The Electoral College
I've changed my mind on this--it's got to go.
I know the arguments in favor of it--without it, small states will be ignored in favor of large urban areas with easy access to advertising, blah blah blah. I don't care anymore. We need to go to a direct election of the President, complete with a runoff if no one gets 50%+1 of the vote. None of this tossing it to the House if we don't go for more than 50%. Sure, it will be a major overhaul of the Constitution to make it happen, but hell, the religious nutjobs in this country want to enshrine homophobia in the Constitution, so what's a little direct election among enemies?
So what's brought this on? After all, if we'd had a direct election system in place for the November election, all the Ohio recounts in the world wouldn't make a bit of difference, right?
But it would. First off--if we're talking about direct election of the President, then the ruckus over electronic voting would be a much larger issue. It wouldn't be dismissed as a Florida thing, or a conspiracy theory thing. Everyone with the slightest bit of distrust for the government--and that encompasses a large part of the voters on both sides--would be clamoring for transparency and an auditable paper trail. Go visit the Free Republic if you want to see government fueled paranoia run amok--they make the Black Box Voting people look like staid academics.
Secondly, the country has changed so much since the institution of the Electoral College in terms of communication technology that keeping with that antiquated system makes no sense whatsoever. I can read about politics--indepth--on my cell phone. I did it today while I was at work. I can keep up with current events in a way I couldn't have imagined ten years ago when I was selling cell phones at Sears--the kind with a bag and shoulder strap. Politicians who want to get me their message have more options and more avenues than I can even think of, and I'm a poor guy, financially speaking. So why should I take part in a system where my vote, because I live in a "safe state" (God, how I hate that term now) is symbolically valuable, but practically meaningless?
But here's the biggest reason I want to get rid of the electoral college. As long as the electoral college exists, political professionals will continue to divide up the country as though it's some oversized game of Risk, parceling out safe states to the two big players, and skirmishing over the swing states in order to control the country. Neither of the big parties wants to change the system, because they both know that if the dice roll comes out for them, they can win for a while. The Ed Gillespies and Bob Shrums of the world count on that for their electoral strategies--narrow the field and concentrate your forces on a precious few. Well fuck that.
I don't want forces concentrated on a narrow segment of the population--I want the largest possible population speaking out and being spoken to. I want the Republican candidate coming to California to rally the meager troops here and I want the Democratic candidate going to Texas and Alabama and Louisiana to let the progressives there know that they aren't forgotten. I'm tired of being taken for granted. I want to be fought over, damnit. I'm worth that much.
Okay, I'll admit it--there's one more reason. The fact is that if we have a direct election, more emphasis will be paid to urban areas because they're easiest to advertise to and they offer the most bang for the buck in terms of votes. But would that be a bad thing? Look at the studies about red states vs. blue states in terms of tax dollars paid in and received. The biggest welfare states are the red states with sparse populations. The biggest paying states are blue states with large urban populations. If the electoral system changed, and the cities were more important politically, then suddenly both parties would be more interested in social justice and the problems with crumbling infrastructure. It wouldn't matter which party did it, in my opinion--as long as it happens, I don't care if it comes from a person with an R or a D next to his or her name.
What the demolition of the Electoral College would primarily do is take power away from the political professionals and would transfer it to the people at the bottom, to the 50% of wage earners who make less than $30,000 a year, because suddenly their votes would matter a whole hell of a lot more than they do now.And that, my friends, is precisely why it'll never happen.
Still, a guy can dream, can't he?