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December 12, 2016

Comments

I mused a while back about how big a divergence there needed to be between the popular vote winner and the Electoral College before even the winner in that situation agreed something needed to be done. I think I pegged it at 5 or 10 million votes.

But this experience tells me that there is no such number. So, like the Senate, we are stuck with this wholly undemocratic anachronism forever (barring an upheaval on par with the Civil War) because of rules laid down in more than 250 years ago and which, BTW, in the democratic transitions that have occurred in other countries since then no one else has followed.

The only thing I see possibly happening is the "big" states get together and decide that the popular vote winner will get their electoral votes, but I don't see how, e.g., Texas would go that way.

because of rules laid down in more than 250 years ago

Not even. Because a couple of states figured out they could game the rules, and then the other states had to follow suit or get hosed.

The rules laid down more than 250 years do not require our current practice, and the folks who wrote the rules weren't happy about it when the states began allocating electoral votes as we do now.

I don't know how to change this, because it would likely take a Constitutional amendment, but what we have now is not what was intended.

It might be worthwhile to send a letter to as many Trump electors as you can to ask them politely to vote for someone other than Trump. If the electors were to take matters into their own hands, we would probably see a Constitutional amendment pretty quickly. http://directelection.org/

Great summary, russell. Though it's not directly relevant today, I think another aspect of the history of the EC is important to remember for what it says about the "logic" behind the institution.

The voting power of the states was, in the beginning, related not only to the disproportionality between large and small states created by each state having two senators. It was further skewed by the fact that the 3/5 rule counted each (non-voting, of course) slave as 3/5 of a person for purposes of Congressional apportionment. That gave massive extra weight to the slave states both in Congress and in the EC. Five of the first seven presidents were from slave states (4 from VA), and the Mass. Adamses each served only one term.

Population numbers here.

If the EC/popular vote margins of the two parties were switched this election, there would be a YOOOGE push for reform. As it is, crickets.

I wonder if anyone has done the math on allotting electoral votes in proportion to the popular vote in each state, whether on a whole-number or fractional basis. (Consider how poorly the smallest states would approximate their popular vote with only 3 electors if they couldn't split them into fractions. Fractionalizing would imply getting rid of human electors, I suppose.)

Small states would remain more heavily weighted, but it would still more closely reflect the national popular vote. It would be interesting to play with the numbers to see how likely the extra weight given to smaller states would be to put the electoral college into conflict with the popular vote without winner-take-all in place. (Not very, would be my guess. It would have to be a real squeaker with a really wide divide between rural and urban voters.)

To clarify, when I wrote "done the math," I meant specifically with the popular vote in each state in this past election.

hsh: see here.

There has been an argument about this at Balloon Juice, which, in typical BJ fashion, dribbed away (maybe because the posts come so thick and fast it's like having ADD).

Lessig did an op-ed somewhere that (IMO) had a different slant on the topic, but in this -- admittedly long and lawyerly -- article, he is arguing for allocating electors proportionally to the popular vote, *by state.* N.b. *not* by congressional district within each state, as Maine and Nebraska do right now, and as some people have hastily interpreted it.

In the linked article, there's even a map that implies some math for you -- no fractional electors, though.

Thanks, Janie. There's some good stuff at that link, going well beyond just the math.

I disagree Russell, in Clause three its is very specific:

Clause 3: Electors[edit] The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse [sic] by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse [sic] the President. But in chusing [sic] the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse [sic] from them by Ballot the Vice President.

Which affirms that the methods in Clause two are left to the states purposefully but in the event of choosing a President without an electoral college majority each state gets one vote, and a majority of "States" selects the President. I have always been unclear how the plain language in the two clauses can be construed any other way.

This reinforces the underlying assumption of the states prerogative in clause 2 by specifying the equality of states votes in clause 3.

That's interpretive, Marty. The primary electoral method allocates votes based on population (voting or not), while the secondary method allocates votes by state. Asserting that the secondary method should be used to divine an unstated intent inherent within the primary method is more than a little specious.

I disagree Russell

You are correct, there is a provision under which the states directly elect the POTUS.

The Constitution specifies that, if the electoral college vote does not yield a majority, then, when the vote goes to the House, each state gets one vote. So, my claim that there is "nothing" about states choosing the POTUS is incorrect.

The states get to choose the POTUS, via their delegations in the House, if and only if the electoral college fails to yield a majority for any one candidate.

The relevant language at this point actually comes from the 12th A, rather than Article II Section 1, but your point holds.

As far as that implying that the electoral college is intended to be an election by the states, your reading is interesting, but your argument is not with me, but with the sentiments and practices of the folks who actually wrote the Constitution.

That doesn't appear to be what they said or believed, and it wasn't what they did in practice.

The piece from Lessig that JanieM links to brings the constitutional and legal discussion up to date.

I appreciate that folks in low-population states don't like having their interests neglected.

People in high-population states don't, either.

We can either continue doing as we do, in which case the issue will become increasingly problematic as the population differential between urban and rural areas continues to grow.

Or we can figure out something more equitable.

What we do now is bullshit, and it's only likely to get worse.

Or, what NV said at 12:13.

With the added comment that what NV said at 12:13 is consistent with what the folks who actually wrote the Constitution said and did.

"What we do now is bullshit, and it's only likely to get worse."

Only because you didn't like the outcome.

Only because you didn't like the outcome.

Says you.

In every election that I can remember, the country has been divided along the same bullshit culture wars lines.

Real America vs Hippy America.
Silent Majority vs Liberal Elitists.

Etc etc etc.

It's divisive and dysfunctional. Among other things, it utterly disenfranchises all of the conservative people who live in "blue states", and all of the liberal people who live in "red states".

Those folks might was well just stay the hell home. They have no voice whatsoever in selecting the POTUS. None. They don't count.

