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Vichy on the Potomac

My best friend and his family live in Maryland. They're not overly politically minded, and I'm especially glad for that today -- because if they were, they'd either be as horrified as what's going on there as I am, or would irreparably damage our friendship.

I'm trying to recall another time in history when a free people have so willingly chosen to give up their freedom and subsume their liberty to the will of others as the Maryland legislature is considering, and no examples come to mind. Perhaps Vichy France and Marshal Petain would be a good comparison.

Two measures are working their way through the legislature down there right now. The first is at least arguable -- a "Living Wage" bill. This measure would require state contractors to abide by a minimum wage law of $11.30 an hour for workers on a state project ($8.50 in rural areas). This is above and beyond the state's minimum wage, itself above the national minimum wage.

The one saving grace is that this will only apply to employees working on a state project. That means that the state itself will, ultimately, have to pick up the tab.

The other measure, though, is downright obscene. And, dammit, I was mistaken. It isn't "working its way through the legislature," it's been signed into law by the governor.

The National Popular Vote movement is an attempt to get all 50 states to agree to set aside the Electoral College and abide by the national popular vote when it comes to choosing presidents.

There is so much wrong with this, I don't know where to begin.

First up, a bit of snark.

Which is the best motto for the National Popular Vote movement?

1) "We're too stupid to understand that we need a Constitutional amendment to do this!"
B) "We're too lazy to pass a Constitutional amendment to do this!"
III) "We know there's no way in hell we'd get a Constitutional amendment to do this, so we're gonna try to cheat it!"

The Electoral College was set up for a very specific reason: because we are not a pure democracy, but a democratic republic, and simply having 50% plus one vote should not be enough to do whatever the majority wishes. Protection for the rights of the minority is a key precept in our Constitution.

By having 50 separate races for president, weighted so smaller states have a slightly disproportionate voice, ironically keeps the race more democratic. Candidates can't afford to simply write off all but a few key states.

Likewise, they can't afford to run a purely national campaign. (And by "national," I mean "focused on enough major media markets.") They need to get into the "retail" end of things, on occasion, and actually mingle with the riff-raff that makes up the majority of the people in this nation.

I have my own theory about the "National Popular Vote" movement. I suspect it's another outgrowth of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

In 2000, Al Gore -- arguably -- won the popular vote. That means diddly, however, and everyone knew that going in (or, at least should have). I once ran the numbers, and discovered that, in theory, a president could be elected by a mere 12 votes.

That stuck in the craws of a lot of people who hated Bush, and would latch on to any excuse -- any -- to delegitimize his administration. Even this post facto, unconstitutional, undemocratic exercise in idiocy.

The notion that this would NOT be binding on Bush, but binding on all future candidates of all parties, seems to escape them.

I can't see how anyone short of a complete idiot or an utter partisan hack could possibly think this is a good idea -- but I repeat myself.

Right now, the American flag has 50 stars, one for each state. I propose that for every state that goes along with this, we remove one star to symbolize the loss of a free state. With Maryland's action, we get a nice little bonus -- the grid becomes a simple 7 rows of seven stars. And if a second state decides to vote itself out of political relevancy, we can simply revive the 48-star flag in use before Alaska and Hawaii joined the union.

I can only see a few people who have any business supporting this. Flag-makers, of course, and by extension artists and schoolchildren who have to try to cram 50 stars into that tiny field. People from large states, likewise, should welcome a chance to further dominate national politics, adding the presidency to the House of Representatives.

To cite P. J. O'Rourke once again, pure democracies tend to last about as long as it takes 51% of the people to realize they can screw over the other 49% with utter impunity. And when that 49% cheerfully cooperates, that just makes it that much faster.


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Comments (56)

To cite P. J. O'Rourke o... (Below threshold)
BillyBob:

To cite P. J. O'Rourke once again, pure democracies tend to last about as long as it takes 51% of the people to realize they can screw over the other 49% with utter impunity. And when that 49% cheerfully cooperates, that just makes it that much faster.

And when that 49% does not cooperate you have civil war. Just wait. When you have 51% or better of the non-producing takers screwing the 49% or smaller of the producers, there will be anarchy and another revolution. Conservatives tend to be productive responsible and armed people.

I agree BillyBob. We need ... (Below threshold)
Mikey60:

I agree BillyBob. We need to fight against this as much as we can, and while we are at it, we need to repeal the 17th Amendment as well. When we went to direct election of Senators, it can be reasonably argued that control of the Congress was lost to the people and replaced by control of professional politicians who don't really answer to their states. It's time to stop this nonsense.

By having 50 separate ra... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

By having 50 separate races for president, weighted so smaller states have a slightly disproportionate voice, ironically keeps the race more democratic.
Jay Tea

This is nitpicky, but it's not slightly disproportionate, it's actually quite considerable.

From wikipediea, Wyoming has 3 electoral votes and ~515,000 people, yielding 1 EV per 171,668 people.

California has 55 EV, and ~36 million, yielding 1 EV per 662,865. (Texas is actually the worst with 1 EV per 691,000)

This means that Wyoming citizens are roughly equal to 4 Californians (or Texans). And we used to think 3/5 was about right for slaves.

The break comes between #35 Nevada (1 EV/500K) and #36 New Mexico (1 EV/390K), after which it continues to decline.

This also does not mention Washington DC which has a larger population than Wyoming, but does not have even 1 EV, let alone 3.

But to get back to the point, I do not agree with this either. I think that there are better ways to make the electoral college process better. One may be to reduce the number of electoral votes each state gets be the number of representatives they have, rather than the sum of representatives and senators. Or, we could allow electoral votes to be broken up within the state based on percentage of votes, rather than all electoral votes going to the winner of the state (this would settled a lot of the problems in 2000 by simply splitting Florida evenly).

