Author Topic: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System  (Read 4693 times)

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Offline sunrisevt

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #45 on: November 15, 2016, 04:02:34 PM »
Well, as Trump is going to #draintheswamp, the monied interests won't be involved so we can surely have a pure democratic process, right?


Right?

Whay are you laughing so loud?

I LOL'd.

So, if you want to upend the system that has created the most stable form of governance in the history of civilization - one far that has indisputably been more effective at consistently and peacefully transitioning power from one party to the next than any parliamentary setup - it shouldn't be on the back of an emotional plea of "we were robbed" following a difficult campaign.

Would you raise the same objection to Republicans who attempt to do away with the filibuster in the coming years?

Absolutely. I believe I have a post somewhere around here about why it was a mistake for Dems to be changing the rules when they were going down that road in '13.

I'll admit I will probably enjoy some guilty pleasure in watching the flip from "do-nothing, obstructionist Republicans" to "virtuous, conscientious objecting Dems," but I think you'll find that I will oppose President Trump (gross) and his merry-men in Congress at least as much as I did the Big O. I mean, his entire NatSec/Defense team is getting the ole W band back together. And John Bolton in the running for State? JOHN FUCKING NEVER MET A WAR HE DID'NT LOVE BOLTON.

Fuck that shit.

Yep, no surprises there.
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Offline ytowndan

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #46 on: November 15, 2016, 04:06:06 PM »
The argument that big metro areas will decide "for the rest of us" is a flawed one. 

For starters, the top 100 cities combined only represent ~19% of the American population.  So that's out of the question.  And if you want to use the vague term of a "metro area" then your number can be greater than 80% of the population.  That hurts the argument, too.  Because, at that point, you're basically saying, "everyone will decide for everyone!" 

But, most importantly, population dispersion is irrelevant.  The only "area" that matters in a national election is the nation itself, where everyone's vote counts equally -- from Bay Area conservatives to Wyoming lefties
« Last Edit: November 15, 2016, 04:09:27 PM by ytowndan »
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Offline VDB

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #47 on: November 15, 2016, 04:17:47 PM »
All right, here we go. :cracks knuckles:

I'll go out of order here, if you don't mind.

So, if you want to upend the system that has created the most stable form of governance in the history of civilization - one far that has indisputably been more effective at consistently and peacefully transitioning power from one party to the next than any parliamentary setup - it shouldn't be on the back of an emotional plea of "we were robbed" following a difficult campaign.

I argue against the Electoral College every time we vote for president, and was doing it this time around well before the ballots were tallied. It just happens that most people only tend to pay attention to (or write about) the issue when we get this outcome. And sometimes -- call it our limited attention span or our naïveté or a "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality -- it takes a substantial event to shock people into action on an issue. See Dylan Roof and the Confederate flag down here in South Cack. So no, I don't think "now's not the time" to talk about the EC. It's the perfect time.

Furthermore, although I would have rather seen a Clinton win over a Trump win, she wasn't my preferred candidate, so to me this is most assuredly not about justice for Hillary.


And it certainly shouldn't be under the guise of "that's racist" as implied by the Vox article. That shit never works out well.

Well, you're confusing "the EC was created to benefit slave states" with "the EC is racist." The EC is not racist; it lacks sentience and affect and other human traits. As a thing, the EC does not regard presidential options and make value judgments about them (more on that later). Like you, I'm wary of casually slinging charges of racism about, especially when it relieves me of having to more deeply understand an issue or phenomenon at play. Similarly, though, we should avoid the easy temptation to dismiss an argument on the grounds that it makes unfounded accusations of racism, when that's not what the argument actually is.


Take a look at the map below.

Yeah, pretty wild. But acreage doesn't get to vote; people do. The map exercise is academic.

If we had a country where, I don't know, 90 percent of the population lived in large cities, would an EC proponent still say "I don't think those city slickers should get to call all the shots"? So what if people live in cities? People live where they choose to live.


Allowing the president to be decided by the major metropolitan areas and no where else would be a kick in the nuts

And I find it to be a kick in the nuts that my vote is reliably changed to an R before it goes up into the EC tally. Just as I imagine a Republican or independent living in Los Angeles doesn't appreciate her vote not being counted in the EC tally.

If an argument for the EC is that dissolving it would marginalize the voters in Montana and Alaska, my response is that it already marginalizes a far greater sum of people than the populations of our smaller, rural states. So every four years Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio get to pick the president, but if you live in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Oklahoma City or any of a million other places, go fuck yourself? Great. Super fair.