Contrary to the stupid freaking red state / blue state maps, the range of political views and interests are extremely varied, in every state in the country. There are very conservative people in MA, and there are very liberal people in TX, UT, or whatever red state you like.

Those people are effectively disenfranchised by the winner-take-all electoral college practice.

If you'd like to address that issue, great. If all you want to bring to the table is "you're just bitching because you lost", you can kiss my ass.

Thanks.

I think I pegged it at 5 or 10 million votes.

But this experience tells me that there is no such number.

Ugh, I think that, at least partially, we are looking at a perfect storm. Pick either major party candidate from your lifetime. Your 5-10 million number might well be correct. The thing is, this time we have a candidate we, judging from his (non)reaction to being repeatedly caught lying, simply has no sense of shame. And that experience is coloring your current view.

The only thing I see possibly happening is the "big" states get together and decide that the popular vote winner will get their electoral votes, but I don't see how, e.g., Texas would go that way.

This is basically the national popular vote interstate compact, which I'm surprised more people don't know about:

http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/state-status

The idea is that legislatures individually pass bills that commit them to appointing their state's electors according to the national popular vote, once sufficient other states enter into the same agreement (i.e., 270 EVs worth).

So far, 165 EVs worth of states have passed bills. Another 105 and it goes into effect.

Although all of the states it has currently passed in look 'blue' to me, I think there's often a fair degree of bipartisan support. It has passed some wholly Republican-controlled chambers in the last couple years (e.g., the Arizona house, or the Oklahoma senate).

That kind of makes sense, because it's more about how campaigns work than it is a red/blue thing. The EV system works great if your state is regularly on the 'battleground' map, but if not, you and your state's issues basically get ignored in presidential races. By both parties. A popular vote would totally change that dynamic, so it'd probably be good for the Californias and the Oklahomas alike.

Check the list and call your state reps if it hasn't passed where you're at!

thanks for this, jack

all of the states it has currently passed in look 'blue' to me

Yeah, me too.

Which means that all of the heavy lifting and sacrifice that would be involved would be coming from the "blue" side. I.e., NY CA IL MA etc, which are reliably solidly blue, would probably split their electors between (D) and (R).

I live in MA, I'm glad it passed here, even though it would probably not work out to my advantage in terms of my preferences for outcomes. Because it is, by my understanding, the right thing to do.

Sure, every blue state whose majority is big enough that it could swamp the preferences of three or four red states wants to be in charge. From the other side it's just a coup.

I don't understand why states rights somehow bother those states. Why do they(you) think you should be able to tell people everywhere else how to live?

How do you think that's "the right thing to do".

Almost no one in the states that are red want to do away the individual states rights.

The majority of people in Texas don't want to live in California. Even Democrats. Why would they want the huge margins in California be able to decide how they vote?

Why do they(you) think you should be able to tell people everywhere else how to live?

They would follow the popular vote nationally. If a Republican won the popular vote, those blue states would give all their electoral votes to the Republican, even if their own state went to the Democrat. How is that telling everyone else how to live?

Sure, every blue state whose majority is big enough that it could swamp the preferences of three or four red states wants to be in charge

First, states don't have preferences. People do.

Second, there are a ton of people in TX who would prefer to have Clinton, or basically anybody with a pulse, as POTUS rather than Trump.

Likewise, there are people in MA who would have greeted a HRC Presidency as the end of the world.

Those folks have no voice in selecting the POTUS at all. Their votes are of no account. They might as well have stayed home.

What about their interests?

Third, you seem to profoundly misunderstand both my and jack lecou's comment.

Lastly, why is it better for states with small populations to "impose their values" on states with large populations, rather than the other way around?

Do you somehow think that people in rural areas are the only ones who have to put up with crap in order to try to make this stupid project work?

If folks want to live in TX rather than CA, then by god they should live in TX rather than CA. I do not give a rat's ass. What that has to do with electing the POTUS is beyond me.

I don't understand why states rights somehow bother those states.

The national popular vote interstate compact is an exercise in states' rights, BTW.

I think I misunderstood Marty, now that I'm re-reading. You were referring to proportional allocation of electors, not the interstate compact, right, Marty? If so, never mind and my apologies.

The national popular vote interstate compact is an exercise in states' rights, BTW.

Not the right kind of states' rights, apparently.

I'm still trying to figure out how a state like CA or NY willingly diluting its reliable, 100% solid blue electors is an example of them trying to "be in charge".

This BS is going to be the end of this nation yet.

BTW, this is interesting:

Google also says Instant will be automatically disabled when they can detect that a searcher has a slow internet connection.

Several years old, from here.

And with this I think I'm finished butting my head against a stone wall.

"If folks want to live in TX rather than CA, then by god they should live in TX rather than CA. I do not give a rat's ass. What that has to do with electing the POTUS is beyond me."

Yes. It is clear that it is beyond you. Because you don't feel at risk from the permanent majority in CA imposing every tax, zoning law, gun law, non right to work law and asinine way of living law on you because well, you like that stuff.

It is specious to believe that the left isn't more interested in imposing their rules on everyone than the right is, but it is ludicrous to deny that difference on a state by state basis. Yes CA and MA and NY want to impose their local preferences on the whole country.

Apologies, the comment of mine above is in the wrong thread. I'm still done with that topic. ;-)

I do find it interesting, in this thread, that it's somehow not okay for a larger # of people to "impose their local preferences on the whole country" but it's just dandy for a smaller # of people to do the same thing. Pot, meet kettle.

Almost no one in the states that are red want to do away the individual states rights.

Maybe, but that would have to change if this were to ever work. By my count, it would take at least a few 'off-the-beaten-path' red states -- states like Idaho, Oklahoma, Alabama, etc. -- to reach 270.