The latter is my preferred option as it keeps the electoral college the way it is (ie giving a dispropotionate value to small states), but nationalizes the election by making sure candidates campaign in large states to prevent a landslide.

Lefties are really quite id... (Below threshold)
Moderately Radical:

Lefties are really quite idiotic. This movement stems entirerly from the 2000 election. They don't seem to realize that the last
Democrat to get over 50% of the vote was Carter and the only way for Kerry to have won was in the elecoral college. Bush got 3 million more votes than Kerry.

You should read the Constit... (Below threshold)
Jardinero1:

You should read the Constitution. It is left to the various states how they choose electors. If the actions of Maryland turn out to be wrongheaded and stupid(which they are), then they can try something else. They haven't forfeited the right to try something else by trying this.

The folks of Maryland are p... (Below threshold)
BillyBob:

The folks of Maryland are pretty stupid though. Think about it. Maryland could vote overwhelmingly Democrap in 2008 and a Repub could win the popular vote. They would see their votes go to the wrong candidate. How idiotic. This will come back to bite them in the a$$.

Since winning the popular v... (Below threshold)
Usful Ijit:

Since winning the popular vote and losing the Electoral College is by far the exception rather than the rule, Maryland's law is mostly political grandstanding. And the US constitution allows the individual States to determine how their Electoral votes are distributed. Maryland could apportion them according to sunspot activity on election day; not smart, but not unconstitutional. I agree with sean nyc/aa that divvying up the votes according to percentage within the State is a wiser way to near a popular vote result, without mucking with the Electoral College.

This kind of stupidity is a... (Below threshold)
kbiel:

This kind of stupidity is a symptom of the general ignorance about the federal system. The federal government was not designed or intended to respond to individuals. That is what we have city, county and state governments for. Instead, the federal government was designed to allow several sovereign states to federate into a single super state without relinquishing all of their individual sovereignty. Of course, most people today can not even give you the real definition of federal and even fewer will be able to recall that senators used to be selected by state legislatures instead of directly elected.

The Commycrats intend on ... (Below threshold)
Rob LA Ca.:

The Commycrats intend on taking over again and this time they are not going to allow a walking penis who pokes every hole it sees to ruin it for them. This is how the party of incompetant dictators think:

"Social Security belongs to us and we need to get back where we belong , in power"

Remember that? When they were in the complete MINORITY and totally irrelevant, obstructing Social Security Reform and undermining President Bush 24/7?

Just as the democrat prosecuter Nifong has now been proven a incompetant liar and no good POS , so too are the Democrats now in the majority abusing their power they are unfit , unqualified and undeserving to hold. These Criminal Frauds belong in prison for the rest of their despicable days.

Democrats are all about corruption , lies and fraud eith their Media pushing their distortions of the facts , lying by omission and misinforming democrat propoganda. It all boils down to what is clear to see just like the never ending specticals of Democrats protesting every chance the get. Democrats want nothing more than "MOB RULE" for who better than these professional liars who have made a career of insiting riots , chaos and faux outrage. The Democrat Party is no American Political Party , they are nothing but gutless organized criminal frauds.

The Electoral College wa... (Below threshold)
Larkin:

The Electoral College was set up for a very specific reason: because we are not a pure democracy, but a democratic republic, and simply having 50% plus one vote should not be enough to do whatever the majority wishes.

The original intent of the Electoral College was to select qualified individuals ("leaders" in the community) who would then choose the President themselves because the founding fathers didn't feel that the average voter could be trusted with making this decision. The way it's working now, however, bypasses this original intent.

By having 50 separate races for president, weighted so smaller states have a slightly disproportionate voice, ironically keeps the race more democratic.

The electoral college actually creates an overemphasis on the larger, competitive states like Florida and Ohio because of the "winner-take-all" format.

The best reason to get rid of the Electoral College is so we can avoid another legal fiasco like we had in 2000. With an election by simple popular vote, there would have been no need to haggle over a few votes in Florida since Gore had 500,000 more votes than Bush. It's time to dump this archaic system.


We have a deliberate compri... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

We have a deliberate comprimise between State by State representation versus Rep by Population. If we didn't Montana would be the garabage dump, toxic waste, & the nuclear test state.

If a state is too big and doesn't feel it is getting proper representation, there's an easy fix. Split the state. California could have 4 senators and two more electoral votes.

The reason they won't split, any logical geographic & population split would likely leave one leftie state and one moderate state. The potential for votes to go to Republicans would go up.

The best reason to get r... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

The best reason to get rid of the Electoral College is so we can avoid another legal fiasco like we had in 2000. With an election by simple popular vote, there would have been no need to haggle over a few votes in Florida since Gore had 500,000 more votes than Bush. It's time to dump this archaic system.

You identified the real problem in the 2000 election. If Al Gore had won, there wouldn't have been a fiasco. The problem was Al Gore. If he lost by a popular vote system, there still would have been a fiasco. Problem not solved.

I agree with Jardinero and ... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

I agree with Jardinero and Larkin. As a conservative and as much as I feel the status quo with the Electoral College has served reasonably well (adding weight to minority political opinion), it is not clear to me that based on the Constitution this was the intent. In fact, I don't believe a constitutional amendment is necessary as I feel Maryland is well within its constitutional right to apportion Electoral College votes as it wishes. But I also believe it is more likely for liberals to raise an uproar for change when their own interests are not immediately served to their satisfaction than one sees with conservatives. Even exceptional/rare incidents that make liberals unhappy will cause them to look frantically for change with little regard to what new problems may arise because of change. No link to offer, just a very biased opinion. Anyway, Maryland is well within its right to do what it has done.

