, as amending the Constitution should be. Fortunately, there is a legitimate workaround that can help us achieve equity much sooner.
Have you heard of the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact? This ingenious effort is quite simple. As Common Cause describes it:
“Under the NPV compact, states agree to award their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationally. Because a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win an election, National Popular Vote would kick in once states adding up to that 270 join the compact.”
Common Cause believes the impact will be that more people will be brought “into the fold” and we’ll be more likely to achieve “policies and plans that take everyone into account.”
The constitutionality of the NPV received quite a boost this year:
On July 6, 2020, a unanimous Supreme Court ruling (yep, you read that right) gave the states broad power over their electors when it determined that states could punish or replace “faithless electors”—individuals who were chosen by their parties to serve as the direct electors of the president but cast their ballots for someone else. The Court based its ruling on Article II, Section I of the Constitution.
I gleaned the following material from a Brookings blog post.
From Justice Elena Kagan’s decision (for 8 of the 9 justices):
“Article II, section 1’s appointments power gives the States far-reaching authority over presidential electors, absent some other constitutional constraint. As [the Constitution says], each State may appoint elections ‘in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct….This Court has described that clause as ‘conveying the broadest power of determination’ over who becomes an elector.
“The Constitution is barebones about electors. Article II includes on the instruction to each State to appoint, in whatever way it likes, [its presidential electors]. The Twelfth Amendment then tells electors to meet in their States to vote for President and Vice President separately, and to transmit lists of all their votes to the President of the United State Senate for counting…That is all.”
(Justice Thomas cited the 10th Amendment as the basis for his vote in support of the decision, and Justice Gorsuch agreed with him.)
Thus, the Supreme Court has validated the underpinnings of the NPV.
Writes Barry Fadem on The Brookings blog:
“This clear reaffirmation of the power of states to appoint their electoral votes ‘in whatever way it likes’ supports The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and Article II, section 1, upon which National Popular Vote is based.
“States have broad authority over their electors, and nothing in this case would suggest this plenary power would suddenly be limited if the states’ electors were awarded to the National Popular Vote winner.”
But is it realistic to think enough states will go along to make NPV a reality? Consider this:
Right now, 15 states and Washington, DC, are signatories to the Compact. Those in the Compact include four small states, eight medium-sized states, and three large states, as well as the District of Columbia.
They represent a total of 196 Electoral College votes. Once 74 more are secured, NPV becomes a reality.
Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, and Delaware are the most recent to join, moving the success needle to 70% of goal.
This link provides the status of the National Popular Vote Bill in each state.
“In a political system made complicated by unlimited money, gerrymandered maps, and out-of-control lobbying, NPV is simple,” writes Common Cause. “Let’s finally embrace one-person one-vote and pass this simple and effective reform.”
No “tyranny of the majority” here. More like “the will of the majority—safe at last.”
What do you think? If you believe the NPV is a sound idea, please check out the above link to see the bill’s status in your state—and then encourage your state legislators to adopt it. If you disagree, please feel free to explain your reasoning.
33 thoughts on “Ready for “One Person, One Vote”? We’re Not That Far Off…”
Annie as you know I’m Canadian, so I’m not quite sure what the Electoral College is, but it sounds too complicated to me! I’ve never really understood your House or Senate either. I believe we have a similar problem here, wherein the last federal election, Trudeau did not win the popular vote but is still PM in a minority government, as he got enough seats in enough ridings to form the government. Our Parliament is divided into two houses – a senate (upper house) which approves bills passed by the lower house (or Commons). There has been talk of abolishing the Senate for decades, as the senators are appointed for life and are basically just a rubber stamp. It was apparently originally designed as a second look at bills. There was some talk of constitutional reform by Trudeau in his first term in office, but it was quickly dropped. How things were designed centuries ago may not serve as well today.
