I crave the indulgence of IC readers everywhere for what I am about to do, but I’ve been reading too much about the dangers of suppressing one’s anger to keep this bottled up any longer…
As a fairly recent Wyomingite attracted to the state in no small part through the hope that “The Man” would be kept out of my family’s affairs by virtue of the state’s resolute, unapologetic, Fly-Over-Country, Red-Necked Red Statism — I use that term affectionately and thankfully, rather than derogatorily — I read this recent story regarding Massachusetts’s latest legislative activities with significant levels of trepidation:
The Massachusetts Legislature has approved a new law intended to bypass the Electoral College system and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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“What we are submitting is the idea that the president should be selected by the majority of people in the United States of America,” Senator James B. Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said before the Senate voted to enact the bill.
Under the new bill, he said, “Every vote will be of the same weight across the country.”
If by “same weight across the country,” one means “Folks in Wyoming should just stop voting altogether, because the mere 600,000 residents there won’t make a noticeable impact on the voting decisions of large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York,” then Senator Eldridge and I are in complete agreement.
As noted by Tara Ross over at The Corner, such a stubborn misunderstanding of (or, perhaps more tellingly, disinterest in) the reasons the Founding Fathers went to such great lengths to avoid a “straight-up democracy” is deeply troubling. So is the fact that their concerns were over the unwieldiness of a system comprised of only 13 states, rather than the vast 50-state behemoth we now call home.
Do folks really think that the intentional refusal to tie the Electoral College in to the popular vote was some sort of bizarre oversight on the part of the Founders? Or that it was nothing more than a silly mistake that “we enlightened 21st-century legislators” can now rectify? It’s not as though the power of a state is completely disconnected from its size. Where do folks think the number of electoral votes comes from, anyway? We Red Staters must have absolutely everything break just right to offset the coastal population centers — which reminds me of the Founders notion of “checks and balances” every time I see it.
I’m all for looking at America’s past with as honest and unsentimental a gaze as possible, but it’s hard for me to see this as anything other than a “solution” to the Problem of Middle America that has been plaguing the blue-blooded border states for years. Is it any wonder that Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington are the only states that have endorsed this plan so far?
Are they going to take our Constitutionally-required two senate seats next? The frustrating presence of Senators Enzi and Barrasso must drive East Coast Liberals up a wall — so many Big Government agendas thwarted by hick Senators representing a state of barely more than half a million. (And yes, I think I would have flipped out at the debate surrounding the Seventeenth Amendment, as well. I try to be consistent in my battiness.)
I take some comfort in the fact that the states most likely to be harmed by this urgent and unwise march towards full-throated democracy are all likely to be firmly opposed to legislation of the sort proposed by Massachusetts. For the time being. But I’m still troubled by it. Standing athwart progress is a difficult and lonely job; resisting the desires of The Majority is not easy to do.
Which is exactly why we have the Electoral College in the first place. We must avoid the mistake of thinking that the principles laid down by the Founding Fathers are the only (or even the ideal) solution in each and every case — conservatism needs to keep a foot in the present, and at least a toe in the future. But these actions seem driven by mob rule rather than any sort of principled position. Cutting off our noses to spite our faces in this matter reminds me of little…
In the heat of composition I find that I have inadvertently allowed myself to assume the form of a large centipede. I am accordingly dictating the rest to my secretary. Now that the transformation is complete I recognise it as a periodical phenomenon.
Your affectionate uncle,