Well again, the lefties onl... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Well again, the lefties only like the constitution when it serves their purpose. When a terrorist is captured on the battlefield, the liberals scream constitutional rights for the poor fellow. GW just can't ignore the constitution, etc. Now the founding fathers didn't have the foresight to see far enough ahead on this one. Wyoming may have few citizens but they are American citizens none the less. I do not want a presidential campaign run in California and New York only. ww

While it's true the state c... (Below threshold)
Eric:

While it's true the state can apportion its votes any way it chooses, there is a wrinkle to this scheme. The constitution forbids compacts between the states without congressional consent. So Maryland can go with the popular-vote-getter, but a quid pro quo deal with other states to do so would be unconstitutional.

From a purely practical matter, I don't know what the hell these people are thinking. Do they think people from small states will stand by idlely while they're cut out of the process for selecting a president? This is the kind of crap that will have bombs going off in rural post offices twenty years from now.

"1) "We're too stupid to... (Below threshold)
JulieL:

"1) "We're too stupid to understand that we need a Constitutional amendment to do this!""
Actually, no amendment is needed. Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution says that "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors...". This is what allows Maine and Nebraska to split their Electoral votes between candidates based on who won the majority in each Congressional district. The winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College was not written into the Constitution, and in the first presidential election only 3 states used that system.

"simply having 50% plus one vote should not be enough to do whatever the majority wishes." But that's exactly what the Electoral College allows to happen! Even worse, a candidate can win with less than 50% of the vote. And that's not just a reference to Bush's victory in 2000. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio would have made Kerry president in 2004, despite the fact that Bush led the popular vote by 3,500,000. On a state-by-state basis, candidates can win all of a state's electoral votes even if they win a majority by just one vote. How is this democratic?

"Candidates can't afford to simply write off all but a few key states."
How do you figure? Both Bush and Kerry ran an 18-state campaign in 2004. I'd say that's writing off a whole lot of states. 32 in fact. If states enact a National Popular Vote, candidates would have to campaign everywhere, instead of ignoring states that are always blue or red. Democrats' votes would actually count in Idaho. Republicans' votes would actually count in Massachusetts. Candidates would be forced to spend time campaigning in these states because Republican votes in Massachusetts would matter, even if the majority of the state voted Democrat.

The Electoral College is an outdated system that was initially created as a compromise between free states and slave states. It is a system that no longer functions the way it was intended by the Founding Fathers, and is fundamentally undemocratic. Every vote should be equal, and every vote should count. That's why we need a National Popular Vote.

The original intent of t... (Below threshold)
Usful Ijit:

The original intent of the Electoral College was to select qualified individuals ("leaders" in the community) who would then choose the President themselves because the founding fathers didn't feel that the average voter could be trusted with making this decision.

This is a myth. The unwashed masses, or "average voters," didn't have the vote. This was reserved for white, male, property owners (Obviously since remedied).

The original intent was:

1) To protect against factions, both internal and external, commandeering the wheels of government (Madison, Federalist Papers No. 10).

2) To have an impermanent body of Electors removed as much as possible from undue influence, both foreign and domestic (Hamilton, Federalist Papers No. 68).

3) To ensure a balance of power amongst the several States.

My personal electoral colle... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

My personal electoral college fantasy was always to take the number of total electors and balloon it up 100 fold or so and then divide them up in each state by counties or voting districts. As someone from central NY it's rather infuritaing the way that NYC skews any statewide election. Of course pretty much everything about NYC infuriates "upstaters".

The biggest flaw in a direct popular vote is that fraud becomes ridiculously easy. You can spread the illegal votes all across the country to avoid suspicion. A hundred here and there aren't as obvious as a few thousand in one voting district or state.

If a state is too big an... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

If a state is too big and doesn't feel it is getting proper representation, there's an easy fix. Split the state. California could have 4 senators and two more electoral votes.
jpm100

Nope, unconstitutional, unless the US Congress approves. And doing so for partisan reasons would likely mean the motion would not pass.

Article IV. Section 3.
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Electoral College is... (Below threshold)
Usful Ijit:

The Electoral College is an outdated system that was initially created as a compromise between free states and slave states. It is a system that no longer functions the way it was intended by the Founding Fathers, and is fundamentally undemocratic. Every vote should be equal, and every vote should count.

No. The Electoral College was created as a compromise between states with large populations and states with small populations and for the reasons I listed in a previous post. And it functions exactly as intended by the framers.

The biggest flaw in a di... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

The biggest flaw in a direct popular vote is that fraud becomes ridiculously easy. You can spread the illegal votes all across the country to avoid suspicion. A hundred here and there aren't as obvious as a few thousand in one voting district or state.
Taltos

I'd have to disagree. In a national election, the outcome could be a difference of millions. However, the current system allows individual state races to be corrupted which can be decided by only hundreds. True that the magnitude of the area for foul play increases, but the magnitude of the foul play would also have to increase tremendously to make sure you cover the potential spread.

Also, spreading it around nationally creates more neutral observers who might catch on, while a state-by-state system allows possibly only one large district that could be corrupted to sway the entire outcome for that state.

while a state-by-state s... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

while a state-by-state system allows possibly only one large district that could be corrupted to sway the entire outcome for that state.

Indeed it does(see king county, WA in 2004), but when you only need to tip a single state you have fewer outlets for your ballots and so you have to pump more into them making the bogus votes more conspicuous. On a national scale if you were truly determined to cheat yourself to a win you would have millions of polling places in which to work, you just need people willing to do it whether for the cause for the cash.

This also does not menti... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

This also does not mention Washington DC which has a larger population than Wyoming, but does not have even 1 EV, let alone 3.
sean nyc/aa

A bit of self-correction here. DC does have 3 EV, thanks to the 23rd amendment. Should have paid closer attention to my own link.

but when you only need to tip a single state you have fewer outlets for your ballots and so you have to pump more into them making the bogus votes more conspicuous.
Taltos

I'm considering all forms of election fraud: voter fraud, machine rigging, voter intimidation, political bribery, while you only seem to be focused on one. But even your one doesn't ring true in this example.