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Joni. A quick course on the Electoral college. In the US senate each state gets 2 senators, no matter how many people are in that state. So, California with over 39,000,000 has the same representation as Wyoming with 580,000 people. Yep. I know it sounds insane because it is. This is the reason why the states with smaller, rural populations are able to control the Senate. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is apportioned according to population. California has 53 , Wyoming has one. Based on population. There are 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate. The Electoral college gives each state the same number of electoral votes as it has members in the Congress (house and senate combined). So, California gets 55 electoral votes (53+2) and Wyoming gets 3 electoral votes (1+2). In addition, the District of Columbia (population 706,000) gets 3 votes bringing the total to 538 . (435+100+3). With a couple exceptions each state allocates ALL the electoral votes to the candidate who wins the state and none to the other candidate. So, if you win a state by 10 votes or 1,000,000 vote does not matter. Just win. In order to be elected president, no matter what the popular vote, you need to win at least 270 electoral votes , more than half.
So, the result is that the election focuses almost exclusively on states that will be close. New York, for example, is going to vote Dem. I have never seen a candidate campaign in western New York or even NYC. (They go to NYC to raise money, but that’s it). Why? Because both sides know NY will go Dem so why bother.
By the same token, Mississippi is going to go GOP, as will Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska. So, no point in campaigning there. Waste of resources.
The swing states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin) become the focus of each candidate. This year you can also add North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona and Nevada. These states (and all their electoral votes) could go either way. So, these states get a lot of attention, advertising, etc.
The Electoral College is by design anti-democratic. It was designed to keep the “mob” from selecting a president based on , well, what the majority wanted. That is why Clinton could win the population vote by over 3,000,000 but lose to Trump. His people focused on winning just enough votes in just enough states.And that is the game plan in 2020. Depress the Democratic vote in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio,etc and sneak in another 4 terms. Who cares how many millions Biden piles up in California or NY? Does not matter.
I hope this helps explain our ridiculous system. It is anti-democratic and should have been scrapped long ago in favor of a popular vote system. But that would diminish the political power of the smaller, rural states so they would never go along with it.
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Jose- Thanks for this nice summary. I’ve researched it more than once and then promptly forgotten the details after the election year. (Could you post again in 2024?)
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Thank you so much Joseph! That makes things much clearer. I’ve often wondered why those smaller rural states seemed to have so much power, and the senate seems to control such important decisions, like that Judge Kavannagh approval. The next month should be very interesting, esp in view of Trump’s COVID diagnosis.
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Well, I taught it for over 25 years so I am fairly well versed in most things having to do with the US government.
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Thanks, Joseph. This is important and useful background stuff that I would not have covered in such detail.
I differ with you concerning Mississippi, however. Mike Espy has a real chance of winning the Senate seat there, and if he succeeds in drawing enough Black voters to the polls, perhaps reverse coattails are even possible for Biden. Unlikely, but possible.
Joseph gave you a good lesson, so there’s nothing for me to add there. Your question reminded me, however, that I’ve perhaps been focusing too much on US stuff to the detriment of those of you from other countries whom I’m fortunate to have as part of my blog community.
I can’t wait til this is all over–and perhaps I’ll write about puppies and rainbows…
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Annie, I find it interesting to know how different countries vote…..politics is always more interesting than puppies and rainbows…..especially lately! Who knows what the next month will hold? I’m following the WH COVID mess of course, as I’m interested from a medical POV. I see they gave Trump an experimental antibody drug, which few others would have access to, plus the antiviral, so I’m hoping he doesn’t come out of this bragging it was a piece of cake. I counted what 7 or 8 doctors in his medical team at the press conference?
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It’s bizarre, as usual. I was counting on the Walter Reed docs for transparency, but I guess that was foolish.
And still no change in WH instructions re: masks and social distancing. Pence will proceed to a rally demonstrating their willful ignorance, which seems increasingly criminal to me. I am struck by the fact that the man who seems to have created belief in an aura of invincibility among himself and those around him that frequent testing is somehow protective is the same person who informed the rest of us that “if we don’t test, we’ll find fewer cases.”
