It's a lesson to look at the presidential election map of 2004, that clamorous and nearly comic election year. Remember John Kerry walking into a hunting supply store: "Is this where I get me a huntin' license?" The Boston Brahmin goes all Mississippi when the cameras are on during a campaign.
But look at the map of that election, and the county-by-county vote. A body could drive from one end of the country to the other, and never go through a county that voted for John Kerry. And it doesn't matter where you start. You can drive from Maryland to Oregon. Or Florida to California. Or Texas to North Dakota. And you can stay in a red county the whole way. From ocean to ocean, from the Gulf to Canada.
John Kerry's counties? Impossible. You can't even drive down the coast of California and stay in all-blue counties. As Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.
John Kerry won the larger urban areas--just as Al Gore and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did. But the incumbent, George W. Bush, won three million more votes that year.
And that means that California's electoral votes would have gone to President Bush in 2004, if this National Popular Vote project was in effect.
Imagine that. A Republican taking California. Or a Democrat taking a deep-red state in Dixie. Not for winning the state, mind you, but because of this new-ish scheme to get around the Electoral College.
There's an effort on to skirt around the 232-year-old American way of electing presidents. The plan is to get states to require their electoral voters fall in line behind the candidate who gets the most votes nationally. In effect, the winner of the popular vote would win the Electoral College every time. Thus, President Al Gore in 2000, President Hillary Clinton in 2016. Funny, but the scheme would seem to help only Democrats on the national level. Also, it would make certain small states have less influence in presidential elections.
Nevada is the latest of these several states to send such a bill to its governor. And it's said the governor, with a "D" after his name, will indeed sign it. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. It would seem the Electoral College helps states exactly like Nevada, which would be ignored if it weren't a swing state. No accounting for taste. Or political savvy.
The mandate of giving all of a state's electoral voters to the national popular vote winner doesn't take effect until the number of states doing so reaches the magic 270 number. But more and more states are signing on. Dispatches say California, New York and Illinois are already onboard. Which means this effort should be taken seriously. That is, the opposition had better get serious.
This NPV scheme is a bad idea for a number of reasons. And not just because smaller states like Arkansas (and Nevada) would be overlooked if the popular vote was all that mattered.
Without an Electoral College, a number of people in multiple parties would be encouraged to run for president. The two-party system in place now would resemble more a European model. Smaller parties with no chance of gaining a national audience could campaign only in a few large cities, hammer a few urban issues, and gain a significant percentage of the vote. Even win! You think the current system has problems, imagine somebody with 25 percent of the vote becoming president after beating a field of 10. It's not un-American, it's not anti-American, it's French.
Candidates campaigning in LA and NYC, and maybe Chicago and San Francisco, might not have to have positions on, say, agriculture. Or hospital closings. Or the lack of high-speed Internet or access to public transportation or other issues that affect more rural precincts.
And if you thought the recount of 2000 was chaos, imagine if it hadn't been limited to Florida, but every state had its own recount. On second thought, don't imagine that. It might interfere with digestion.
The Founders wanted states to mean something. It's not a perfect system, but a better one hasn't been proposed.
When this idea was first proposed, way back in 2006, Pete Du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. In it, he noted: "In 2000, Al Gore won 677 counties and George W. Bush 2,434, but Mr. Gore received more total votes. Circumvent the Electoral College and move to a direct national vote, and those 677 largely urban counties would become the focus of presidential campaigns."
We can't stop larger states from trying to boost their influence. We can't even stop smaller states from helping them. But a warning to Arkansas' political establishment:
Just because Nevada jumps off a bridge, doesn't mean you have to follow.
Mama's old advice remains relevant.
Editorial on 05/23/2019
Print Headline: Bush takes California!