The fewer outlets make it easier because if the observers are in any way in on it or overly partisan or incompetent, they may not report it or may miss it entirely. If you have to spread it around, you bring in more sets of eyes and a greater likelihood of a neutral and honest observer catching on.

Plus, if someone truly were committed to winning by cheating and all it required was corruption of one district, they'd try damn hard to find a way to do it and cover their tracks. On the other hand, if they knew they had to pull it off in multiple locations on a much larger scale, the task might seem a bit more daunting and difficult to pull off.

Finally, my argument is supported by precedent: most of the cases of voter fraud that have been proven have been local races, not national.

I can't see how an... (Below threshold)
Publicus:
I can't see how anyone short of a complete idiot or an utter partisan hack could possibly think this is a good idea

Well, I don't know what I think of this idea, but it is a bipartisan movement----Democrats and members of the Republic party are on advisory the board.

Of course, Jay is right----to change the rules of national elections, we need a Constitutional Amendment.

Is it a good idea or not? I can see a case for either side.

1. Electoral college: if we feel it's important for all states to be equally represented.
2. Popular vote: if we feel it's important for all voters to be equally represented.

Despite the "red state, blue state" thing, I don't think we're a country that's really divided by states. Nobody goes around and says, "we gotta stop those Rhode Islanders." I don't think that it's really meaningful to think about the danger of, in elections decided by popular vote, that the big states will oppress the little ones.

We're ALL Americans and loyalty to states isn't what it once was.

I don't see anything compellingly wrong with the electoral college; although, I understand that it feels wrong when your candidate wins the popular vote and loses the election.

I'm on the fence. But Jay really over-reacts when he refers to "Vichy on the Potomac"; this is an issue over which rational people can disagree.

By the way, are the Republic Party members who support this partisan hacks or idiots?

BTW - regarding Washington,... (Below threshold)
Publicus:

BTW - regarding Washington, D.C. -- when do THOSE people get voting representatives in the federal government? They've been getting taxation without representation forever...

IIRC, the state appointed e... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

IIRC, the state appointed electors are under no legal obligation to vote for the candidate for which they were pledged. There have only been 4 such occasions where this actually occurred.

Publicus:
I understand that it feels wrong when your candidate wins the popular vote and loses the election.

The root of that feeling is based in a illusion that we're a democracy rather than a republic.

The root of that f... (Below threshold)
Publicus:
The root of that feeling is based in a illusion that we're a democracy rather than a republic.

Well, the point is...if we're not happy about it, we should (and could) try to change it through a Constitutional amendment. I don't have a strong opinion about that, but the government is here to serve the people. If the people don't like the rules anymore, they can change----or abolish----the government and establish a new one.

"The one saving grace is th... (Below threshold)
Half Canadian:

"The one saving grace is that this will only apply to employees working on a state project. That means that the state itself will, ultimately, have to pick up the tab."

And, since the residents of the state pay the tab, they will be paying above-market prices for state projects. Which means higher taxes, less productivity, etc.

I can understand the motivation behind it, but this is the result.

Yes, Maryland is just a bun... (Below threshold)

Yes, Maryland is just a bunch of Nazi appeasers. Every time I think you can't get dumber, there JayTea goes. Did you do any actual fact checking for this one? It would be a first.

"Protection for the rights ... (Below threshold)

"Protection for the rights of the minority is a key precept in our Constitution." -- Jay Tea

I guess by this Mr. Tea means that it's perfectly acceptable if on rare occasion the rights of the minority trample on the rights of the majority.

And how exactly is this "minority" status defined? Solely on the basis of geographic location, affected by boundaries in the sand drawn up centuries ago. But you could instead seek to protect different types of minority status. Would Mr. Tea favor a rule, "The candidate that gets the most votes from the minorities (that is, blacks, Latinos, and Asians) shall be declared the winner." Mustn't trample on the rights of minorities, right Mr. Tea?

"By having 50 separate races for president, weighted so smaller states have a slightly disproportionate voice, ironically keeps the race more democratic. Candidates can't afford to simply write off all but a few key states." -- Mr. Tea

They can and they do. How often do you suppose John Kerry campaigned in some hickville place like Alabama, or how frequently did The Chimp visit Chicago? The Electoral College forces the candidates to focus solely on the battleground states (with perhaps a stray visit to maybe, say CA, not to campaign but to raise money). Get rid of the Electoral College, candidates will venture where they've perhaps never been seen (e.g., John Kerry in places like Atlanta, Bush in places like Orange County, CA).

"In 2000, Al Gore -- arguably -- won the popular vote." -- Jay Tea

In 2000, Al Gore got the most votes from the American people, PERIOD (no "arguablys" about it).
But some relic that was primarily designed to increase the electoral power OF THE SLAVE-OWNING STATES of centuries ago, along the U.S. Supreme Court shutting down the vote-count in Florida, kept Al Gore from attaining what was rightfully his. And when it became part of American law the Electoral College did indeed increase the voting power of places like Georgia, for slaves did count (at a 3/5 level) for the purpose of electoral college representation, and no one can claim that in voting the masters were representing the best interest of their slaves.

"I can only see a few people who have any business supporting this." -- Jay Tea

A similar measure did pass in mighty California, but the damn Governator vetoed it. We'll just have to keep trying until:

No American shall have his or her vote for President weighted less heavily than the vote of any other American.

Fairness. I know it's foreign to you conservatives, but it is nonetheless a beautiful concept.

The fewer outlets make i... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

The fewer outlets make it easier because if the observers are in any way in on it or overly partisan or incompetent, they may not report it or may miss it entirely. If you have to spread it around, you bring in more sets of eyes and a greater likelihood of a neutral and honest observer catching on.

