Following Nebraska's Lead?by Ryan Anderson
I'm talking about a proportional system for awarding electoral votes for president, and apparently I'm not the only one talking. Word has it that such reform is a real possibility for the 2008 presidential election in the states of North Carolina and California, large states with relatively small but significant pockets of red and blue that could fundamentally shift our pathetically static political battlefield:
North Carolina is one step closer to eliminating its winner-take-all method for distributing its 15 electoral votes, a move that would probably help Democrats score again in the state's presidential sweepstakes.....California:
A candidate would get one electoral vote for each congressional district he or she carries. The candidate who wins statewide would take the remaining two votes.
Republicans called the bill politically motivated and a way to attempt to eliminate their stranglehold on electoral votes in the state. House Minority Leader Paul Stam estimated that Democrats could receive three of the state's electoral votes if the new system took effect with the 2008 elections, with the outcome close in two other congressional districts
A Republican-backed ballot proposal could split left-leaning California between the Democratic and GOP nominees, tilting the 2008 presidential election in favor of the Republicans... "If this change is made, it will virtually guarantee that a Republican wins the White House in 2008," [Democratic consultant] Lehane said in an e-mail. Nineteen of the state's 53 congressional districts are represented by Republicans. President Bush carried 22 districts in 2004, while losing the statewide vote by double digits.Little surprise, of course, that the two parties support this plan when it benefits them and oppose it when it doesn't. What with a Republican state Senator in North Carolina decrying "This is a political act" and some liberal bloggers labeling the California initiative an "Attack on Democracy", you'd think there's nothing objective or principled at all about the struggle to make our elections fairer and more representative.
But the truth is the electoral college isn't fair, isn't representative, and isn't serving the best interests of anyone (unless you happen to be a professional political consultant or the head of a major national party). It's an undemocratic institution meant to smooth the transition from colonial monarchy to representative democracy, and after some 200 years of this nonsense it's time for the training wheels to go.
Since there's little hope and even less enthusiasm for amending this problem at the Constitutional level (where it really belongs), our best course of action for now is to embrace the Maine-Nebraska model and incorporate proportionalism into our existing electoral process. Such reform is imperfect and slow, but it's better than doing nothing at all.
Is it fair to ask one party to take an electoral hit (say, in the solid red state of North Carolina, or the Democratic stronghold of California) while waiting on the rest of the nation to maybe/possibly/hopefully follow suit? No, it's not fair. But that's what makes it objective, that's what gives this plan principle.
If we're not willing to forgo short-term political gain for reform that benefits democracy itself, then we don't deserve a party and we certainly don't deserve the presidency.
It's rare to see Nebraska described as a "trendsetter". Here's hoping this case proves an exception.