Rely on science? What about logic or good old common sense? (Ethics and empathy were of course not even considerations…)
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My fear is once he recovers, he’ll spin it that there was nothing to it – anyone can beat Covid. Despite being given a cocktail of 3 drugs which no one else has had the opportunity to have. I suspect the antibody cocktail helped a lot if you can get the patient in the early days and neutralize the virus so as to decrease viral load. Which might be why his fever and O2 were better the next day….if that is actually the truth which is debatable. On a video clip tonight he was rambling on about miracles from God……nothing about the science which saved him….heaven forbid he would ever credit science. He seems oblivious to the fact that the other 207,000 people didn’t get the chance for those drugs, half of them can’t even get a test in enough time to even be able to administer such a promising therapy. The whole thing disgusts me…..
Well, the big problem, as I see it, is that state legislatures , like Pennsylvania, could simply signore the popular vote and appoint electors. That seems to be a plan brewing in states where the state government is controlled by the GOP and the popular vote may go to Biden . Pennsylvania is one example…. If that wee to happen, the Trump Supreme Court would have the final say. Or it may go to the House of reps. Both would be big messes.
I think that’s more of a potential problem now than it would be if the NPV were in effect. And the higher the vote for Biden is, the less likely the chances that this scenario would be attempted.
The electoral college is way to complicated to get rid of so I love this elegant plan (NPV) – I think Common Cause came up with it. Maybe next time, but crossing my fingers that the next 4 yrs are led by a competent and honest administration.
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From what I’ve read, the idea of a national popular vote that involves the state’s power to appoint electors originated in an academic paper written by Robert Bennett, an American legal scholar, in 2001; law professors Alhil Reed Amar and Vikram Amar defended the constitutionality of the idea and recommended the compact involving 270 electors–so it would be in accord with the Electoral College. Common Cause has been a strong proponent of the concept.
Abolishing the Electoral College via Constitutional amendment would not just be slow and difficult — in our present situation it’s impossible. Such an amendment would require the assent of two-thirds of each house of Congress plus the legislatures of 38 states. That is, it would need to be endorsed by many of those who would lose their disproportionate power by doing so.
I used to be a strong supporter of the NPV compact, but lately I’ve become more dubious. I think the idea of decoupling a state’s Electoral College vote from its own state popular vote would set a dangerous precedent. And the progress of adoption by states has stalled lately. Republicans are well aware that it would almost always deliver the presidency to the Democratic candidate. They see it as yet another threat to their strategy of minority rule via Constitutional gimmicks.
There are things we can do, assuming we take the Senate and presidency and hold the House. Making DC and Puerto Rico states would make the Electoral College, and also the Senate, more balanced. Splitting California into smaller states would do so even more — that would be more difficult, but we’d have at least two years to get it done. And don’t forget the inexorable process of internal migration which is gradually turning states like Arizona and North Carolina and even Texas blue.
There are ways of dealing with the Electoral College and its blight on our democracy. But they all hinge on winning this election a month from now.
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I don’t envision a change soon with the NPV, but I think its adoption is more likely than a constitutional amendment, which as you say is impossible in this era. And if this turns into a wave election, which is possible, a few state legislatures may change hands that would speed the process.
I sort of get your reservation about decoupling, but I’d welcome your elaborating on the dangers you see—perhaps a slippery slope vis-a-vis other amendments? The idea was conceived by three constitutional scholars, so I would hope they’d contemplated a range of negative scenarios.
I agree about DC statehood; that has long been coming and Nancy Pelosi has expressed her support. Puerto Rican statehood would be wonderful for all those neglected souls who never get the funding they need. But splitting up California? That sounds more dubious and disruptive to me. Have you seen figures on the numerical impact of such changes?
Your point about internal migration is well taken. Then all that would be required to eliminate Electoral College/popular vote disparity is an end to voter suppression and gerrymandering! And who knows what this foreshortened Census data gathering and intimidation of immigrants will do to apportionment of representatives?