It makes it easier to pull off the fraud, but not necessarily easier to get away with it. There are always going to be outside people scrutinizing the note tallies. My point is simply that 1000 bogus votes in Scranton are going to be easier to spot than 10 in Podunk, 10 in Moosetit, 10 in whatever. Yes you'll have more eyes on the votes overall, but the distribution over a larger area is going to reduce the likelyhood that they'd be noticed.

BTW - regarding Washington, D.C. -- when do THOSE people get voting representatives in the federal government? They've been getting taxation without representation forever...

At best DC voters should get lumped in with Maryland. They technically do have a non voting representative in the house.

Herman...That was ... (Below threshold)
Publicus:

Herman...

That was one heck of a post. I am now leaning in favor of a national popular vote for the presidency. But it still takes a Constitutional amendment...

In 2000, Al Gore -... (Below threshold)
Publicus:
In 2000, Al Gore -- arguably -- won the popular vote.

Ummm...there's no argument. Gore DID win the popular vote. (If Bush won the popular vote, but the Supreme Court installed Gore, you guys would all be making the opposite argument...)

along the U.S. Supreme C... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

along the U.S. Supreme Court shutting down the vote-count in Florida, kept Al Gore from attaining what was rightfully his.

Newsflash, if Gore had gotten exactly what he asked for, he'd still have lost.

Newsflash, if Gore... (Below threshold)
Publicus:
Newsflash, if Gore had gotten exactly what he asked for, he'd still have lost.

Facts? Evidence?

All the people whining abou... (Below threshold)
cadrys:

All the people whining about how a mass popular vote would encourage campaigning in more areas...

...how many major cities would it take to carry a majority of votes cast? Forget the countryside, forget small towns, only the big cities would be covered at all.

Not to mention that those same big cities tend overwhelmingly Dem.

This is nothing more than a blatant power grab, on the same order as FDR trying to stack the Supreme Court...or the 17th Amendment.

Not sure which is more sill... (Below threshold)
Kevin:

Not sure which is more sillier and willfully myopic - Jay's original article, or some of the comments.

Never cease to crack me up, thanx for the laughs

ps - cadrys, you have no problem w/ the gop attempting to stack the courts, but damn FDR for doing trying (allegedly) to do it? ROFLMAO

Facts? Evidence?... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

Facts? Evidence?

http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2001-05-10-recountmain.htm

The only way Gore could have won was to count overvotes, which are invalid, and he didn't ask for. If you want to take issue with the ballots, fine, but that has nothing to do with who actually won. A recount by Gore's rules ended up with a Bush win every time.

Taltos -I recall t... (Below threshold)
Publicus:

Taltos -

I recall the Republic Party fighting like mad to stop the recount; I'm sure that had nothing to do with the outcome of the election.

Funny, Publicus, I recall G... (Below threshold)

Funny, Publicus, I recall Gore fighting like hell to only recount in precincts where he thought he had a chance of gaining votes. I also recall Gore's camp doing every frigging thing they could to have absentee ballots from military members overseas disqualified across the board.

But your mileage may vary.

J.

I recall the Republic Pa... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

I recall the Republic Party fighting like mad to stop the recount; I'm sure that had nothing to do with the outcome of the election.

Yes, we know.."ug ug.. Democrat good. ug..Republican bad". Spare us your 'wisdom'.

I recall the Republic Pa... (Below threshold)
Taltos:

I recall the Republic Party fighting like mad to stop the recount; I'm sure that had nothing to do with the outcome of the election.

Shift those goalposts, GO GO GO!!!

I read the comments and com... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

I read the comments and come to one conclusion. The educated lefties 'think' they are smarter than the 'old people' that wrote the constitution so they want to destroy a document that has worked well for over 200 years because some jerk that should have never been on a presidential tickey lost. If anyone hasn't fugured out that Algor-abge was and is a mental case controlled by someone else then I pity you.

We're not "smarter" than th... (Below threshold)
calling all toasters:

We're not "smarter" than the founders. We are simply alive to see slavery outlawed. When it went, the reason for having an Electoral College went.

We're not "smarter" than... (Below threshold)
Usful Ijit:

We're not "smarter" than the founders.

No, you are not.

We are simply alive to see slavery outlawed.

Not simply. A lot of our ancestors died to ensure that necessary and just outcome.

When it went, the reason for having an Electoral College went.

Read Federalist Paper's 10 and 68. Read the US Constitution. Then and only then, comment on the reasons for having an Electoral College.

Usful Ijit --I'm a... (Below threshold)
Publicus:

Usful Ijit --

I'm a liberal and I want to thank you for bringing up the Constitution and (especially) the Federalist Papers! That's the level our political discourse needs to be at.

As the preamble of the Constitution says, it's purpose is to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

To the degree that the Constitution is still doing that, we should preserve it as it is. To the degree that it is failing, we should amend it.

Thanks, again!

And how exactly is this ... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

And how exactly is this "minority" status defined? Solely on the basis of geographic location, affected by boundaries in the sand drawn up centuries ago. But you could instead seek to protect different types of minority status. Would Mr. Tea favor a rule, "The candidate that gets the most votes from the minorities (that is, blacks, Latinos, and Asians) shall be declared the winner."

That would be just a bit in violation of the 14th Amendment --- making the votes of whites, blacks, and Hispanics be worth different amounts.

But some relic that was primarily designed to increase the electoral power OF THE SLAVE-OWNING STATES of centuries ago, along the U.S. Supreme Court shutting down the vote-count in Florida, kept Al Gore from attaining what was rightfully his.

Seeing as how Bush won the recount, no, it was not "rightfully" Gore's. I also love reading lefties who gripe about 2000 THEN gripe about how Bush "stole" the election in 2004. Hilarious.

Why is it a bad idea? Do I need to go into the history of such loveliness as Tamany Hall, the Chicago political machine, the New Orleans political machine, the KC political machine, etc? Better to limit their damage to one state rather than the country.

cadrys, you have no problem w/ the gop attempting to stack the courts, but damn FDR for doing trying (allegedly) to do it? ROFLMAO

"allegedly" tried to do it?