I'm assuming that the states least interested in going along with something like this wouldn't be red states, it'd be purple states. The existing system is great for the likes of Ohio and Florida - they each got dozens of visits by candidates. But when was the last time a major candidate held an event in Boise? It wasn't 2016. Even Texas and California only had an event each this year.

The need to run up the vote total nationwide would change that dynamic, and it seems at least some Republican state legislators agree that that might be a good thing (as do I).

"Why do they(you) think you should be able to tell people everywhere else how to live?"

That is an utterly nonsensical objection to this proposal.

What you describe is exactly the situation we have now. A handful of residents in places like Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin effectively get to "tell people everywhere else how to live", while the vote of someone in California or Alabama has almost no effect.

Deciding the election by popular vote instead (however that came to pass) is literally the opposite of that. A vote in Texas would be just as desirable to win as a vote in California.

Yes CA and MA and NY want to impose their local preferences on the whole country.

I know you don't like the mean ol' federal government, Marty, but a relatively small percentage of stuff is decided at the federal level, and an even smaller percentage is decided by the president.

...as do smaller and/or redder states. You feel they should be able to impose their will on us, while arguing that letting them do so via disproportionate federal power is necessary to prevent the blue would-be tyrants wield undemocratic-but-propotional federal power, and that "states' rights" are preserved by smaller states imposing their will on larger states rather than no states being able to impose their will on each other.

Also, what exactly is the principled "states' rights" objection to the interstate voting pact? Jack is absolutely correct that it is an exercise in states' rights.

...add Yes CA and MA and NY want to impose their local preferences on the whole country. and/or @Marty to the start of my comment.

So twenty states get together to take away the rights of the rest of the states and well, its a states rights initiative.

So twenty states get together to take away the rights of the rest of the states and well, its a states rights initiative.

Please describe what right is being taken away.

Well, forget this, then:


I think I misunderstood Marty, now that I'm re-reading. You were referring to proportional allocation of electors, not the interstate compact, right, Marty? If so, never mind and my apologies.

Posted by: hairshirthedonist | December 12, 2016 at 02:34 PM

What I wrote before the above stands.

So twenty states get together to take away the rights of the rest of the states and well, its a states rights initiative.

I only if you completely mischaracterize it.

Yes CA and MA and NY want to impose their local preferences on the whole country.

And vice versa. So screw you too, right?

Right now people with traditional conservative values rely on gerrymandering, disproportionate representation in the Senate, and the f***ed up approach we take to the Electoral College to avoid having "other people's values imposed on them".

That's not a good position to be in. The demographic trends are, overwhelmingly, against them.

Maybe they want to figure out a way to work things out other than throwing wrenches in the works.

There are a hell of a lot of people getting sick of it.

It is specious to believe that the left isn't more interested in imposing their rules on everyone than the right is

Like hell it is.

Personally, I don't care what people in TX do as far as guns, zoning laws, taxes, right to work, or whatever. I really do not give a crap. Just keep it out of my state.

See? States' rights.

I don't really know what the people in CA want.

I do know that stupid culture wars BS has delivered us one Donald J Trump as POTUS, which is likely to freaking break the country.

So you are by god right that I'm pissed off about that.

But as far as the electoral thing goes, I am in favor of allocating electors in a way that aligns with the popular vote on a state by state basis.

That still gives rural states an advantage, because they get an electoral count that is equal to their representation in Congress.

If they end up splitting those electors because the popular vote in their state is mixed, then that is appropriate, because *the people in that state* would have voted that way.

If they have three electors and one third of the voters voted blue, then one elector votes blue and two vote red.

If one third of the people vote red, then one elector votes red and two blue.

How the hell is that unfair?

If it turns out that *more people in the country, regardless of where they live, prefer to vote blue*, then we will have a (D) POTUS. If more prefer to vote red, then we will have a (R) POTUS.

The point being that the representation of the people in government should reflect the people themselves. That's what republican governance is.

Why are the values of all of the people in small states who don't happen to be in the majority in their state unimportant?

Why are the values of all of the people in LARGE states who don't happen to be in the majority in their state unimportant?

So are we arguing about splitting electoral votes of each state in proportion to the popular vote in each state, or are we arguing about the interstate compact? Or are we arguing about both at the same time? Which one is Marty (more) opposed to?

Both at the same time.

Marty can speak for himself.

"Electors or not, the POTUS should be elected by a process that reflects the will of the population. Not the states."

It's worth remembering that this is impossible, in the limit where the two-party system breaks down and nobody comes close to a majority. So before you go charging off into something like the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, remember that it's a first-past-the-post voting system. You can wind up electing presidents with tiny pluralities if there are lots of viable candidates. If the goal is to best reflect the will of the people, that seems like a terrible idea.

If what you're really looking for is the "will of the people" (hopefully in some form that's stable enough to withstand a nasty tweet storm), then perhaps you'd do better by figuring out how to coax the two-party system into a less pathological mode where it didn't wind up selecting for extreme candidates. Focusing on the Electoral College, which is far downstream from the real problem, seems kinda silly. Instead, maybe implementing things like ranked choice voting (aka instant runoff) in the primary system would come a lot closer to reflecting the will of the people--and would probably produce better candidates, to boot.

So twenty states get together to take away the rights of the rest of the states and well, its a states rights initiative.

Does each one of those states have the right to select their electors as they please, or not?

If you say they don't have the right to chose their own electors, you're denying them a right currently reserved for the states by the Constitution, and you have zero credibility in claiming to be advocating states' rights.

If you say they do, then why is their exercising that right rather than allowing other states to extra-constitutionally dictate how they select their electors an affront to the concept of states' rights?

Your objection to the compact is not based on states' rights. Your objection is to majority rule. Those two concepts are not interchangable by any stretch of the imagination.

To follow NV, I'm repeating this:

Why do they(you) think you should be able to tell people everywhere else how to live?

They would follow the popular vote nationally. If a Republican won the popular vote, those blue states would give all their electoral votes to the Republican, even if their own state went to the Democrat. How is that telling everyone else how to live?