I sort of get your reservation about decoupling, but I’d welcome your elaborating on the dangers you see
The obvious one is a case where a state with a Republican-dominated state government looked likely to go for the Democratic candidate by a small margin, and the state government changed the law to allow itself to appoint a slate of Republican electors despite the popular vote, based on bullshit about mail-vote fraud or whatever. If they could claim that Democrats had already thrown aside the principle that the electoral votes should follow the state popular vote (in the states that had ratified the NPV), they would appear to have a stronger case that their action was legitimate. The obvious case where that might happen in this election or the next one is Texas. Its own government is thoroughly Republican-dominated, but polls of the Biden-Trump race in the state have consistently shown it close to a tie.
I also wouldn’t want to see a mirror-image scenario which would enable a Democratic candidate to “carry” a state where the majority voted Republican. Democracy is democracy and people’s votes should matter.
I also see a risk that if people knew their state’s electoral votes would follow the national popular vote regardless of how they themselves voted, they would feel less inclined to vote at all since their own votes would barely affect how their state voted in the Electoral College. Since most states which have ratified the NPV are blue, this would depress Democratic turnout.
Have you seen figures on the numerical impact of such changes?
I haven’t seen specific figures, but it’s obvious that, say, splitting off northern California into a separate state would mean two more Democratic senators and a slight increase in Democratic electoral votes. Splitting a state in two requires a referendum which gets majorities in both halves, plus assent of both houses of Congress, so it’s a bit harder than admitting a new state from outside the existing fifty, but if we win big this November it might be possible.
If we take both houses of Congress and the presidency, we can pass federal laws to eliminate gerrymandering and vote suppression. If the Supreme Court strikes them down, then enlarging the Supreme Court immediately goes on the agenda. It’s just a matter of having the determination to play hardball, and I think the ramrodding of Coathanger Coney’s nomination has generated enough popular anger that we could push Biden and a Democratic Congress to get this stuff done, if it came to that.
Short version: we can’t get rid of the Electoral College, but there’s a lot we can do to minimize the disadvantages it imposes on our mostly-urban voters — if we win big in this year’s election. That’s still the key.
Infidel: You’ve made some persuasive points, and I agree that there’s much that can be done if we win big in a few weeks.
I do think that until we reach the point where there’s less reliance on the swing states, the NPV would be more of an encouragement to vote than a deterrent. Too many people feel now that their votes don’t matter.
With regard to the numbers, in my mind, I wasn’t including California bc I don’t see division of the state as at all feasible. I was focusing on DC and Puerto Rico—two areas where statehood is right for so many reasons apart from any impact on the Electoral College, but where that impact would be small.
If I manage to get reactions to your reservations from the folks at Common Cause and/or the legal scholars who wrote the papers that led to the NPV Interstate Compact, I’ll let you know.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
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You said the magic words: The determination to play hardball. The GOP plays nothing but hardball and the Dems and liberals try to be fair. You are seeing the inevitable consequences of what happens when those philosophies collide.
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Annie, not only do I learn so much from the work you do here, but your astute readers also contribute to my growing understanding, this time of the electoral college. Thank you! And you, too, Joni!
I’m very glad to hear that, Denise. My goal has always been to create a forum where we learn from one another. In this instance, my fellow blogger Infidel has provided some valuable food for thought too (and not for the first time!), raising questions about the NPV that I hope to further research.
We had a similar systemic electoral issue a few years ago in the UK where we had a referendum on whether to switch from the ‘first past the post’ electoral system to one based upon proportional representation. I was in favour but the motion failed. It felt like a lot of people were unwilling to move on from established practice and protocol.
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Here we have something rooted in the Constitution, so that’s a hard change. But it sounds like both your issue and ours involve efforts for greater democracy. The status quo has a strong pull.
I have been hanging back and will not argue, only ask some questions about things that trouble me. Will the progressive left be satisfied with anything less than perpetual control over all three branches of the Federal government? Should the Supreme Court be packed to insure a particular view of the majority in power? Should the Senate be packed with additional states to ensure a “majority majority” that is permanent for practical purposes? Add killing the electoral college and do we have anything other than raw majority power running the entire government with a tectonic shift in store if ever the majority goes the other way?
Presuming that views much like mine are shared by somewhere between 40-55% of the population (depending on the issue, of course) does this mean that my view is inherently less worthwhile than that held by those who disagree with me? Are my views and rights not worth protecting if I am in the minority?