FDR "fireside chat", 3/9/37

MY FRIENDS, last Thursday I described in detail certain economic problems which everyone admits now face the nation. For the many messages which have come to me after that speech, and which it is physically impossible to answer individually, I take this means of saying thank you. Tonight, sitting at my desk in the White House, I make my first radio report to the people in my second term of office.

I am reminded of that evening in March, four years ago, when I made my first radio report to you. We were then in the midst of the great banking crisis.

Soon after, with the authority of the Congress, we asked the nation to turn over all of its privately held gold, dollar for dollar, to the government of the United States.

Today's recovery proves how right that policy was.

But when, almost two years later, it came before the Supreme Court its constitutionality was upheld only by a five-to-four vote. The change of one vote would have thrown all the affairs of this great nation back into hopeless chaos. In effect, four justices ruled that the right under a private contract to exact a pound of flesh was more sacred than the main objectives of the Constitution to establish an enduring nation.

In 1933 you and I knew that we must never let our economic system get completely out of joint again-that we could not afford to take the risk of another Great Depression.

We also became convinced that the only way to avoid a repetition of those dark days was to have a government with power to prevent and to cure the abuses and the inequalities which had thrown that system out of joint.

We then began a program of remedying those abuses and inequalities-to give balance and stability to our economic system, to make it bomb-proof against the causes of 1929.

Today we are only part-way through that program- and recovery is speeding up to a point where the dangers of 1929 are again becoming possible, not this week or month perhaps, but within a year or two.

National laws are needed to complete that program. Individual or local or state effort alone cannot protect us in 1937 any better than ten years ago.

It will take time - and plenty of time - to work out our remedies administratively even after legislation is passed. To complete our program of protection in time, therefore, we cannot delay one moment in making certain that our national government has power to carry through.

Four years ago action did not come until the eleventh hour. It was almost too late. If we learned anything from the depression, we will not allow our selves to run around in new circles of futile discussion and debates, always postponing the day of decision.

The American people have learned from the depression. For in the last three national elections an overwhelming majority of them voted a mandate that the Congress and the president begin the task of providing that protection - not after long years of debate, but now.

The courts, however, have cast doubts on the ability of the elected Congress to protect us against catastrophe by meeting squarely our modern social and economic conditions.

We are at a crisis, a crisis in our ability to proceed with that protection. It is a quiet crisis. There are no lines of depositors outside closed banks. But to the farsighted it is far-reaching in its possibilities of injury to America.

I want to talk with you very simply tonight about the need for present action in this crisis - the need to meet the unanswered challenge of one-third of a nation ill-nourished, ill-clad, ill-housed.

Last Thursday I described the American form of government as a three-horse team provided by the Constitution to the American people so that their field might be plowed. The three horses are, of course, the three branches of government - the Congress, the executive, and the courts. Two of the horses, the Congress and the executive, are pulling in unison today; the third is not. Those who have intimated that the president of the United States is trying to drive that team, overlook the simple fact that the presidents, as chief executive, is himself one of the three horses.

It is the American people themselves who are in the driver s seat. It is the American people themselves who want the furrow plowed. It is the American people themselves who expect the third horse to fall in unison with the other two.

I hope that you have re-read the Constitution of the United States in these past few weeks. Like the Bible, it ought to be read again and again.

It is an easy document to understand when you remember that it was called into being because the Articles of Confederation under which the original thirteen states tried to operate after the Revolution showed the need of a national government with power enough to handle national problems. In its Preamble, the Constitution states that it was intended to form a more perfect union and promote the general welfare; and the powers given to the Congress to carry out those purposes can best be described by saying that they were all the powers needed to meet each and every problem which then had a national character and which could not be met by merely local action.

But the framers of the Constitution went further. Having in mind that in succeeding generations many other problems then undreamed of would become national problems, they gave to the Congress the ample broad powers "to levy taxes . . . and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States."

That, my friends, is what I honestly believe to have been the clear and underlying purpose of the patriots who wrote a federal Constitution to create a national government with national power, intended as they said, "to form a more perfect union . . . for ourselves and our posterity."

For nearly twenty years there was no conflict between the Congress and the Court. Then in 1803 Congress passed a statute which the Court said violated an express provision of the Constitution. The Court claimed the power to declare it unconstitutional and did so declare it. But a little later the Court itself admitted that it was an extraordinary power to exercise and through Mr. Justice Washington laid down this limitation upon it: he said, "It is but a decent respect due to the wisdom, the integrity and the patriotism of the legislative body, by which any law is passed, to presume in favor of its validity until its violation of the Constitution is proved beyond all reasonable doubt."

But since the rise of the modern movement for social and economic progress through legislation, the Court has more and more often and more and more boldly asserted a power to veto laws passed by the Congress and by state legislatures in complete disregard of this original limitation which I have just read.

In the last four years the sound rule of giving statutes the benefit of all reasonable doubt has been cast aside. The Court has been acting not as a judicial body, but as a policymaking body. A family listening to the radio.

When the Congress has sought to stabilize national agriculture, to improve the conditions of labor, to safeguard business against unfair competition, to protect our national resources, and in many other ways, to serve our clearly national needs, the majority of the Court has been assuming the power to pass on the wisdom of these acts of the Congress - and to approve or disapprove the public policy written into these laws.

That is not only my accusation. It is the accusation of most distinguished justices of the present Supreme Court. I have not the time to quote to you all the language used by dissenting justices in many of these cases. But in the case holding the Railroad Retirement Act unconstitutional, for instance, Chief Justice Hughes said in a dissenting opinion that the majority opinion was "a departure from sound principles," and placed "an unwarranted limitation upon the commerce clause." And three other justices agreed with him.