TRM, you objection to the compact is based on what seems to be an unlikely scenario. To wit:

...in the limit where the two-party system breaks down and nobody comes close to a majority.

(...)

You can wind up electing presidents with tiny pluralities if there are lots of viable candidates.

And this one, while I'm not opposed to it, is something for the parties to decide (and not mutually exclusive with the compact):

Instead, maybe implementing things like ranked choice voting (aka instant runoff) in the primary system would come a lot closer to reflecting the will of the people--and would probably produce better candidates, to boot.

You can wind up electing presidents with tiny pluralities if there are lots of viable candidates.

That's a problem we don't currently have, though, so I'm not sure it's a good argument against trying to solve a problem we actually do seem to have (at least in 2 of the last 5 elections).

And while I agree the two-party stranglehold is a problem, it's mostly orthogonal to this one. I'm not sure a popular vote-based outcome would change the party dynamics much either way (campaign dynamics, yes, party dynamics, no).

In the short term, it would probably reduce the popularity of marginal third party candidates -- there would no longer be 'safe' states where residents could feel more free to cast protest votes. (And that wouldn't hurt the argument for proportional voting at all.)

Nor would this really be worse than the current system. If we ever did have an election so balkanized that, say, the Libertarians were leading the pack with 5.6% of the vote, the decision would currently just get punted to the House.

Instead, maybe implementing things like ranked choice voting (aka instant runoff) in the primary system would come a lot closer to reflecting the will of the people--and would probably produce better candidates, to boot.

I agree, except for the word "instead". There's really no reason not to push for both.

So twenty states get together to take away the rights of the rest of the states and well, its a states rights initiative.

Please describe what right is being taken away.

Have you had time to think about this yet, Marty? It looks like NV is curious about your answer as well.

Several good points, I object most to a national popular vote.

The, new to me, idea that electors would get selected by the National vote is equally terrifying, someone mentioned my distaste for majority rule and that's true in this case. California ballot initiative process is a good example of how many challenges there are with that.

Other issues I have include there are not as many national Republicans or Democrats as people envision. Most Texas Democrats would certainly be Massachusetts or California Republicans.

The concept that the swing states get too much attention is problematic for me,
they seem to represent those that are disenfranchised in other states giving them some voice.

Demographics nationally certainly work against Republicans, but again, CA and NY have plenty of votes to spare and in the microsecond that the Democrats were in charge they passed more federal legislation to take away states rights since lbj.

So yes all of the above. I would be less concerned about allocation of electoral votes within a state, if they chose that, but it certainly would significantly increase the divisive nature of elections and almost certainly mean we would never have another Republican president. So no I wouldn't like it.

HSH, I agree that the primary reforms are orthogonal to the EC issues. But since all of this is the most egregious form of mental masturbation in the first place, it hardly matters.

I do think it's worth considering whether something like the NPVIC strengthens or weakens two-party politics. I like to decompose political tactics into three broad categories:

1) Ideological politics: Advocacy based on a theory of government.

2) Interest politics: Advocacy based on working to achieve specific outcomes on specific issues.

3) Identity politics: Advocacy based on protecting and/or promoting a group.

These are ranked roughly in order of effectiveness, with ideology being least effective and identity being most effective.

Interest politics tend to be local, and would therefore be weakened the most by NPVIC. Identity politics are often regional, and would be weakened somewhat. Ideological politics are in principle not affected by geographic factors but in practice are filtered through the same kinds of regional effects as identity politics.

The thing is, party power is dispensed through the promotion and demotion of interests. Since interest politics is the most local of the three types, it will be weakened the most by NPVIC. That in turn will weaken the two-party system.

Given that both parties are closer to fracturing than at any time in the last 150 years, it's probably a good time to rethink whether the two-party system is a net positive or negative force in American politics. How you decide that question ought to have a big impact on what you think about the Electoral College and systems like NPVIC.

it certainly would significantly increase the divisive nature of elections and almost certainly mean we would never have another Republican president.

It's hard to imagine how the divisive nature of elections could be increased significantly. I guess we could all get in fist-fights and shoot at each other.

In any case, I'm not seeing how letting states split their electors makes that any better or worse. I'm talking about the more modest proposal here, not the popular election one.

In any case, if it meant we wouldn't have a (R) POTUS, that would be because a sufficient number of *people* wanted one. So much so that it would even overwhelm the natural electoral advantage that rural states, which tend to lean conservative.

Were that to be so, why the hell should we have a (R) POTUS?

No reasonable tweak to the election system that preserves any substantial vestige of democracy will guarantee that we never have another Republican president, or another Democratic president. Each party already gets nearly half of the electorate in recent elections. Surely the shift in positions, candidates or circumstances that would allow either to win a given election is relatively subtle.

Now, a conservative might not like what a Republican candidate would have to do going forward to win the popular vote, or an electoral system with a different allocation of votes. But George W. Bush actually got a (hair-thin) popular majority as recently as 2004, so this isn't inconceivable.

I like the diagram at the bottom of this Wikipedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_elections_by_popular_vote_margin

Clearly, at least since the emergence of the Democratic and Republican parties, there are powerful restoring forces that keep the major parties adjusting to appeal to about half of the voting population. A sixty-forty split is the kind of historic whomping that turns almost the whole electoral map one color. When one party does even worse than that, it's usually because of a major third-party or independent candidate.

Each party already gets nearly half of the electorate in recent elections.

Yes, that is my take as well.

And I agree, if a candidate for POTUS had to win something more like the popular vote, and something less like edging out a win in a small handful of "swing" states, (R) candidates might be less hard-line conservative.

And (D)'s might be less hard-line liberal, for that matter.

Perhaps candidates for POTUS would represent something like whatever the sweet spot is, somewhere in the middle of all of that.

