Thursday, August 11, 2011

RNC Supports Constitution, Electoral College

The twentieth century Progressives managed to advance the cause of direct democracy by open confrontation. They pushed the cause of direct election of United States Senators, thereby diminishing the power of the states to have their own deliberative body to counter-balance the "people's" House of temporary majorities. But they did so up-front, and passed the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Their twenty-first century successors are far more reticent about taking their case directly to the people over another attack on the independent power of the states. Direct democracy advocates now want to end-run the Constitutional provision of election of the President by the states as set forth in Article II. That impediment to direct democracy is the Electoral College. A number of states have entered into interstate compacts which would require that a given state's electoral votes must be given to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote, regardless of how that state's voters actually voted.

That is not only an attack on the balance the Founders set up between the whole people and the sovereign states, but it is also questionably democratic. If the people of State A vote for Candidate X, but the other interstate compact states B, C, D and E vote for Candidate Y, how is it democratic to nullify the votes of the people of State A by giving their electoral votes to the candidate who lost the vote in State A?

Over the past century, there have been multiple attempts to amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College. All have failed, most at very early stages. "The Electoral College is anti-democratic," say the abolitionists. Well, no, it isn't. It is anti-direct democracy. The state electors are selected based on which candidate wins that state. In some states, the electors are bound completely by the will of the majority of the state's voters ("winner take all"), in others proportional electors or "individual conscience" are permitted by state statute. None of these methods conflict with the basic constitutional mandate of election of the President by the states, subject to the rules and will of the people who vote in the respective states and the final vote in the Electoral College.

The Founders believed a true republic could survive only if there were balances between the big cities and the rural areas, the populous states and the sparsely-populated states, the will of the whole people and the independence of the states. The Electoral College was a product of that balancing process. On rare occasion, the votes of the Electoral College resulted in the candidate with the smaller number of popular votes winning the presidential election. But it also means that the votes of the people of each individual state went to the candidate who won in that state.

As an opponent of direct democracy, a believer in the wisdom of the Founders, a fan of republican balance between the will of the people and the independence of the states, and an oppressed Californian, I must dolefully report that California has recently joined the direct democracy movement as it relates to election of the President. The largest single bloc of electoral votes could now conceivably go to the candidate who lost the popular vote in the state. At least that's true if the compact is finally approved by other interested states and survives a constitutional test at the United States Supreme Court.

To its eternal credit, the RNC last week loudly denounced this latest stealth attack on our republican form of government. Would it be redundant to say that the republic was supported by the Republicans? The "progressive" attempt to thwart the clear intention of the Constitution is commonly called the National Popular Vote initiative. With the exception of one RNC member who voted "present," the entire RNC opposed the initiative.

So many members of the Committee were adamantly opposed to the initiative that the leaders had to limit time for speeches to ten minutes per member. Most addressed the issue first, then the fact that pro-initiative types had been reporting that Republicans in the state legislatures were leaning toward support of the initiative. The speakers were not happy campers, and there were dozens of them. There was also a rumor that at least 20 members of the voting RNC were in favor of the initiative.

Prior to the meeting, RNC member Saul Anuzis of Michigan had expressed tepid support for the initiative, along with a small group of his companions. Anuzis and the others quickly realized that they were about to be singled out for direct attack, and modified their positions before the speeches. Anuzis later told reporters that the small group changed their position because they were not willing to take any hits for something they didn't care that much about in the first place. It had become apparent that their opponents cared a great deal.

Anuzis remained unrepentant, however. Rather than take a principled (if incorrect) position on the initiative, he raced for a plane out of town while concluding his public remarks by saying that "[the initiative] is now on everyone's radar and that's good." In other words, as soon as he gets to a place of apparent safety and finds himself in a much less tenuous minority, he will semi-renounce his vote and lukewarmly support the initiative for some inexplicable political gain.

Historically, I should point out that here in California, the first subtle move to undermine the Electoral College happened decades back. When I first proudly cast my vote at age 22 (18 year olds weren't allowed to vote yet), the ballot required the voter to vote for the "Electors pledged to Lyndon Johnson" or "Electors pledged to Barry Goldwater." Today, the ballot doesn't mention Electors at all. Cast your vote directly for a candidate.

