November 20, 2004

Pitchfork the Vote!

I know, I know, anyone who calls the Democrats the party of "conspiracy theorists, isolationists, and rabid anarchists" probably isn't worth taking seriously, but Captain Ed makes a bad argument in favor of the Electoral College, and it needs to be whacked:
In other words, Kristof wants the President selected by New York, Massachussetts, Texas, California, and Florida. Kristof compares the Electoral College unfavorably to the election in Afghanistan, but the truth is that America is a much larger, more far-flung country than Afghanistan; the electorate here differs widely between rural, suburban, and urban settings, as well as regionally. Kristof's vision would lead to the diktat of urban centers over the rest of the United States, a result I'm certain Kristof desires. Gone would be private-property rights and a host of other issues crucial to farmers, ranchers, and others.
You can look at this any number of ways. In 2004, urban dwellers made up 30 percent of the voting population, while suburban voters were 46 percent, and rural voters 25 percent. So assuming all else holds equal, rural voters would have approximately as much sway as urban voters in a direct election.

The counterargument is that all else won't hold equal, and candidates will stop pandering to rural issues in a direct election. But how often do they do that now? Under the electoral college, candidates do not visit rural states like Wyoming, Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska, because these states are utterly out of contention. Presumably, in a direct election, candidates might even have more incentive to thump on "rural issues" and get out the rural vote (25 percent of the electorate, after all, is a big deal).

Of course, this whole debate is kind of moot. "[I]ssues crucial to farmers, ranchers, and others" are primarily addressed through the Senate and House—the white-tailed prairie dog, as you'll recall, was a thigh-sized bone of contention for Daschle and Thune. Abolishing the Electoral College wouldn't change any of this.
-- Brad Plumer 8:16 PM || ||