Look, I'm amenable to cases for federalism, I really am. And not because I think Alabamans should get to kick around the gays, but because I believe that the more local an action or decision is, the more effective and important it often is as well, and that's worth preserving. (So, yeah, I also realize that federalism cuts both ways. Dammit, life would be so much easier if only I saw everything in black and white.)

But unlike, say, the Senate and how we amend the Constitution (collectively, "S&C" for short), I don't see the EC as being this great bulwark against tyranny of the majority as proponents seem to think it is. Whereas S&C are set up to favor supermajorities (so as to prevent small states from being trampled upon), the EC has no such preference. Indeed, not only does the EC not care whether a candidate gets a really, really big majority of the popular vote, it doesn't care if he or she gets a majority at all. So that seems to have nothing to do with -- if not be completely at odds with -- the notion that sometimes a bare majority isn't enough because we don't want it to be that easy for a losing faction to get trod over.

Consider also that in the case of S&C, you have humans deliberating on the options and a narrow minority is able to stand athwart an outcome if they deem it really bad enough. It's not as though the opposite version of the bill or amendment is automatically passed -- what you get is no action at all. Sorry, majority, sweeten your offer and try again. In the case of the EC, however, we get an outcome no matter what. So that's not an intentional method for keeping the wheels of government from moving at a reckless pace like S&C are; it's just a quirky way to give a minority of voters a win over a majority.


Also the EC (along with the Senate) provides an incentive for the federal government to consider policies that work for the entire country

I think the Vox article pointed this out, but direct popular voting would actually incentivize candidates to take their case to the entire population as opposed to just a few swing states. Again, I say the EC marginalizes far more people today than the abolishment of the EC would next time around. Besides, once presidents get elected they act like the partisans they are without respect to the electoral map that put them in office. They do not represent geographic interests once they hit the Oval.


Now, I'm sympathetic to the "one person, one vote" view that the EC treats a person's vote in Nebraska to be worth more than one in New York.

This is kind of the main thrust of the anti-EC argument, yet I see you don't even address it beyond being "sympathetic" to it.


But if California voters feel like their vote is somehow "less" than someone in South Dakota, maybe they should consider their place in our union and whether or not they want to reevaluate that relationship

Well that's a little drastic, don't you think? That's the "if you don't like it, get the fuck out of the country" response. Actually, Americans have always been well within their rights to argue about how they want their country to be assembled and run. How else would we make any progress on anything?


Finally, one of the greatest logical fallacies practiced by proponents is that the election would have worked out EXACTLY the same in a popular voting system.

See, to me this might be the laziest of the arguments in favor of (or, at least, against being against) the EC. "Well, no one knows for sure if the outcome would have been different, so let's all pipe down." I'm not even interested in claiming that Al Gore or Hillary Clinton would have definitely won a direct election. But guess what's the only way to find out? And it'd still be worth it, for all the reasons outlined.


Lastly, I'll close with this quote from Thomas Jefferson, which has always been a favorite of mine:

Quote
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.



(edit: Accidentally wrote "majority" where I meant "minority" in one place; fixed.)
« Last Edit: November 15, 2016, 05:26:58 PM by VDB »
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Offline sunrisevt

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #48 on: November 15, 2016, 04:51:57 PM »
 :clap:
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Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #49 on: November 15, 2016, 05:03:30 PM »
The argument that big metro areas will decide "for the rest of us" is a flawed one. 

For starters, the top 100 cities combined only represent ~19% of the American population.  So that's out of the question.  And if you want to use the vague term of a "metro area" then your number can be greater than 80% of the population.  That hurts the argument, too.  Because, at that point, you're basically saying, "everyone will decide for everyone!" 

But, most importantly, population dispersion is irrelevant.  The only "area" that matters in a national election is the nation itself, where everyone's vote counts equally -- from Bay Area conservatives to Wyoming lefties

That's not really the argument, although maybe I should have said "dominated by large metro areas" instead of "decided by."