This does not seem to me to be a very durable arrangement. A strong Democratic sweep of the senate which results in adding Democratic senators then packing the supreme court leaves me and others like me with nothing to gain by voting because I and others like me will never have any influence. My take on the Constitution’s design is that it was designed to force compromises so that a majority was not a permanent thing – it was not long ago that Democrats had the Presidency, both houses of Congress and an effective majority on the Supreme Court that resulted in, for example, the Obergefell opinion.
Do people who disagree with you have no right other than to shut up and pay taxes unless we can get a majority and then do the same thing to you? This sounds awfully banana republic to me.
Always happy to discuss with thoughtful conservatives.
The first thing I would point out is that in our government system, as currently organized, the office of president and vp are the only ones in which the candidate with the most votes does not automatically win. Seems to me, if one believes in democracy, that is a fundamental flaw in the system.
Every governor, senator, member of the house of reps, mayor, county clerk, school board member, etc all have one thing in common. They are elected by the people. They get more votes than other people. The majority has spoken and we want this man or woman. This fundamental idea, the people select representatives, is potentially violated only for the office of president. It seems to me to violate the basic principle of democracy. We have come a long way since 1789 when the founding members devised a system designed to maintain power for themselves. We have evolved from the government by aristocracy to government by the people. Slowly. As a student of history you are well aware of how the vote was severely limited in 1789. And how it has been slowly expanded.
Now, one argument I have heard from some is that if the people elected the president by popular vote, that would be some kind of “tyranny of the majority”. I always thought this was a weak argument because there are really 2 options. Either the majority elects the president of the minority does. Isn’t the tyranny of the minority just as dangerous? Or possibly moreso, since the minority is out of step with what the people want. It makes no sense to me to put in power the person to whom the people said: We don’t want you as our leader.
So, belief in democracy aside, let’s look at the practical ramifications of the Electoral College. One issue is that the EC gives more power to rural states. This is because the EC is not based on population, but on representation. (As I explained in my lengthy previous post). So, citizens in states with fewer people have more of a say in who the POTUS will be. A voter in Idaho has more power than one in Florida. This is inherently unfair. Each citizen should have the same say, don’t you think?
A second practical problem with the EC is that it limits the election, practically speaking, to the so-called “swing states”. This effectively disenfranchises citizens in states that are reliably Democrat or Republican. I live in rural NY. NY will end up in the Dem column. My neighbor, who is at this moment flying his Trump flag, is effectively disenfranchised. His vote goes down the tubes. As does the vote of any Dem in South Dakota, for example. There is no reason for candidates to even try to get votes in many of the states. But if we had a popular vote for president, every state would be important. Every vote would count. My neighbor would know that his vote would count toward a total.
In a popular vote system you can be certain that campaigns would no longer pander to just a few states. Every candidate would have to try to appeal to citizens in all the states. They may even visit NY or CA or NE or OK or IL since there is no longer a “winner take all “mentality. My vote and your vote, no matter where you live, would actually count. Many people who feel their vote does not matter (liberals in conservative states and conservatives in liberal states) would have a real incentive to show up and vote. One man one vote and that vote counts the same no matter if you are on a potato farm in Maine, a penthouse on 5th Avenue or a ranch in Colorado.
If democracy is the best form of government we should not hesitate to embrace it. Because we still cling to the formula designed over 230 years ago we are way behind more modern democracies. Eliminating the EC would move us toward a government envisaged by Lincoln: of the people, by the people, for the people.
Joseph, in the post I just released, I point out that the very nature of our democracy is being/has been questioned by Republicans and obviously is now under attack by the president, et al.
Such a sad comment, JP. I will speak only for myself. I don’t buy the “tyranny of the majority” argument, which strikes me as frankly bizarre. I was quite happy–in the days when I was president of my local chapter of the League of Women Voters–with the two-party system. I sat in the rain on many occasions registering voters. I’ve always been a Democrat, but I was uninterested in the party affiliation of those I registered.
