A movement to reform the Electoral College and elect the president based on the national popular vote has half the states it needs.
Republican Senator Mitch McConnell calls it “absurd and dangerous.” The Wall Street Journalsays it deserves to “die.” The Heritage Foundation calls it “unconstitutional.” The Washington Post calls it “flawed.” A Republican National Committee resolutionsays it is a radical, un-American, “questionable legal maneuver.”
It is awarding the presidency to the candidate who wins the most votes.
“The United States is not a democracy and shouldn’t be,” said Michael Munger, Duke University’s Political Science Department chairman and a 2008 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate attacking it at a League of Women Voters forum. “There is NO moral force in the majority. It is just what most people happen to think.”
These right-wingers are truly worried that a plan reforming the way the president-electing Electoral College works is gaining legal ground and could bring the biggest change in the political landscape in decades. The National Popular Vote plan would replace the current system, in which states award Electoral College delegates to whomever wins the presidential vote in that state, with a new interstate agreement where a participating state’s delegates would be bound to the national popular vote winner.
In other words, as soon as states with a total of 270 Electoral College delegates sign on—and they are halfway there—presidential elections where one state swayed the outcome, such as Ohio in 2004 and Florida in 2000, would be no more.
“It is born from a frustration of a system that is inherently broken, a system that allots two-thirds to three-fourths of resources in a presidential campaign in the last six or seven weeks to six states. That isn’t democracy,” said Pam Wilmot, Common Cause’s National Popular Vote coordinator. “We cannot and should not have a small number of states deciding the outcome of presidential elections for the rest of us.”
The idea that voters across the country—not just in politically split battleground states—would elect the president scares the Republican Party and arch conservatives on so many levels. It would upend the way candidates and political parties and consultants now work to retain their power and influence. It would force presidential nominees and parties to campaign in more racially diverse states, more cities and suburbs, addressing those communities and their concerns.
“We need to kill it in the cradle before it grows up,” McConnell told a Heritage Foundation audience last December.
Right-wingers say these changes are terrible, and not just because they might empower Democrats and relegate the GOP as it now exists to history’s dustbin. But even worse, they say this is a constitutional coup because the founders’ great insight was that some branches of the government—such as the presidency and Senate—had to be set apart from the passions of majority opinion and the tyranny of mob rule.
“It is a completely faulty intellectual argument,” said NPV founder, Stanford University’s John Koza. “It is oblivious to the fact that the mob rules now. In the first presidential election, only five states let people vote for president. And many of the founders, like Alexander Hamilton in New York, were very happy that the people did not vote for president. But it was left up to the states if people voted for president, and now 100 percent of the states let people vote for president.”
“So if you are against mob rule, you are against what we have now,” he continued. “The mob is Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, which dominate presidential elections. The question is whether there is some virtue in having the mob in 35 states ignored in preference to the mobs in 15 states. It is a completely silly argument.”
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