40 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

I did an article on this some time ago, maybe a year ago, when Taxachussettes signed up to this. That was the first time I'd heard of this because the MSM is very quiet about this. And it struck me as crappy then and it strikes me as crappy now.

I think all the liberal states will keep signing up for this until they realize in 2013 that had this been in place, they would have given Perry the biggest blowout win since Reagan v. Mondale. Then, like all liberal ideas that backfire, they will reconsider.

Tennessee Jed said...

I had not been aware of this one, Hawk so I thank you for "putting it in my radar" so to speak. The notion of the end run is chilling although I was used to seeing the plaintiff's bar think of ways to dream up new theories of liability and undermine contractual language in my working career.

I'll admit I wasn't completely clear on how they planned to engineer the whole interstate compact thing

ArmChairGeneral said...

That sign alone should be the reason people do not get elected.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

Isn't this canard trotted out when ever it looks like a Democrat can win with the popular vote but lose the Electoral College? Isn't this the same group who wants to make DC into a state with Senators and a Representative?

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Not much has changed, except that the numbers among token Republicans seems to be growing, and California has now formally entered the picture. Shall I say I was less than shocked when the Democratic legislature handed the bill to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and he signed it?

If this chimera actually goes into effect (and there are triggers besides the total vote), I think Democrats may find themselves remembering that they should be careful what they wish for.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: Yep, they're trying to sneak in through the back door what they've never been able to walk through the front door. Frankly, the thing I'm most impressed with is that the average American is not fooled by the "one man, one vote," "ain't direct democracy great?" baloney. The most common comment I've heard from people otherwise in favor of direct democracy is "it sounds good, but I'd rather stick with the way the Founders already set it up." They might not entirely understand why, but they have the general concept right.

LawHawkRFD said...

ACG: I think we should steal a motto from Texas: "Don't mess with the Constitution."

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: That is historically right on the money. They love the popular vote, unless they lose.

The irony is that they want the popular votes of DC because they love the majority so much, and that's so fair. But how is it fair if California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois et al only have 2 Senators and the Dependency of Columbia also has 2 Senators? That's a bit undemocratic, isn't it? Or is their next move to abolish the undemocratic Senate?

T-Rav said...

I wonder sometimes if we should give these people demanding a full democracy a lesson in what that actually entails. "Ever heard of the Athenian democrats, guys? No? Sound awesome, huh? Well, here's what they did, and how it worked out for them..."

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: Aw, c'mon. How many of these people have ever heard of Athens (except for the ones who are trying to follow the economic model of modern Greece)?

rlaWTX said...

T-Rav -- see, you're trying to educate folks who don't CARE! stop that! it'll make your head explode!

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: We could carry this to its logical extreme. Change Article II entirely. Make it a direct vote for the President, then conduct the vote on the internet, and include a recall provision. That way, if we didn't like the way the President was conducting the nation's affairs after a week or two, we could recall him or her and get a new one right away.

Does the expression "the will of temporary majorities" now seem even more apt?

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: We could even put this in the form of a quiz.

1. Name one nation which has ever survived direct democracy for more than twenty-five years.

2. Name one city-state which has survived direct democracy for more than a hundred years.

We know it's a trick question--but do they?

patti said...

i haven't heard ONE word on this. thanks for the read and the edumacation.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I say we take it one step further. Have all registered voters get Facebook accounts, then see how many "Likes" and "Dislikes" the president gets. If the former are more numerous, he gets reelected; if not, he doesn't. Seems pretty foolproof to me.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: You're welcome. Can you think of a reason why you might not have heard about this latest development? The MSM, perhaps? Stealth circumventions of the Constitution are not something they want headlines on.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: That's an even better idea.

BTW: Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Democratic National Committee?

BevfromNYC said...

"Make it a direct vote for the President, then conduct the vote on the internet, and include a recall provision. That way, if we didn't like the way the President was conducting the nation's affairs after a week or two, we could recall him or her and get a new one right away."

You Pansies! Why not just execute them after two weeks? Why bother with a recall at all. Let's go all Ancient Greece on their...hmmmmm, uuuuuh...if anyone is listening in...I am just kidding...hah-hah {{laughs nervously}}

T-Rav said...

rla, yeah I guess I should stop risking that. I can't stain the carpet like that again. :-)

BevfromNYC said...