Like I said, I am sympathetic to the "one person/one vote" POV. But when I weigh the cost/benefit of changing a system that by and large has been perfectly consistent for all of our nation's history (53 for 58 where the EC got it "right"), I just don't see a compelling case. But more importantly, the thrust of my argument in favor of EC is that it affords a more holistic representation of this country's diverse views and provides the proper alignment of the federal gov'ts positioning vis-a-vis the states. YMMV

VDB - I'll take a closer looksie at your reply on the train on the way home, but I think I said most of what I have on this (although that never stopped me before). However, I will note (in case there was any confusion) that I was referring to the royal "YOU" and not you as in VDB, the Constitution hating mouthbreather. :wink:

Offline slslbs

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #50 on: November 15, 2016, 05:13:33 PM »
I'm gonna side with VDB (and the majority here) on this one.

The framers of the constitution got it wrong. At least now they let us vote for the electors, initially the state legislatures voted for the electors (and Senators, iirc)
the fact is, Hillary got more votes than Trump, Gore got more votes than W
My vote in MA didn't count, the Dem candidate for prez gets it no matter what.
I haven't seen the stats for this election, but in the past more people voted for Dems in Congress than Rs, but gerrymandering fixed that.

I'd like to think that I would have the same view if it was the other way around.

The major disadvantage to abolishing the EC, imo, is that a 3rd party candidate can prevent either candidate from getting a majority of the popular vote (1968 comes to mind) - what do we do then?
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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #51 on: November 15, 2016, 05:17:42 PM »
:clap:

Yup. Great arguments in there.

As a progressive voter in a red state, I gotta say I hate the Electoral College. The only time I can effectively voice my opinion on the Presidential race is in the primary... and I am not a Democrat. I am progressive.

I will add this - if the abolishment of the EC led to broader voter turnout thanks to people believing their vote actually counted, then that would trickle down to every level of government. What we want is greater engagement... even if that means my side loses more.

We are not a democracy. We never have been. We are a democratic republic. The EC reflects that fact. But as a democratic republic we have the power to change our institutions as needed. The EC needs to change. It needs to go.



 
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Offline VDB

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #52 on: November 15, 2016, 05:51:05 PM »
I will add this - if the abolishment of the EC led to broader voter turnout thanks to people believing their vote actually counted, then that would trickle down to every level of government. What we want is greater engagement... even if that means my side loses more.

Another great point.
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Offline ytowndan

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #53 on: November 15, 2016, 06:55:41 PM »
The major disadvantage to abolishing the EC, imo, is that a 3rd party candidate can prevent either candidate from getting a majority of the popular vote (1968 comes to mind) - what do we do then?

Last time there was a serious movement to abolish it (it came up a few votes shy in the senate, and probably would have failed in the ratification process anyway) the proposed amendment called for a runoff election between the top two candidates if the "winner" failed to get a majority of the vote. 

I think instant runoff voting would be better.  It would likely lead to the same conclusion and we'd avoid a costly, low-turnout runoff election. 
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Offline VDB

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #54 on: November 15, 2016, 08:16:25 PM »
But even with the EC, it's winner-take-all at the state level regardless of whether the candidate eclipses 50 percent. In other words, the same risk exists in 50 different places and we're OK with it. (That said, I think I'd be fine with something like instant runoff in pretty much any election.)

Another problem (!) with the EC is that it gives the illusion of huge mandates where they may not exist. For example, Reagan won a "landslide" in 1980, securing a whopping 91 percent of electoral votes. His share of the popular? 50.75 percent. And in 1984, Reagan won all but one state (for 98 percent of electoral votes) but Mondale still received about four out of ten votes.
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Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #55 on: November 16, 2016, 05:40:54 PM »
Ok, last time (probably)

So, if you want to upend the system that has created the most stable form of governance in the history of civilization - one far that has indisputably been more effective at consistently and peacefully transitioning power from one party to the next than any parliamentary setup - it shouldn't be on the back of an emotional plea of "we were robbed" following a difficult campaign.

I argue against the Electoral College every time we vote for president, and was doing it this time around well before the ballots were tallied. It just happens that most people only tend to pay attention to (or write about) the issue when we get this outcome. And sometimes -- call it our limited attention span or our naïveté or a "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality -- it takes a substantial event to shock people into action on an issue. See Dylan Roof and the Confederate flag down here in South Cack. So no, I don't think "now's not the time" to talk about the EC. It's the perfect time.

Furthermore, although I would have rather seen a Clinton win over a Trump win, she wasn't my preferred candidate, so to me this is most assuredly not about justice for Hillary.