Over the past 40 years, I believe the Republican Party has become increasingly extreme, and that has made me become more emphatically partisan. Our founding fathers were smart enough to realize that they could not see all eventualities, and so they inserted the mechanism for amending it in Article V. The amendments that expanded the rights of the public have been in accord with the small d democracy that I thought all Americans cherish, regardless of party.
But that is not the case. The Federalist Society has had what is in my mind an outsized influence in trying to turn back those rights. I can understand differences on tax policies, foreign policy, etc., but I can’t understand how the Republicans can now be accusing the Democrats with packing the courts when they denied President Obama his right to appoint a Supreme Court Justice nine months before the election but are now intent on ramming through the appointment of a woman who has expressed opposition to settled law on several occasions on matters of great importance to large numbers of Americans. Never mind the recorded statements from 2016 by the likes of Lindsey Graham and others that oh, ho, they would never do what they are now doing. In essence, Mitch McConnell has packed the courts.
Thus, at present, with the opportunistic, corrupt, but totally apolitical and immoral man the Republicans have silently watched destroy our country, they will fulfill their dream of a court that is totally out of step with what most Americans want and believe. The Republicans under Mitch McConnell have blocked expenditures for protecting people in dire conditions–people dying, starving, desperate–because they don’t believe government has a role in helping people–only corporations and the super rich.
So with the huge power of the Supreme Court now so firmly entrenched in the far right, I believe that any legitimate thing the Democrats do is fair game to bring this country closer to what the majority wants. The Constitution is silent on the matter of the number of Justices: nine is not a magic number. But increasing the number of justices would not be easy because the Democrats are really a big tent, and some moderates may disagree.
There is a reason the Republican Party has shrunk: it is corrupt and does not serve the needs of the people. Trump just tore back the curtain and revealed it all.
I believe Joe Biden seriously wants to work across the aisle. But I do remember Mitch McConnell saying on Day One that they would make Obama a one-term President. They failed in that, but they made it as difficult as possible for him to get anything through. John Boehner wouldn’t even accept his invitations to come to the White House to meet. Then they pounced on him for exceeding his authority. Thus, their silence over the past four years as trump has broken all norms, enriched himself with criminal cronies that give new meaning to “swamp,” and allowed Putin to call the shots shows a level of hypocrisy that is astonishing. We shall see whether enough Republicans accept Biden’s open hand.
I believe the majority rules and the minority should be protected. I think you would feel comfortable under a Biden administration. I am as frightened as I’ve ever been at what your party has allowed to happen to our country under this abominable, disgraceful man.
I think we can agree that the two parties have become less diverse – but Republicans still have Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, people who can never be counted on to blindly follow a party line. Where are those people on your side of the aisle – maybe other than Joe Manchin?
I think history tells us that there is constant movement in who the parties appeal to and what areas of the country vote for which party. I remember California as solidly Republican electoral votes and the south as solidly Democratic ones. Parties change and electorates change, and time has a way of evening out these phenomena in ways that never puts one party solidly over the other. Remember that Republicans were a nearly permanent minority party in congress from the 30s to the 90s. I think changing the rules to address what you perceive as unfairness is a short sighted approach that is as likely to do long term harm as it is to do good.
I must confess my continuing amazement at the vitriol you have for Trump – who has made no structural changes to government, and your preferred response is to change the structure of the Court and to change number of States and to change long-standing Senate Rules. Remember that it was not Republicans who eliminated the filibuster on judicial nominations. Harry Reid made that move, and then everyone is surprised when it turns around and bites his party. The world is round and momentary advantage has a way of going the other way after awhile.
JP: I will grant you that there are pendulum swings. I understand your unwillingness to acknowledge the changes in your party, which appears so terrified of losing power due to the demographic changes in this country that it has placed all of its energies into packing the courts and none into governing. There is such remarkable animus to the concept that the federal government can play an important role when there is a major national problem that requires timely coordination to save lives and save the economy. That’s why we’re leading the world in deaths, the pandemic is now projected to take 400,000 lives by January, and the Federal Reserve warns that the economy is facing even more dire conditions without a substantial infusion of funds, which the Republicans refuse to consider.