T-Rav - I never said I LIKED kats. LawHawk is right. They are shifty.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I just hope she accepts that logic. :-)

By the way, there's another GOP debate tonight at 9 ET. Yeah, who knew, right? I'll be following along on a few live blogs, because I'm a glutton for punishment or something, and if anything interesting happens I'll mention it afterwards. It could be interesting, because with the Ames poll in two days, Pawlenty may well be finished if he doesn't make some kind of an impression. So will he finally go after his fellow candidates (specifically Bachmann)? We'll see...

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I've been watching the debates. It's gotten a little testy a couple of times, and I think that's a good thing.

Anybody who wants to comment here on the debates should feel free to do so. Love to hear what you all think.

Joel Farnham said...

T-Rav,

That's interesting. Associated Press seems to think that Bachman and Perry won. So, Romney wasn't challenged?

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: It is apparent that the candidates were being advised to differentiate themselves from the other candidates since they all agree that Obama's a loser. I don't know how effective that will turn out to be, but it certainly makes logical sense. And I agree. So far, Romney is stealing the show, and the rest are letting him do it. At least Pawlenty didn't back down from his comparison of the Romney and Obama health care plans.

The gay marriage/civil unions thing was interesting, and I like knowing where the candidates stand. But it doesn't really stand as a major issue in the upcoming election. Ditto for abortion.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: That makes a bit more sense. I would agree that Romney and Bachmann seemed to be in the forefront, but I personally wouldn't give anybody a clear victory so far. Gingrich was really on fire, but it was more sizzle than steak.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk (and Joel), to be clear, I'm viewing live feeds about the debate, not the debate itself. So that's where I'm getting my info. From what I can tell, Romney's been challenged some, but no one's gone after him in earnest, and he's naturally a suave enough guy he can brush some of it off. Bachmann and Pawlenty were getting a lot of criticism for going after each other more than after Romney, which I think is more damaging for Pawlenty since he has more to lose. And the others had their good and bad moments.

T-Rav said...

I will say this about Ron Paul, though: When it came time for foreign policy, he stated that we should normalize relations with Cuba, and strongly implied that it's no big deal if Iran gets nuclear weapons, because that's their right as a nation. This is why I am not a libertarian.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: If AP based their opinion solely on leaked closing remarks from the candidates, I would agree that Romney and Bachmann were the best. I think a lot of Pawlenty, but I also think this may have been his Waterloo (oops, double-entendre). Unless I'm wrong, he's not going to pick up the votes he needs in the Ames Iowa straw poll, and he needed to some in no worse than second or third.

I also think Hunstsman shot himself in the foot by strongly advocating for gay unions. It's one thing to say "let the states decide" (which several candidates did), but it's quite another to advocate gay unions to a moderate to conservative electorate. I think Romney and Bachmann both strengthened their positions, the others remained neutral, while Pawlenty and Hunstsman lost support. But we'll see.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I can't find much to disagree with. And I sadly agree that Pawlenty hurt himself more than he helped.

Joel Farnham said...

LawHawk,

I trust Associated Press very little. About the same level as Yahoo News.

The only interesting part in this is that there is ONE whole year and a little less than four months prior to the Presidential Election. At what point will it be necessary for us to choose?

Also, none of them cause the opposition, namely Obama, to break into a sweat. Even Perry isn't doing anything, and he is getting into the race this Saturday. Which Palin is crashing the Iowa on Friday. The hijinks off the official field are far more interesting.

Palin has already hulled Perry. Only he doesn't know it yet.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: Isolationist fortress America didn't work on December 7, 1941, it didn't work on September 11, 2011, and it won't work now. The reality is that we are overextended and need to let a lot of industrialized western nations take care of themselves and pay for their own defense. But it is simply unrealistic to think we can withdraw to our own borders and let the rest of the world do whatever it pleases. Paul is just plain wrong in that thinking.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joel: I think the answer to your question is the time will be when one of the candidates emerges as a clear conservative front-runner that we can all support one way or another. That hasn't happened yet, but at least this time we're not quickly deciding "whose turn is it." The more this goes on, the clearer the picture we get of each candidate. I am old enough to remember when the clear winner wasn't known even by the end of the first day of the nominating convention. I'm in no hurry. I'd rather do it right than do it fast.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, clever incorporation of Waterloo. Although I've been pulling for Bachmann somewhat (for totally subjective reasons), I do like Pawlenty and thought he had the potential to be perhaps the strongest contender in the field. His loss may turn out to be ours as well, though I hope not. But my guess is he won't make the top three at Ames on Saturday and his campaign will gradually fizzle out. And I have no idea who he would endorse after that (though I do have a good guess who he won't).