I'm not arguing that it's not the right time because people are emotional, I'm suggesting that emotional responses to shock events or appeals to "fairness" rarely (ever?) produce the desired outcome. You point to Roof/SC which, beside the obvious fact that it's a state vs federal issue, was a largely symbolic cause. That's not to dismiss the very real and painful feelings that flying the Confederate flag over the State House evokes, but it's not really analogous to a fundamental shift in our constitutional republic IMO.

I'll also note that you ignored the more critical part of that sentence, that the EC has successfully resulted in the most stable form of "democracy" (scare quotes for effect) in the history of the world.

And it certainly shouldn't be under the guise of "that's racist" as implied by the Vox article. That shit never works out well.

Well, you're confusing "the EC was created to benefit slave states" with "the EC is racist." The EC is not racist; it lacks sentience and affect and other human traits. As a thing, the EC does not regard presidential options and make value judgments about them (more on that later). Like you, I'm wary of casually slinging charges of racism about, especially when it relieves me of having to more deeply understand an issue or phenomenon at play. Similarly, though, we should avoid the easy temptation to dismiss an argument on the grounds that it makes unfounded accusations of racism, when that's not what the argument actually is.

Your distinction between the EC as an unfeeling entity and humans who have emotions and assign social construct such as race is kind of semantic, no? The implication of the article is pretty clear to me: if you don't support a popular vote, you are supporting a historically racist (racial?) system and you should feel bad about that. I don't think it's a stretch to say that is in keeping with the left's (Vox in particular) relatively recent strategy of persuasion by shaming, be it race, body, or slut.

Take a look at the map below.

Yeah, pretty wild. But acreage doesn't get to vote; people do. The map exercise is academic.

If we had a country where, I don't know, 90 percent of the population lived in large cities, would an EC proponent still say "I don't think those city slickers should get to call all the shots"? So what if people live in cities? People live where they choose to live.

I don't see it as academic at all. In fact, it illustrates quite clearly to me that the importance of the EC (especially so given our current levels of geographic and political polarization). The EC is intended to ensure the president presides over one nation made up of many states. The EC respects the diversity and autonomy of these states in a far superior way than a popular vote. For the president to be successful, they must have national not regional legitimacy, which is precisely what the EC was conceived (and continues) to do.

Allowing the president to be decided by the major metropolitan areas and no where else would be a kick in the nuts

And I find it to be a kick in the nuts that my vote is reliably changed to an R before it goes up into the EC tally. Just as I imagine a Republican or independent living in Los Angeles doesn't appreciate her vote not being counted in the EC tally.

If an argument for the EC is that dissolving it would marginalize the voters in Montana and Alaska, my response is that it already marginalizes a far greater sum of people than the populations of our smaller, rural states. So every four years Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio get to pick the president, but if you live in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Oklahoma City or any of a million other places, go fuck yourself? Great. Super fair.

The appeal to "fairness" is probably my biggest gripe with arguments against the EC because it completely ignores the raison d'être for the the establishment of the EC. Fairness is inherently subjective. What's fair to you may not be fair to the farmer in IA or the rancher in MT. Fairness may be an appropriate way to gin up support on this issue, but I just don't see a constitutional crisis because some (most?) people perceive it to be unfair.

Look, I'm amenable to cases for federalism, I really am. And not because I think Alabamans should get to kick around the gays, but because I believe that the more local an action or decision is, the more effective and important it often is as well, and that's worth preserving. (So, yeah, I also realize that federalism cuts both ways. Dammit, life would be so much easier if only I saw everything in black and white.)

But unlike, say, the Senate and how we amend the Constitution (collectively, "S&C" for short), I don't see the EC as being this great bulwark against tyranny of the majority as proponents seem to think it is. Whereas S&C are set up to favor supermajorities (so as to prevent small states from being trampled upon), the EC has no such preference. Indeed, not only does the EC not care whether a candidate gets a really, really big majority of the popular vote, it doesn't care if he or she gets a majority at all. So that seems to have nothing to do with -- if not be completely at odds with -- the notion that sometimes a bare majority isn't enough because we don't want it to be that easy for a losing faction to get trod over.

Consider also that in the case of S&C, you have humans deliberating on the options and a narrow minority is able to stand athwart an outcome if they deem it really bad enough. It's not as though the opposite version of the bill or amendment is automatically passed -- what you get is no action at all. Sorry, majority, sweeten your offer and try again. In the case of the EC, however, we get an outcome no matter what. So that's not an intentional method for keeping the wheels of government from moving at a reckless pace like S&C are; it's just a quirky way to give a minority of voters a win over a majority.