In the case of holding the AAA unconstitutional, Justice Stone said of the majority opinion that it was a "tortured construction of the Constitution." And two other justices agreed with him.

In the case holding the New York minimum wage law unconstitutional, Justice Stone said that the majority were actually reading into the Constitution their own "personal economic predilections," and that if the legislative power is not left free to choose the methods of solving the problems of poverty, subsistence, and health of large numbers in the community, then "government is to be rendered impotent." And two other justices agreed with him.

In the face of these dissenting opinions, there is no basis for the claim made by some members of the Court that something in the Constitution has compelled them regretfully to thwart the will of the people.

In the face of such dissenting opinions, it is perfectly clear that, as Chief Justice Hughes has said, "We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is."

The Court in addition to the proper use of its judicial functions has improperly set itself up as a third house of the Congress - a super-legislature, as one of the justices has called it - reading into the Constitution words and implications which are not there, and which were never intended to be there.

We have, therefore, reached the point as a nation where we must take action to save the Constitution from the Court and the Court from itself. We must find a way to take an appeal from the Supreme Court to the Constitution itself. We want a Supreme Court which will do justice under the Constitution and not over it. In our courts we want a government of laws and not of men.

I want - as all Americans want - an independent judiciary as proposed by the framers of the Constitution. That means a Supreme Court that will enforce the Constitution as written, that will refuse to amend the Constitution by the arbitrary exercise of judicial power - in other words by judicial say-so. It does not mean a judiciary so independent that it can deny the existence of facts which are universally recognized.

How then could we proceed to perform the mandate given us? It was said in last year's Democratic platform, and here are the words, "if these problems cannot be effectively solved within the Constitution, we shall seek such clarifying amendments as will assure the power to enact those laws, adequately to regulate commerce, protect public health and safety, and safeguard economic security." In their words, we said we would seek an amendment only if every other possible means by legislation were to fail.

When I commenced to review the situation with the problem squarely before me, I came by a process of elimination to the conclusion that, short of amendments, the only method which was clearly constitutional, and would at the same time carry out other much needed reforms, was to infuse new blood into all our courts. We must have men worthy and equipped to carry out impartial justice. But, at the same time, we must have judges who will bring to the courts a present-day sense of the Constitution - judges who will retain in the courts the judicial functions of a court, and reject the legislative powers which the courts have today assumed.

It is well for us to remember that in forty-five out of the forty-eight states of the Union, judges are chosen not for life but for a period of years. In many states judges must retire at the age of seventy. Congress has provided financial security by offering life pensions at full pay for federal judges on all courts who are willing to retire at seventy. In the case of Supreme Court justices, that pension is $20,000 a year. But all federal judges, once appointed, can, if they choose, hold office for life, no matter how old they may get to be.

What is my proposal? It is simply this: whenever a judge or justice of any federal court has reached the age of seventy and does not avail himself of the opportunity to retire on a pension, a new member shall be appointed by the president then in office, with the approval, as required by the Constitution, of the Senate of the United States.

That plan has two chief purposes. By bringing into the judicial system a steady and continuing stream of new and younger blood, I hope, first, to make the administration of all federal justice, from the bottom to the top, speedier and, therefore, less costly; secondly, to bring to the decision of social and economic problems younger men who have had personal experience and contact with modern facts and circumstances under which average men have to live and work. This plan will save our national Constitution from hardening of the judicial arteries.

The number of judges to be appointed would depend wholly on the decision of present judges now over seventy, or those who would subsequently reach the age of seventy.

If, for instance, any one of the six justices of the Supreme Court now over the age of seventy should retire as provided under the plan, no additional place would be created. Consequently, although there never can be more than fifteen, there may be only fourteen, or thirteen, or twelve. And there may be only nine.

There is nothing novel or radical about this idea. It seeks to maintain the federal bench in full vigor. It has been discussed and approved by many persons of high authority ever since a similar proposal passed the House of Representatives in 1869.

Why was the age fixed at seventy? Because the laws of many states, and the practice of the civil service, the regulations of the Army and Navy, and the rules of many of our universities and of almost every great private business enterprise, commonly fix the retirement age at seventy years or less.

The statute would apply to all the courts in the federal system. There is general approval so far as the lower federal courts are concerned. The plan has met opposition only so far as the Supreme Court of the United States itself is concerned. But, my friends, if such a plan is good for the lower courts, it certainly ought to be equally good for the highest Court, from which there is no appeal.

Those opposing this plan have sought to arouse prejudice and fear by crying that I am seeking to "pack" the Supreme Court and that a baneful precedent will be established.

What do they mean by the words "packing the Supreme Court?" Let me answer this question with a bluntness that will end all honest misunderstanding of my purposes.

If by that phrase "packing the Court" it is charged that I wish to place on the bench spineless puppets who would disregard the law and would decide specific cases as I wished them to be decided, I make this answer: that no president fit for his office would appoint, and no Senate of honorable men fit for their office would confirm, that kind of appointees to the Supreme Court.

But if by that phrase the charge is made that I would appoint and the Senate would confirm justices worthy to sit beside present members of the Court, who understand modern conditions, that I will appoint justices who will not undertake to override the judgment of the Congress on legislative policy, that I will appoint justices who will act as justices and not as legislators - if the appointment of such justices can be called "packing the Courts," then I say that I and with me the vast majority of the American people favor doing just that thing - now.

Is it a dangerous precedent for the Congress to change the number of the justices? The Congress has always had, and will have, that power. The number of justices has been changed several times before, in the administrations of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - both of them signers of the Declaration of Independence - in the administrations of Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant.

I suggest only the addition of justices to the bench in accordance with a clearly defined principle relating to a clearly defined age limit. Fundamentally, if in the future, America cannot trust the Congress it elects to refrain from abuse of our constitutional usages, democracy will have failed far beyond the importance to democracy ofany kind of precedent concerning the judiciary.

