Wednesday, March 6, 2013

National Popular Vote "Reform"

More on the National Popular Vote “Reform”
P. Schultz
March 6, 2013

Here is more of my email debate on the National Popular Vote proposal. First, is my offering.

“Well, you know, Rich, it sounds wonderful, "every vote will be coveted" but that is a dream. And the facts you cite undermine your argument, like Reagan not winning LA. Reagan and his supporters did not target LA, did not covet votes there. They pretty much wrote it off, just as any Democrat then would have written off Orange County in CA. It is a waste of their time and money. Bet it was the same for Perry in Texas. You write as if these guys had no election strategies based on where they could garner the most votes, suggesting that Reagan fought for votes in LA or Perry in Houston and Dallas. Candidates go where they think and where their polls tell them they can get the most votes, and this will not change. The only thing that will change is where they go to get the most votes. All this proposal does is to change WHERE candidates will campaign the hardest, and that is not EVERYWHERE.

“In fact, I would say that candidates will not campaign hard in any closely contested state because if they win the popular vote nationally, they win those states, even if they "lose" them. And winning in those states adds almost nothing to their national vote margin because they are closely divided. And regarding states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho there will be less incentive to campaign in those states under the proposed changes than under the electoral college as it currently functions, where it is practically nil. Why go to those states for a few thousand votes when you can go to Texas or California for tens of thousands?

“Look, in politics there is no way to arrange things, offices or elections for example, that results in equal treatment for all. Ala' Aristotle, there is no regime where "all" rule; all rule is partial and, hence, unequal. Either the one, the few, or the many rule. Basic fact of life. All the proposed plan does, all it can do, is change the calculus of inequality versus equality. Anything else is either a "pipe dream" or a thinly disguised attempt to benefit some at the expense of others. If you want to support this proposal, fine with me. But don't do so thinking that equality is right around the corner or that "every vote will be coveted."

            And now let’s hear from a proponent of this “reform.”

“Lets take the cases of both California and Texas. A Republican has virtually no shot at winning the states most populated municipalities. That does not mean they abandon them completely. The candidates still try to glean as many votes as they can from these cities. It matters if the Democrat wins 60% or 70% in Los Angeles or in Houston. If the state used winner-take-all method, the Republicans would have conceded the city completely

“Alternatively, the Democrat has the electoral incentive to get as many votes out of those cities as possible, to run up the score if you will. The Democrat also has electoral motivation to pocket as many votes in the Republican dominated inland empire as possible, knowing that they are not likely to win their.

“If the two states employed the winner-take-all method, the Democrat would have no reason to try to cultivate every possible vote from Los Angeles or Houston, and the Republican will have no motivation to address issues important to residents of the city. Both candidates would spend an inordinate amount of their time in the swing counties of the state.

“With respect to small states, at least campaigns will have an electoral incentive to open up campaign offices in every state. You will not have the dynamic where the state parties send their volunteer to nearby showdown states. Sure, the candidates will not spend all their time in Wyoming, but they will at least advertise in the states media market. They will use local surrogates to campaign for them in the state.

“That is superior to the system we have today where New Hampshire is the only one of the 13 smallest states that gets any electoral attention.

“What is your view of the current winner-take-all system? Do you think it is superior to this plan?

            And then my closing salvo:

“You know, Rich, you keep repeating your arguments, which doesn't make them any more persuasive. I know you are invested in this "reform," and, as stated, that is fine with me. Just don't think it is anything more than a shift from focusing on electoral votes to focusing on the national vote total, nothing more, nothing less. Hey, if you want a direct popular election of presidents, fine with me - but this change has consequences, both positive and negative, like any electoral scheme. Candidates, UNDER ANY ELECTORAL SCHEME, must decide how to spend their time and money, which means they have to decide which votes to go after. This is just a basic fact of life which cannot be changed. So, what does the "reform" do? It cannot possibly reward those who go after every single vote every where. So where will candidates devote their attention? In states where they can get the largest margins of victory; this is simple math and logic.

“The idea that "every vote will be coveted" is just pie in the sky bullshit. Reagan wrote off LA when running for governor; this is indisputable and he did so because it made sense. He knew he could never get enough votes in LA to decide the election in his favor. He had to get the necessary votes elsewhere as he would surely lose LA. Under the proposed "reform," would Romney have campaigned harder in California in the last election? Only if he wanted to waste his time because he knew he would never get enough votes there to change the outcome of the national popular vote. In fact, I would argue Romney would be better off in your scheme campaigning less in California and focusing on increasing his vote total in those states where he was more popular. Also, under your scheme, Romney could have cared less if he lost Virginia by a few votes because a few votes would not, could not affect the national popular vote count as much as tens of thousands votes in Texas would. Is this better or worse? Take your pick. It is just different and is not the panacea you seem to think it is.