Folks can still vote in whatever unreconstructed hard-liners they want for the House and Senate. And for their state and local folks.

russell Look, not to be difficult, but everything you've written, demographic shifts, R's would need to move left etc. Is all about a President you agree with having veto power over the legislative agenda. It is not "the right thing to do" it is the right thing to make sure your side is at least in charge of one of the branches.

If demographics were not on your side in the coastal enclaves this would be a bad idea.

As for divisiveness, subject 45 states to the executive rule of 5 permanently and our current divisiveness will seem like a church social.

Is all about a President you agree with having veto power over the legislative agenda.

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, that seems to be where you are coming from.

You think all of the people in CA want to come to wherever it is you are and make you do things you don't want to do, so you want to make sure there is some kind of built-in political impediment to that happening.

Where I'm coming from is having the POTUS be elected by something resembling the population as a whole. That's all. Because, unlike the folks in the House and the Senate, there is one and only POTUS for the whole country. So that person should not be selected by a small number of people in a handful of swing states.

Wherever that lands, I'm happy to live with. I make no assumption that doing it "my way" is going to create a result I'll approve of. I like my Senators and my House Rep, there are probably a small - very small - handful of other people holding national office that have views that I think maybe resemble mine.

Other than that I don't expect anybody holding a national office to think like me, because I'm an outlier. I don't expect it, and I've never been disappointed.

Sorry to be getting back to this late.

Marty: It is clear that it is beyond you. Because you don't feel at risk from the permanent majority in CA imposing every tax, zoning law, gun law, non right to work law and asinine way of living law on you because well

I note with interest that every one of these is something that is a local, rather than Federal, issue -- per the Constitution as of the last time I read it. Changing how the POTUS is elected would have zero impact . . . no matter which side of the issue got a President whose views agreed with them on those issues.

The guy elected President may be either a great fan or a staunch opponent of rent control laws. (Which are a bad way to actually deal with an arguably real problem IMO.) But his position as President will give him, zero influence over those places which are considering them.

Marty feels at risk. Maybe he can explain why.

Why does Marty feel at risk. Only look at how the popular vote has gone the last half dozen elections.

If you selectively forget how it went in the 1970s and 1980s, you can see a very real risk. At least if you assume that the immediate past is the best predictor of the future. In 1985, a liberal Democrat could have felt the same way . . . and with equally little accuracy as to the future of Presidential elections.

"Marty feels at risk. Maybe he can explain why."

Isn't it OBVIOUS?1??

Obama just barely missed out on gay-marrying Marty to an ISIS terrist, while forcing him to decorate the cake also, too.

Really, such tyrannical acts just take the cake, amirite?

Several good points, I object most to a national popular vote.

Let's take 'em one by one:

The, new to me, idea that electors would get selected by the National vote is equally terrifying, someone mentioned my distaste for majority rule and that's true in this case. California ballot initiative process is a good example of how many challenges there are with that.

Well, technically, electors already get selected by popular vote, at least since 1860, when South Carolina was the last state to stop picking them in the state legislature. You're not making it entirely clear why a national popular vote should be any more terrifying.

(And yeah, I'm as skeptical of direct democracy (ballot initiatives) as anyone, but this is not that. The President is an executive, not a ballot initiative.)

Other issues I have include there are not as many national Republicans or Democrats as people envision. Most Texas Democrats would certainly be Massachusetts or California Republicans.

It's undoubtedly true that party lines are somewhat relative, and depend on local politics. I'm not quite sure what the objection is, though.

At the end of the day, the President holds a national office, and a Texas (or Oklahoma) Democrat is free to cast their vote for a California Republican if they're running and that's who they like best. Or not.

The only difference is whether their vote will actually mean something to the outcome.

The concept that the swing states get too much attention is problematic for me,
they seem to represent those that are disenfranchised in other states giving them some voice.

Again, I'm a bit baffled. You're saying that people who are ignored and disenfranchised shouldn't be enfranchised because they're represented by swing state voters?

Maybe, maybe not, but it's not much of an argument against just letting people in all states have a voice of their own, and giving candidates incentive seek them out wherever they are.

Also, this seems to contradict the previous. As you correctly pointed out, there's a lot of local differences between party lines and voter attitude from state to state. Yet what determines 'battleground state' status is basically just whether those local idiosyncratic party identifications shake out to be closely in balance or relatively skewed. That's basically accidental. It's local, historically contingent, and has a great deal of persistence from election to election and decade to decade.

None of that suggests that there's likely to be a good correlation between how evenly divided a state's presidential vote is and how in tune they are with the actual issues facing the nation as a whole.

Nor is there reason to believe that, for example, disgruntled former factory workers in Alabama or California (who don't get to have a voice) are being adequately represented by disgruntled factory workers in Michigan (who do). Their issues are probably, you know, local, and different.

Nevermind people whose issues have nothing to do with being disgruntled former factory workers. Are you really prepared to say that every national issue of any importance is well-represented by swing voters in either the rustbelt or the not-so-deep south?

Again, why not just let people nationwide be heard for themselves?

Demographics nationally certainly work against Republicans, but again, CA and NY have plenty of votes to spare and in the microsecond that the Democrats were in charge they passed more federal legislation to take away states rights since lbj.

Basically you're opposed to letting the majority be heard, because the guys they elect might actually work to enact the platform that gets them elected.

Which is, I guess, an ethos.

But I suspect you're also being a bit too pessimistic. The Republicans did have a 3 million vote presidential majority as recently as 2004. There are a lot of votes in California and New York, but remember that not all of them are Democratic. Republican voters are effectively disenfranchised there, at least for pres. races. A national popular vote makes their voices count too. Heck, Trump is on record as wanting to give it a try.