We think it so much in the public interest to maintain a vigorous judiciary that we encourage the retirement of elderly judges by offering them a life pension at full salary. Why then should we leave the fulfillment of this public policy to chance or make it dependent upon the desire or prejudice of any individual justice?

It is the clear intention of our public policy to provide for a constant flow of new and younger blood into the judiciary. Normally every president appoints a large number of district and circuit judges and a few members of the Supreme Court. Until my first term practically every president of the United States in our history had appointed at least one member of the Supreme Court. President Taft appointed five members and named a chief justice; President Wilson, three; President Harding, four, including a chief justice; President Coolidge, one; President Hoover, three including a chief justice.

Such a succession of appointments should have provided a Court well balanced as to age. But chance and the disinclination of individuals to leave the Supreme bench have now given us a Court in which five justices will be over seventy-five years of age before next June and one over seventy. Thus a sound public policy has been defeated.

So I now propose that we establish by law an assurance against any such ill-balanced Court in the future. I propose that hereafter, when a judge reaches the age of seventy, a new and younger judge shall be added to the Court automatically.... "

He wanted to add new court justices to allow his blatantly illegal laws to become law (confiscating gold is legal in WHAT way?). He wanted to ruin the whole balance of power in the government because he was pitching a fit that the SCOTUS told his brutally overrated butt "no".

All Bush has done is nominate justices. Funny, I didn't hear complaints about Clinton "packing" the SCOTUS after nominating incredibly left-wing justices.
-=Mike

Publicus,I absolut... (Below threshold)
Usful Ijit:

Publicus,

I absolutely agree with you that we need to elevate the level of our public discourse, and I try, though I fail at times. And if fail it is because I am human.

I also agree that if we as a people judge that the Constitution is in need of amending, the means necessary are embedded within, and we as citizens should exercise our rights to that amendent process.

I also agree with you that we "are all created equal," though it has required many sacrifices along the way to get where we are. And the process continues.

And I thank you for your kind words.

Usful Ijit--Thank ... (Below threshold)
Publicus:

Usful Ijit--

Thank YOU! I don't think I have the wisdom to know exactly what to do, but I think I'm pretty good at recognizing the challenges.

For example, the founders tried to prevent tyranny by dividing powers between the states and the federal government, and also within the federal government. They thought that loyalties to the various branches would keep power divided and prevent a concentration of power.

I think members of both parties would agree that party loyalties have exceed loyalties to institutions that officials may serve. That is, an elected official is often more loyal to the Democratic or Republican party he belongs to than, say, the Senate in which he serves. So, he may sacrifice powers reserved for to the Senate to help a president in his own party. (This would hold for members of either party; I'm not picking sides here!)

The point is, we may have some unanticipated institutional problems that the founders did not forsee. And, if these problems result in a weakening of the (intentional) division of powers, we should address it.

I don't know how. But I see the problems.

Just as I don't know if we should continue or abolish the electoral college; but I know the question to ask. Does the electoral college meet the purpose of the Constitution better than or worse than an election by popular vote?

I must say, you guys, this ... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

I must say, you guys, this is a facinating and well-reasoned discussion, especially between UJ and Publicus. There has been very little poo-flinging from the usual crowd (granted, JT has thrown out most of them). Keep it up guys, it makes good reading!

I am surprised to have seen... (Below threshold)

I am surprised to have seen the overheated rhetoric from Maryland conservatives. Ironically, this piece of legislation would bring new life to the Republican Party in this state by giving Republicans a meaningful fight to pursue in Presidential years.

There are a lot of swing Democrats and moderate Republicans, but more the former, in this state that can be persuaded to cross lines - IF the state's vote doesn't already look dead. PLUS get out the vote becomes more important because it does matter, even if the Dems "take" Maryland, that Republican turnout be maximized.

Net: Republican presidential candidates will be hitting not swing states, not big states, not big cities but pockets of swing voters. Essex. Parkville. Glen Burnie. NOT San Francisco. The bigger GOP presidential footprint might help energize some local races as well in those areas.

Without the Electoral Colle... (Below threshold)

Without the Electoral College, future Presidents would only have to campaign on the Coasts and in the few states of Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. The new President would be a man of the people- most of those people living in California, New York, Florida, and Illinois.

This would destroy our country.

A President needs to be the choice of EVERYONE- not just a handful of the most densely populated states.

This was all addressed very well in the Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton. (For those of you in Rio Linda, he's the guy on the $10 bill.)

I'm trying to recall ano... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

I'm trying to recall another time in history when a free people have so willingly chosen to give up their freedom and subsume their liberty to the will of others

Where were you when Bush suspended habeas corpus? Have you actually read the "Patriot" Act?

Right now, the American flag has 50 stars, one for each state. I propose that for every state that goes along with this, we remove one star to symbolize the loss of a free state. Right now, the American flag has 50 stars, one for each state. I propose that for every state that goes along with this, we remove one star to symbolize the loss of a free state.

So that would be 13 stripes and no stars.

When we get the neocons out of government, we'll sew 'em back.

Nice try ass-tifaga. The k... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Nice try ass-tifaga. The keystone-cops/dems are screwing themselves already. Get ready for a Republican House/Senate surge in 2008 along with a hill-dog/osama defeat.

So that would be 13 stri... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

So that would be 13 stripes and no stars.

When we get the neocons out of government, we'll sew 'em back.

Astifaga --- standing up for freedom only when "his side" wins. Truly courageous.
-=Mike

"...how many major cities w... (Below threshold)
Rick:

"...how many major cities would it take to carry a majority of votes cast? Forget the countryside, forget small towns, only the big cities would be covered at all."

-So you're saying that the Republicans would be a minority in a national popular vote, including cities? That a majority of Americans are Democrats?

I just want to clarify.




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