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CURMUDGEONRY
The Electoral College, Archaic and Corrupt
In the hands of political strategists, that is.

by Barnabas
September 15, 2004

Corruption: The act of changing, or of being changed, for the worse; departure from what is pure, simple, or correct; as, a corruption of style; corruption in language. —Webster, 1913 

Archaic: so extremely old as seeming to belong to an earlier period.
 
Free Dictionary.Com

“The two campaigns already have conceded between them a total of 30 states. If Bush's base states are combined with the battlegrounds leaning toward him, he starts with 217 electoral votes. Kerry's base and leaners total 207. The challenge for both candidates is finding the best combination of the remaining states. The 10 states considered the most competitive account for 114 electoral votes. To win, Kerry would need 63 of the 114. His advisers say that despite their problems, they like their chances.” 
Dan Balz, "Size of Battleground May Be Smaller Than Expected," Washington Post, Sunday, September 12, 2004.

I happen to live in one of those ten states. If you live in one of the thirty “conceded” states, too bad. Why should the candidates waste time and money on you? Next time around, if you want to remain a player in the presidential race, don’t be so dependable and loyal. They still come around to see us, though, because we’re not dependable and loyal. They get their pictures taken locally. Their campaign strategists have dutifully consulted their Ouija boards, tea leaves, and whatever else latter-day soothsayers use, and have told them how much of the moon to promise us. So they tell us, hoping to win our votes.

Thus it is that the campaign for leadership of the free world becomes a local one. Unemployment in Akron or the price of milk in Wisconsin figures large in the outcome. It is not that the candidates care about their promises; they care only whether we believe them. In a truly national campaign, national candidates would try to make the unemployed worker in the city care about the farmer getting a fair price for his product, and the farmer to care about city laborers who can’t support their families.

How different a presidential election would be if the electoral college did not exist! Then the mind of every individual voter in the country would be a contested battleground right up until election day. But now, if you live in a state where the majority of voters are certain to go in one direction, your vote for the other side counts for zilch. That’s how Al Gore could get more votes than George Bush in 2000 and still not be President.

Thomas Jefferson hated the electoral college, but Alexander Hamilton, who believed that fewer “informed” people should choose the President and Vice-president, carried the day. In the late 1700’s, there was a certain practicality to Hamilton's idea; the nation outside the cities was mainly frontier then, with limited education, no mass communication, and tedious land transportation.

Obviously, the original use and intent of the electoral college has disappeared. It became obsolete with the invention of the telegraph, absurd when the railroads spanned the continent, and ridiculous with the advent of global satellite communication. Bright seventh-graders who watch CNN have more facts at their fingertips than the electoral college had in 1792.

If the college were structured to reflect the actual will of the people, it would be no more than a harmless anachronism. But it is not structured that way. And because it is not, it has become a means by which political strategists may ignore millions of votes in states “safe” for their candidates, and remains a possible way to subvert the will of the majority.



About the Author:
Barnabas hopes that this election will prove to be the worst in the nation's history. He doesn't believe that the nation could survive a worse one.


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