That would change the dynamics totally, yes. Among other things, it means a Republican candidate would have to appeal to and turn out potential supporters in all states -- purple, red, and blue. Would they have to change their strategy and platform a bit? Likely so. They'd probably have to make the latter, you know, a little more representative of the (changing) country as a whole.

But you should be for that.

I mean, I get that you want your guys to win, but what's the better way to do that, ethics-wise, statesmanship-wise, and long-term success-wise: A) keep hoping you can prop up the party's growing lack of appeal by ramping up the divisiveness and leaning harder and harder on anti-democratic institutions, or B) grow to where the country is and try to win on the merits?

So yes all of the above. I would be less concerned about allocation of electoral votes within a state, if they chose that, but it certainly would significantly increase the divisive nature of elections and almost certainly mean we would never have another Republican president. So no I wouldn't like it.

See above - I doubt either of those things are likely.

As for divisiveness, subject 45 states to the executive rule of 5 permanently and our current divisiveness will seem like a church social.

This might be true if you ignore, as russell has stated at least once, that there are both Democrats and Republicans in every state. And if you live in a majority-Republican (or -Democratic) state, you still have legislators at both the state and federal levels as well as a governor (and all the county and municpal offices, more locally) to vote for completely independently from other states.

[T]here is one and only POTUS for the whole country. So that person should not be selected by a small number of people in a handful of swing states.

This.

No matter what, there are always going to be a lot of people who disagree with everyone else's choice of POTUS as well as the choices of the presiding POTUS.

Until a President manages to unambiguously defend us from unambiguously hostile and nasty-looking alien invasion by punching the nasty-looking aliens right in the face on live television (and social network livestream), and then follows it up by personally visiting everyone and buying them a beverage and/or frozen treat of their choice while warmly and unoffensively complementing them on their taste in fashion, music, literature or sports team, 100% approval is right out. Probably not even then.

But it really doesn't seem like it's beyond the pale to propose that, all else equal, it's probably better if we pick the one chosen by, say, 48% of voters rather than pick the one chosen by only 46%...

Why is a state-wide popular vote an acceptable way to elect a governor? I live in less-populated South Jersey. I want my vote to be weighted more heavily than someone in more-populated North Jersey. Waaaahhh!!!

@jack lecou:

"That's a problem we don't currently have, though, so I'm not sure it's a good argument against trying to solve a problem we actually do seem to have (at least in 2 of the last 5 elections)."

This seems like a "something is wrong, therefore we must do something even if we don't know if it is better or worse than the current thing" kind of argument. And the premise that something actually is wrong is open for debate, even before you get to the wisdom of doing some specific thing.

Look, the "popular vote" is illusory, or at the very least it's not an expression of the will of the people. There's a reason why voting theory exists as a non-trivial area of study. All voting systems ultimately sharpen the will of the voters down to choosing a particular candidate, and all of them have various pathological conditions. Absent compelling evidence that there's something inherently better about choosing a president via first-past-the-post popular plurality than there is by state-by-state majority, I'd recommend not changing anything.

Which of course is exactly what's going to happen.

"In the short term, it would probably reduce the popularity of marginal third party candidates -- there would no longer be 'safe' states where residents could feel more free to cast protest votes."
I suspect that the short-term is shorter than you might think. Parties have power because they can horse-trade at the national level to dispense favors to local constituencies. That all goes away with a campaign that's based solely on the popular vote.

This stuff is all incredibly delicate, and simple changes have unobvious results. Remember how eliminating earmarks was a no-brainer to reduce corruption, and then it wound up driving party extremism because the leadership couldn't keep the members in line through judicious distribution of pork?

My guess is that election by popular vote at the very least makes populist candidates more viable, and less beholden to state party apparatus. That's almost certainly a bad thing.

"...the decision would currently just get punted to the House."

Under something like the NPVIC, nothing ever gets punted to the House, because the candidate with the largest national plurality wins a majority of electoral votes--end of story.

R's would need to move left

Of course Marty feels at risk. If you (generic) don't want to give up anything, everything you have is going to seem at risk. In fact, it's going to feel so much at risk that you'd elect someone whose campaign goes against values you profess to hold that you claim are more important than anything else ( frex), because of the possibility that you might have to give something up. (though Marty is still 'on the fence', as he says)

That metaphor that Sebastian pointed to, about people cutting in line, is all about this. If it is about your place in line, it's always going to be at risk if people start suggesting that it's not.

It seems to me that the heart of this boils down to whether you'd rather have a system that finds a consensus or a system in which your side gets to win. It's pretty clear that the Rs have come down hard on the "get to win" side for fear of being, as Marty says, "swamped" by the majority (that quaint notion that some call "democracy").

And Marty can talk about TX fighting a brave holding action against CA all he wants, but the truth is that TX is heading towards going both urban and blue. When TX flips the fallout across the board on all the social issues for which the states rights people are comfortable being a winning minority will be epic because those people have been entirely uninterested in being fair, compromising, or on building anything like a consensus.

If the culture warriors were serious about building a system in which their preferences were protected from a disagreeing majority they'd be looking for some sort of consociational state, but that would mean admitting that they were both a minority and an identity group.

Good luck with that.

Off topic, but a bunch of groups are pressuring various companies not to participate in a Muslim registry.

Yes, this link is to the Intercept. And yes, anyone interested in resisting Trump might want to consider reading it. I will have to see if there is some petition the average person could sign. Failing that, I will look into these groups and see which ones I might want to give money.

https://theintercept.com/2016/12/12/following-intercept-report-22-organizations-urge-tech-firms-to-reject-muslim-registry/

Poor Marty, He will miss Social Security and Medicare,

Register as a Muslim, Donald, if that happens. Until January 20, resist the Inauguration. There are ways to do that. Those ways are on topic, I've linked to one means.