As to my vitriol toward trump, it is nothing compared to what I hear from the former conservative Republicans who form the huge and growing cadre of never trumpers and are trying to figure out whether your party can be saved or needs to be replaced. In truth, I thought that by this time even you would be acknowledging —not necessarily to me—that the man is a disgrace, corrupt as they come, so egomaniacal that he cares not one whit about exposing others to his infection, and an abject failure who has damaged this country in ways that will take us years to recover from—assuming he doesn’t cheat his way into a second term.
Here’s a little article about what a great job he’s doing “ draining the swamp”:
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Jp. Yes, we can agree that the GOP has certainly become less diverse, I would not make the same statement for the Democrats, however. In fact, as the GOP has been shedding old fashioned conservatives the Democrats have been picking them up, as well as younger folks who tend toward more liberal ideals. I attribute this to a great extent to the Trump/McConnell/Tea Party phenomenon that has largely turned the GOP into a religious, rather than political organization.
I think you may be incorrect in your assessment of the Senate and loyalty to party and Trump. Every GOP senator you mentioned were the least likely Republicans to support Trump. )According to the 538 analysis of the last Congress) All of them, however, voted for Trump positions at least 67% of the time, (Romney 81%, Collins 68%, Murkowski 75%). By the same token, there were 6 Democratic Senators who voted with Trump at least 40% of the time ( McCaskill, 45%, Heitcamp 55%, Donnely 54%, Nelson 43%, Manchin 52%, Sinema 52%). So, we see much more independence on the Dem side.
I agree with you that political parties are constantly changing, although very slowly. So the racist Dems of the 1920s-1960s have now joined the GOP. And the anit-war Democratic party of the 1970s has morphed into a more centrist party.
Regarding the rue changes for selecting Supreme Court justices. That rule change was implemented by the GOP Senate in 2017. At that time, McConnell ended the “filibuster rule” which allowed 1/3 of the members to hold up a SCOTUS appointment. That change was made to allow the GOP to shove through any appointment without having to cross the aisle for support. That was not the rule before 2017. There was an agreement that the appointment for life must have at least some support from the minority party. No longer the case.
Regarding Trump and his overt abuse of power (emoluments clause, separation of powers, undermining the electoral process ) will have to wait for another day. It’s time to eat and the ribs smell SOOOO good.
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Thank you, Joseph. I welcome your civics/history of government lessons at any time—though I’m eager to take a break from politics for a while and hope to do so quite soon.
It is interesting that you mention the trump/McConnell/Tea Party as a religious organization, as the titular head of that trio is so totally bereft of any religious, moral, or ethical convictions. Actually, as I point out in my recent post “Expanding the Definition of Pro-Life,” the Republican Party’s positions and actions on a range of issues are being criticized by some Evangelicals and Catholics as the antithesis of “pro-life.”
If the law you mentioned is passed by enough states to get the 270 votes, there is nothing to keep any of these states from repealing the law if they change their minds due to change in demographics or any other reason. The popular vote election of the president would not be safe.
Amending the constitution requires a three fourths or two thirds majority vote. The men who wrote the constitution were afraid of government by a majority vote. Some things they felt should require much more than a fifty per cent plus one vote to change. They did that to help protect the rights of a minority to legal protections afforded by the bill of rights and now the orher amendments which protect rights of all citizens and should not be easily swept away. They wanted a constitutional republic governed by laws which could not be changed without overwhelming support, not a democracy ruled by fifty per cent plus one.
Although I have cooled to the idea of the compact, there are reasons that the Constitution has been amended, as you point out. The founders did not have all the answers, and the Electoral College is a relic of slavery. I am realistic enough to appreciate that it won’t be overturned in the near future, but I do see it as a source of inequity.
And despite your contention about the founders vis-a-vis democracy, Madison said we, the people, have the final say. We are not a pure Athenian democracy, which the founders feared. Rather, we are a representative democracy.
Thank you for your comment.