The Washington State Legislature has indulged itself in a greater than usual measure of foolishness this session. And considering its history, that’s quite an achievement. The “Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative,” would encourage tearing up roads in eastern Washington and a bizarre land use law would force development to arrange itself around light rail systems that few people care to ride. Ammunition serialization? Don’t get me started. But the worst of all the ideas that the legislature has cooked up this year is a law that would require the state to award all of its electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote nationwide.
Democrats still have not gotten over losing the 2000 presidential election. They imagined vote fraud and blamed the Supreme Court for calling a halt to Democrat legal shenanigans in Florida. But most of all, they blamed the Electoral College. Al Gore won the popular vote that year by a fairly wide margin, but George W. Bush won in the Electoral College. Al Gore whined afterwards that he had always thought that the candidate with the most votes won elections, proving that all his family’s tobacco and oil money could not buy him a good education.
Immediately afterward, Democrats vowed to abolish the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton promised that she would introduce legislation to that effect, proving that she had apparently never read the Constitution that she took an oath to uphold. Unanimous votes in both houses of Congress and a presidential signature cannot abolish the Electoral College. That would require amending the Constitution, Considering that more than a quarter of the states enjoy a disproportionate representation in the Electoral College, they would never agree to surrender to a nationwide popular vote. Without the Electoral College, presidential candidates would never visit Idaho or Wyoming. It wouldn’t be worth the jet fuel.
Understanding this, the Electoral College abolitionists took a new tack. They set out to convince individual states to disenfranchise their own citizens’ power to choose their electors and to surrender that power to a nationwide popular vote. Senator Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland introduced the law and the Senate sent it on to the House in an almost straight party-line vote. Had this law been in force in 2004, Washington’s electors would have had to cast their votes for George Bush.
The irony of this is that such a law would diminish the power of any individual vote, particularly those of minorities. By dividing the nation into 51 electoral units, the Electoral College increases the value of each individual vote, making it unwise for a candidate to ignore any minority, be it a racial minority or a demographic minority, such as rural voters, or a religious minority, such as Mormons. Because no candidate can afford to toss away electoral votes by ignoring 10 or 15% of the state’s voters, candidates must at least pretend to care about the voters in every state. Why do you think that Barack Obama came to Boise and declared himself a champion of the Second Amendment? Idaho’s 4 electoral votes could make a difference in November. Why do candidates travel to New York, Seattle or San Francisco and declare their commitment to gay rights? Because that three percent of the population could swing more than 40% of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency in a close election.
John Kerry’s awkward attempt to endear himself to Ohio hunters may have cost him the election in 2004. He could hardly have sounded more condescending when he walked into that convenience store and asked, “Can I get me a huntin’ license here?”
The current demographic battleground is the Hispanic vote. As such, we have Spanish translation debates. And while pandering for the identity vote rarely yields wise policy, at least it makes every minority important enough to be considered and not marginalized.
And this is what makes the Democratic Party’s embrace of this anti-minority crusade so ironic. If the country were ever so foolish as to abolish the Electoral College, it would essentially discourage the kind of tribal politics that that party relies upon.
It’s not surprising that these politicians are failing to consider subtleties like this all the way through. These mediocre people would never consider small issues if not for the Electoral College. So don’t expect a thoughtful debate. It’s all about 2000.