If the states' ability to directly participate in the electoral process is usurped, what concept of federalism are you amenable to? I mean, why have states at all? If local/municipal decisions most accurately reflect the most direct and unique concerns of their constituents, why do we need this arbitrary intermediate layer of gov't other than to be administrative wards of DC?

I'm not saying this to be flippant; in fact, I think it's a logical conclusion from the argument that we are not a nation of diverse states but of individuals.


Also the EC (along with the Senate) provides an incentive for the federal government to consider policies that work for the entire country

I think the Vox article pointed this out, but direct popular voting would actually incentivize candidates to take their case to the entire population as opposed to just a few swing states. Again, I say the EC marginalizes far more people today than the abolishment of the EC would next time around. Besides, once presidents get elected they act like the partisans they are without respect to the electoral map that put them in office. They do not represent geographic interests once they hit the Oval.

And I conceded that a popular vote could increase people's desire to engage in the political process and that *may* be a good thing. But, as above, I remain unconvinced that this makes for an ironclad argument that the EC is inherently undemocratic and should be abolished.

Now, I'm sympathetic to the "one person, one vote" view that the EC treats a person's vote in Nebraska to be worth more than one in New York.

This is kind of the main thrust of the anti-EC argument, yet I see you don't even address it beyond being "sympathetic" to it.

I'm sympathetic to it in that I understand why it appeals to people. But I believe (as I think I address throughout both of these posts) that it is based on a fundamental misconception of the utility of the EC and of how and why our gov't was and remains to be structured as such.

But if California voters feel like their vote is somehow "less" than someone in South Dakota, maybe they should consider their place in our union and whether or not they want to reevaluate that relationship

Well that's a little drastic, don't you think? That's the "if you don't like it, get the fuck out of the country" response. Actually, Americans have always been well within their rights to argue about how they want their country to be assembled and run. How else would we make any progress on anything?

Not really. And the point wasn't they should take their ball and go home. All I was saying was that if CA voters feel so disenfranchised that their vote is so diminished by the EC, there are avenues for them to entertain that, in all likelihood, have a greater chance of passage than having 3/4 of the states ratify an amendment. Of course, I, unlike most people, believe secession to be a fully legitimate exercise of a people's sovereignty (whether or not that's a good idea is a different discussion). I'll also admit to wanting to point it out just to bask the lack of derision that comes from the media when CA residents discuss secession as compared to when Texans do it.

Also, I would hope you don't think that I would strip those of their rights to argue or stymie dissent. That's kind of my thing. :wink:

Finally, one of the greatest logical fallacies practiced by proponents is that the election would have worked out EXACTLY the same in a popular voting system.

See, to me this might be the laziest of the arguments in favor of (or, at least, against being against) the EC. "Well, no one knows for sure if the outcome would have been different, so let's all pipe down." I'm not even interested in claiming that Al Gore or Hillary Clinton would have definitely won a direct election. But guess what's the only way to find out? And it'd still be worth it, for all the reasons outlined.

Well, it's an observation more than an argument. But you're right, that's not a reason not to do it. The point I was making in that section was that the need to finance a 50 state campaign would (potentially) result in far greater influence of monied interests. Think Super PACs on steroids.

Also, as I can tell you from living in a (recent) swing state, I am deeply jealous of those of you who live in a place where (I assume) you did not have to sit through an escalating deluge of increasing vitriolic campaign ads. I wouldn't wish that shit on my worst enemy.

I haven't seen the stats for this election, but in the past more people voted for Dems in Congress than Rs, but gerrymandering fixed that.

Dems won the Senate popular vote, but GOP won the House.

Another problem (!) with the EC is that it gives the illusion of huge mandates where they may not exist. For example, Reagan won a "landslide" in 1980, securing a whopping 91 percent of electoral votes. His share of the popular? 50.75 percent. And in 1984, Reagan won all but one state (for 98 percent of electoral votes) but Mondale still received about four out of ten votes.

Well it's a good thing we have a bicameral legislature to stand as a check against those kinds of unwarranted executive abuses.

Wait, what's that?

(Sorry if this was disjointed; I wrote pieces of it thru a brutal day of meetings and training.)

Offline VDB

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #56 on: November 16, 2016, 07:42:23 PM »
Whew!
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Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #57 on: November 16, 2016, 09:02:50 PM »
Whew!

I hear ya. I'm exhausted just looking at that post.
 :beers: