Mon Dec 19, 2011, 04:03 PM
City Lights (22,943 posts)
Sirota: The case for a national popular vote
The case for a national popular vote
We need to ditch the Iowa caucus -- and stop giving Ohio and Florida so much power over our presidential elections
By David Sirota
Monday, Dec 19, 2011 8:33 PM UTC
With all eyes trained on Iowa and New Hampshire as their decisive presidential nominating contests approach, the question once again is upon us: Why should these two states have such disproportionate sway over American politics? This is a particularly pressing question right now because our increasingly multiethnic, urbanized nation looks less and less like these two small, super-white, largely rural, comparatively older enclaves. In effect, the system promotes a form of generational tyranny whereby a disappearing mid-20th-century model of America continues to wield disproportionate power over todayís 21st century America.
Unfortunately, this problem doesnít get much better in the general election. Thanks to the undemocratic Electoral College, presidential elections take place in a few big swing states, but nowhere else. Essentially, the campaign for president becomes a glorified campaign for governor of Ohio, Colorado and Florida, with small cities like Dayton, Grand Junction and Fort Lauderdale being treated as much more important than huge population centers like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago where far more voters actually live.
Taken together, the system undermines the most basic notion of republican democracy: the idea that every voter gets equal representation in our national government. In American presidential races, itís the opposite. Between the nominating process and general election, we have effectively denationalized our most important national election, allowing a tiny handful of voters to choose who represents all of us in the White House. For no substantive or defensible reason, these voters get this undemocratic, anti-republican power not because they are inherently more important, valuable, or demographically representative citizens (in fact, they are often less representative), but simply because they happen to live within a specific state whose nominating contests come early (New Hampshire/Iowa) or whose general elections tend to be narrowly won and lost.
As I noted in my most recent newspaper column, the fastest way to right at least some of this grotesque wrong is to move to a system that elects presidents via a national popular vote. It doesnít entirely fix the electoral process, but it fixes a few major problems:
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