I agree with your overall assessment of winners and losers, except to say that Huntsman didn't really lose support. It's kind of hard to lose something you don't have.

T-Rav said...

Joel, just brace yourself. This will continue for six more months at least. We'll see the field winnowed down quite a bit over time, but it'll still be a fight between two or three candidates to the end. Perry (or Bachmann, if she keeps up her support) will win Iowa, then Romney will win New Hampshire, then Perry/Bachmann will win South Carolina, etc. Whether he ends up getting the nomination or not, Romney unfortunately won't be going anywhere any time soon, so it'll undoubtedly be him vs. a Tea Party candidate, if nothing else.

And I realize I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I'll say it again: they HAVE to start hitting Romney hard. Not just on the issues, though of course that's important, but on this notion that he's "the most electable candidate." No, he's not, unless you let him be. Pawlenty, Bachmann, Perry, anyone else whose campaigns might possibly read this, get in Mitt's face and ask him how he can represent a conservative alternative to Obama when he endorsed government-run health care. How Democrat-lite has been working out for us in recent elections. All of that. If you want to beat him, you have to do that.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: On Huntsman, good point. He blew another issue as well. His personal business employed 5,000 employees, but most of them were in China. When asked how that helps American workers and job creation, he just babbled about what a good company it was and how proud he was of it. Instead of addressing issues directly, he simply said how proud he was of whatever he had done as governor or ambassador that loosely related to that particular issue.

Joel Farnham said...

T-Rav,

Don't worry about Romney. He has only traction with the Media. Like Huntsman, he will be unimpressive against Perry.

I am waiting for the week of August 29, 2011. Until then, none of these people are even in the running. Yes, they say they are, but they really aren't.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav and Joel: I agree that at this point a true conservative candidate can only win the nomination by bumping off Romney. That means a two-pronged attack. First, hit Obama. Second, hit Romney. Bonus points for making Romney appear to be Obama-Lite. That won't be easy in the public debates because he is an experienced politician, nearly unflappable, always totally prepared, articulate, and smooth. That doesn't make him a good presidential nominee, but it does make him a formidable candidate.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I agree about Romney's potential. The reasons we can't stand him are the reasons a lot of Beltway Republicans love him and will do everything they can to give him the nomination over a better candidate. And if the Tea Party can't coalesce around a single alternative, Romney could easily win by default.

So Joel, I would be very cautious about saying Romney's done. Keep in mind, four years ago Obama's hideously far-left record, plus his lack of experience and radical connections, was more than enough to rule him out as a serious contender. Except it didn't.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, I would say that the problems with Ron Paul go beyond the fact that we're not the only nation on earth. I think these statements reflect his basic frame of mind. He has an extremely ideological position, in the sense that he thinks reality will bend to reflect his theory, rather than the other way around. If only we adopt an isolationist, hands-off approach, all these problems overseas will resolve themselves and those hostile peoples won't have us to kick around any longer. That's not how it works. In fact, this is my real criticism of libertarianism--it may be a more appealing ism to those of us on the Right, but it's still an ism, in the same way that socialism is an ism. That is, it's not so much about interpreting how the world does work as it is about proclaiming how the world should/will work. You can see it in social issues too: 'If we decriminalize drugs and prostitution and so on, the stigma of those behaviors will go away and they won't have negative consequences anymore.' That's not rational in any way; but it seems to be how Ron Paul thinks. That's why he's a bad candidate.

(Sorry to be bashing libertarianism so much, people that call themselves libertarians.)

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: The true believer can live in a world that doesn't exist. Genuine, doctrinaire, movement libertarians (as opposed to the Libertarian Party, which is much more flexible) are true believers. All true believers scare me a little. Like Islamists or Progressives.

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