“The current system? Leave it alone. It is hardly our problem. We are currently living in an oligarchy disguised as a republic, where politics is largely a matter of smoke and mirrors and where the oligarchs are screwing us while sending people to die in needless wars and claiming powers that are blatantly unconstitutional - meaning both Bush II and Obama and almost any other "serious" politician. [Cf. Paul Rand's attempt to filibuster because our president claims the right to kill American citizens - as well as other human beings - whenever and for whatever reasons he likes. But we all know, don't we, that Paul Rand isn't "serious?"] The sequester is merely a way to prepare us for Washington taking more of our retirement money and our health care money and, barring a miracle, they will get it too - as George Carlin predicted - even as our military-industrial complex will go on spending billions and trillions of dollars and our schools will be dumbed down to suit the purposes of all those "job creators" by producing "standardized students" who are good at taking standardized tests and little else.

“The electoral college gave us Shrub but then the college gave us Kennedy too as he got fewer votes nationally then Nixon. But given how oligarchic our current politics are, tinkering with the electoral college is like changing a headlight on a car that won't start. Hey, if you makes feel better, do it. But your car still won't start.

“You've got a president and almost every public official claiming that due process is dead and you are worried about the electoral college? Really? Seems to me we have more important stuff to worry about. Isn't this a bit like fiddling while Rome burns?

One last addition to my argument: 

"Here are some interesting numbers. Obama got approximately 5 million more popular votes than Romney in 2012, 65,899,557 versus 60,931,959, Now if we take all the votes for Obama cast in N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah, and take them away from Obama completely, giving them to Romney, the total gain for Romney would be about 980,000 votes. But Romney still loses and loses big. Now, as it seems unlikely that one candidate would get all the votes in any state, it doesn't seem to me that such numbers make these states very important for either candidate if the election were to be determined by a national popular vote count. Whether we use the current electoral college system or the proposed one, these states just don't have enough votes to matter. And, in fact, there is a greater probability that one of them or several of them would matter more under the current arrangement than under the proposed "reform." Now, add onto this list Mississippi, West Va., and Arkansas, and do the same thing. Now Romney would gain approximately 2.1 million votes from all these states and Obama would lose the same amount, for a total of 4.2 million votes. Romney still loses the national popular vote, once again illustrating that under the proposed "reform" states with relatively few popular votes just don't matter all that much.

"Isn't it interesting that when elections turn on counting the number of votes, those states with more voters count for more, are more important than those states with fewer voters? Who'd of thunk it?


  1. You seem to be fixated on state results.

    With National Popular Vote, elections wouldn't be about winning states.
    Every vote everywhere would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.
    Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states.

    Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast.

    States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election.

    In the 2012 election, only 9 states and their voters mattered under the current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states. Those 9 states determined the election. Candidates did not care about 80% of the voters- voters-in 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and 17 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. 2012 campaigning was even more obscenely exclusive than 2008 and 2004. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    A nationwide presidential campaign, with every vote equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as OH and FL, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in OH and FL.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every vote is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every vote is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in VT or WY, or for a Republican to try it in WY or VT

    Even in CA state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise CA wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in CA, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

    In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in CA.

    Similarly, Republicans dominate TX politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

    There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., NY, IL, MMI, PA, and) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

    With a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. There will be nothing special about a vote cast in a big city or big state. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

  2. The National Popular Vote bill ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    With a national popular vote, candidates would need to build a winning coalition across demographics. Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as waitress mom voters in Ohio.

    With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Wining states would not be the goal. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states.

    The main media at the moment, TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. Candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

    In the 2012 campaign, “Much of the heaviest spending has not been in big cities with large and expensive media markets, but in small and medium-size metropolitan areas in states with little individual weight in the Electoral College: Cedar Rapids and Des Moines in Iowa (6 votes); Colorado Springs and Grand Junction in Colorado (9 votes); Norfolk and Richmond in Virginia (13 votes). Since the beginning of April, four-fifths of the ads that favored or opposed a presidential candidate have been in television markets of modest size.”

  3. Hey,Toto,do you also believe if you click your heels three times you will fly back to Kansas? I stand by my argument: If you want this "reform," fine. But don't confuse your "reform" with anything more than it is: Just another electoral scheme which will replace current inequities with other inequities.

  4. "The National Popular Vote bill ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country."

    Oh my, oh my, someone if off their medication again. "Every vote is equal, every voter will matter...." Really? So all of a sudden presidential candidates will be campaigning with equal vigor and force in North Dakota as, say, in California? Simple fact of life you cannot change: Voters where there are fewer voters won't matter as much as voters where there are more voters. One party states like Massachusetts would matter more than they do now, agreed. But closely contested states would matter less. Why focus on states? Because that is how our "two" parties are organized and how campaigns are waged, state by state. This will be the case as long as we have states.

    But, you know, I don't mind your proposed "reform" all that much and would even be willing to support it to see it "work" or how it "works." But you rhetoric is just pie in the sky BS.