When the Inauguration arrives, the game will be changed. It will be nice to sign petitions, but who will care, really? There will be a reichstag fire, and all will be chaos. Trump is already playing with China, and I am praying (for the sake of people I love who lives there), that it doesn't boil into a war. Maybe a nuclear war, because Chinese leaders are "hardliners" and Trump doesn't like people who are as stubborn as him.

There's a great deal to worry about, Donald. You might want to quit posting Greenwald's rag. He's also a Putin puppet (Edward Snowden, the useful idiot is his mainstay), and although I'm sure that there are some pearls in there somewhere, they're probably already mixed with swine scat.

I have thought of registering as a Muslim if it comes to that. But we can also try to prevent it from coming to that.

On the intercept, I trust them, G included, a hell of a lot more than most mainstream Democrats. And I don't think our powers of resistance all vanish in January, assuming Trump takes office.

I agree about China, or anyway I worry about that. I forgot to read it, but there was a NYT story, I think, which said Bob Dole had something to do with the Taiwan call.

"That's a problem we don't currently have, though, so I'm not sure it's a good argument against trying to solve a problem we actually do seem to have (at least in 2 of the last 5 elections)."

This seems like a "something is wrong, therefore we must do something even if we don't know if it is better or worse than the current thing" kind of argument.

Umm. No, it's the kind of argument that says saying "X won't work to fix actual situation Y because X won't help in completely hypothetical situation Z that hasn't obtained in over 200 years of history and would have a pretty perverse outcome under the status quo anyway" isn't the best argument. Because it's not.

And the premise that something actually is wrong is open for debate, even before you get to the wisdom of doing some specific thing.

Look, the "popular vote" is illusory, or at the very least it's not an expression of the will of the people. There's a reason why voting theory exists as a non-trivial area of study. All voting systems ultimately sharpen the will of the voters down to choosing a particular candidate, and all of them have various pathological conditions. Absent compelling evidence that there's something inherently better about choosing a president via first-past-the-post popular plurality than there is by state-by-state majority, I'd recommend not changing anything.

This is a somewhat better argument. Somewhat.

The fact is, there are good reasons to favor at least some kind of national vote (and it needn't be FPP), over a winner-takes-each-state system.

More than 90% of the campaign happens in about a dozen states. That means 30-odd states, and their citizens and issues, get essentially zero attention by either the candidates or the media. There is no incentive to listen or pay attention to them, because the overall outcome in those states is given, and votes, at least below a certain large threshold of swing, literally don't count.

That is actually unusually pathological, even as voting theory goes. And it's not like this is an unusual corner case that comes up once or twice a century. This is every single election.

Which of course is exactly what's going to happen.

If it were a constitutional amendment, I'd be with you there. I think I'd give this thing about even odds though. It's still alive, anyway.

My guess is that election by popular vote at the very least makes populist candidates more viable, and less beholden to state party apparatus. That's almost certainly a bad thing.

The need to campaign and GOTV strongly in 50 states rather than 12 seems like it would make party apparatus stronger rather than weaker, but I'm curious to know if you can flesh that out more.

I certainly agree it would change things, I just don't think those changes are necessarily huge or bad, or especially, that they would necessarily lead to a total fracturing of the party system and Joe the Plumber taking office with 4% of the vote or whatever. You're arguments so far there have been a little opaque to me.

Under something like the NPVIC, nothing ever gets punted to the House, because the candidate with the largest national plurality wins a majority of electoral votes--end of story.

Yes. I understand that.

You were saying that NPVIC gives a seemingly weird outcome in an alternate universe where there are 25 viable parties and the most popular has 5% of the vote or something. Namely, a candidate wins with only 5% of the vote.

I am saying that that isn't much of an argument because you'd get a pretty weird outcome in that universe regardless. The possibilities are: a) this 5% candidate maintains that slim lead in enough states to get 270 and wins; b) some other party with only 4.5% of the popular vote makes a better showing in the EC and gets to 270 for the win; or c) nobody gets to 270 and the House just picks someone - probably the guy with 5%.

I think you're trying to argue that a popular vote would create that fracturing, but I really don't see it. Nor are there obvious examples out there in the world. Take Brazil and Mexico, for example, which have presidential systems, elected by popular vote. They both have a couple more parties than the US, but the totals for the top two aren't crazy low. (Even taking just first round totals for Brazil, which has proportional voting.)

Ian Welsh on China. Straying far off topic now, so I will post this and just go back to lurk mode. The discussion about the EC is interesting, but I have nothing to contribute.

http://www.ianwelsh.net/the-trump-china-showdown-aligns-with-reality/

I said it before, and I'll say it again, that if this year, the electors don't vote for Trump (unlikely, but why not try), people will examine the electoral college in a different way.

Other than that, we're just pissing in the wind, because the same people who won this election oppose the abolition of the electoral college. On the other hand, if the electors actually are "faithless", maybe we can look at the institution as being a check.

I doubt that will happen. The states select a slate of electors from the party that won, so my guess is that very entrenched Republican electors will be representing Trump. Some have indicated some dissent though, so wouldn't that be something.

Ian Welsh is an idiot, and not a China expert. So do lurk, and try to keep on topic, Donald.

"Why does Marty feel at risk. Only look at how the popular vote has gone the last half dozen elections."

I guess my question is what is it Marty feels at risk of.

"the premise that something actually is wrong is open for debate"

President Donald J Trump

I rest my case.

President Donald J Trump

Praying, sending positive vibes, having high hopes, that somehow, some way, the electors make that not happen. That would be so brave. So American. So lovely.

I'd have to look at the Ian Walsh article more closely, but sapient, if you want a vacation from the blog, just keep it up.

Funny, lj. Donald constantly is off-topic, and posts many off-topic posts in succession, but you're totally okay with that. I do it? Not okay.

You can ban someone you agree with, and who agrees with you. Fine. Give more voice to fascist collaborators. I'm finding other stuff to do.

And Ian Walsh has a long history at Firedoglake, a blog I loved in the early days of the Bush administration, but which went off the rails. I'm pretty sure that most of those folks are Greenwald sycophants now, as is Donald.

But, Donald is Christian, and a good man. And a fascist collaborator.

Yes, I'll vacate.

meanwhile, Trump has decided to postpone the press conference in which he will explain how he plans to structure his relationship to his businesses.

he's too busy to do it now.

and all the folks who were disturbed by the "pay for access" grift at the Clinton foundation will be pleased to know that Ivanka Trump is selling coffee dates for $50K.

in other news, Mitch McConnell is walking back Trump's promises of a massive infrastructure program.

what the hell is the upside for Trump supporters?


Good heavens.

I've read the thread, including all of Donald and sapient's comments.

I see no grounds for kickbanning either, nor do I see that Donald's topic-switching hase done any damage to the discussion.

I read Ian Walsh's standalone blog for many years, but deleted the link in exasperation sometime within the last year.

No worries about Donald being banned, joel hanes.

Please, I seriously doubt anyone is going to be banned.

Meanwhile, can we discuss the OP? I just got here!

Davebo, keep up!

What do you think?

You wait OVER TWO HUNDRED YEARS for the Electoral College to be useful for protecting the nation from an objectively unsuitable candidate in the pocket of a foreign power...and there's a good chance that they just can't be arsed.

Pull their accreditation and kick 'em out of the NCAA, I say.

Well sapient I think a reasonable compromise is to proportionally award EC votes based on the popular vote but it seems that's non-starter.

In the spirit of getting things done perhaps a compromise can be found along the lines of winner takes 65% of the EC votes or his/her proportional win whichever is higher.

Honestly, I'm not sure which is why I enjoyed reading this discussion.

What would be really nice would be for Donald to answer russell's question (and comment) at 8:37. But Donald just uses this blog as a public place to post his private diary and links.

Donald, instead of trolling, why don't you actually engage with people?

Well sapient I think a reasonable compromise is to proportionally award EC votes based on the popular vote but it seems that's non-starter.

Davebo, but wouldn't it be so cool if, this year, the electors would actually look at the problem here. Putin.

Evan McMullin is someone who is courageous, and a patriot. I don't agree with his policy positions in almost any way. If the electoral college would actually assert their independence in light of the popular vote being against Republicans - if they voted for him, I would still be inspired. In that case i would think the EC had a legitimate role.

This idea that the dynamics of the parties would drastically change if we went to either proportional elector assignment or national popular vote for the presidency seems a little overstated. There are still, again, legislators at the state and federal levels to be elected, governors to be elected, and county and municipal elections to be held. The method by which those people are elected would be entirely unaffected by changing how we elect the president.

I'm not saying it wouldn't change things at all as far as parties go, but it's not the only damned thing the parties are concerned with. It's not a sweeping change to everything the parties do. It would change some of the dynamics of how the parties approach presidential elections. Neither proposal is some wild idea. One is more democratic than what we do now. The other even moreso.

I will never understand why a guy like McMullen could get no traction.

I probably agree with him on, optimistically, 10% of his positions. and I would have no problem with him as POTUS. more executive experience would be good, but he seems like a straight shooter.

FWIW

yeah, electors do your duty. the situation in hand *is exactly why the institution was created*.

I am not holding my breath.

Yes sapient, that would indeed be cool. And also almost a disastrous as what we currently face.

Let's be realistic. Any change, unlikely as it is, would apply to future elections not this one.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't push for change, just that one should have realistic expectations.

Let's be realistic. Any change, unlikely as it is, would apply to future elections not this one.

Honestly, I'm waking up in the morning as if I've suffered a death. I don't honestly think we'll have another election. It will be an "election" at best. We have a narrow window IMO, or it will be many years. That's 1 and 2 in order of optimism, then there's 3, which we won't see.

Try to keep calm sapient. Don't panic till the "stuff" hit's the fan. Then fight against it.

I have no doubt it will be pretty horrible but I won't loose sleep until the horrible starts. I'll need the energy.

Thanks, Davebo. That's what the kids say, and I try to keep them optimistic. Don't worry, I'll fight. I have little to lose. Don't want to be tortured though - can't see that I'm going to do well under those circumstances,

I didn't live under the "knock at the door". But my father flew a fighter jet over Normandy, before D Day and after. Most of Europe lived under that for quite awhile. Asia through horrors then and since then. We've lived under their legacy of US Peace for a very long time. We're on our own now.

I can assure you that your father didn't fly a fighter jet over Normandy!

But it would have been really cool if he had!

Right, it was just a little plane. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_P-47_Thunderbolt

And he was even more cool than if he'd flown a jet.

But it would have been really cool if he had!

What's cooler still is that he taught me to fight fascists. And I will. Every single day, I'm doing something. And after the inauguration, I will continue to fight, but it will be harder then, and will require skills that I haven't yet learned.

if it comes to it, maybe check these guys out.

http://canvasopedia.org

the principals were involved in overthrowing milosevic, so they speak from hard won experience.

we have had over 200 years of mostly stable, mostly peaceful governance and transfers of power. that's actually quite unusual. I think we take it for granted.

it's also relatively fragile, and to a larger extent than we might think depends on mutual agreement to respect and abide by certain norms.

many of which are, in fact, at risk, now.

so, it may be useful to know how other folks have dealt with negative situations.

the principals were involved in overthrowing milosevic

Thanks for this, russell. I'm seeing some friends of mine from Bosnia tomorrow. They know.

Good to have an online resource.

"Right, it was just a little plane."

Thunderbolts were and still are way cool!

Single seat, big meat as we used to say of our A-7's in Navair.

Thanks, Davebo. Wish he were around to say hello!

Don't know if you saw it this Sunday morning sapient but this was touching to me re WWII vets appreciated.

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/one-students-special-military-operation/

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