Ethics Dunces: Republicans

election-fraudIn government, the appearance of impropriety can be as damaging as the reality, and what a terrific, tone-deaf, stupid example Republicans are giving the nation by trying to change the Electoral College system, already highly unpopular (I like it, by the way), by making it worse. The GOP is pursuing a strategy of trying to get the states where it has control of the legislature to change the way those states’ electoral votes are allocated in a Presidential election from winner-take-all (the current system in place in all but two states) to allocation by Congressional district. Such a system would have, just coincidentally I’m sure, given a narrow victory to Mitt Romney if it were in place in all the states that Mitt Romney lost (but none that he won.)

Screams from Democrats that the Republicans are trying to “fix” the election system are a bit disingenuous: an essentially identical system was installed in Maine by a Democratic legislature (as well as in Nebraska by Republicans), and no alarms were sounded then. There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about it, for state legislatures are charged by Mr. Madison’s masterpiece with deciding how allocating electoral votes should be done. Democrats also did something similar in the wake of the baroque 2000 election result, concocting a scheme, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, to undermine the Electoral College by persuading several states to agree to direct electors to vote not for whoever wins the popular vote in the state itself, but for whoever wins the popular vote nationally. Well, waddya know! THAT method would have given Al Gore the Presidency—and what a fun ride it would have been!—from 2000-2004. This is as much an example of trying to rig the results of the previous election as what the Republicans are trying, though it is much, much fairer and ethically defensible on it merits. (Still a bad idea, though.)

Do recall, however, that it is impossible to rig the results of a previous election. To listen to some Democratic critics, you wouldn’t know that.

While the Democratic scheme, still being pushed in many states, would theoretically eliminate the chances of the popular vote winner losing the Presidency in the Electoral College, the GOP scheme would increase them. Since everyone agrees that result is undesirable, as it divides the country, cripples the winner, and confuses politically ignorant citizens and journalists, that makes the GOP scheme infinitely worse. It is Machiavellian and nothing else. At this moment, Republicans control more Congressional Districts than the Democrats do, even though more voters voted Democratic in the last two Presidential contests. Thus the proposed change would result in the party that wins a majority in the House of Representatives having a good chance of picking up a lot of extra electoral votes in states where its Presidential candidate lost. Republicans recently tried to get this system installed in purple  Virginia (an Obama state that would have given most of its electoral votes to Romney if that was the rule in the last election), but were foiled by a public outcry. Stubborn and silly as ever, they apparently are going to keep trying. Here is why it’s wrong:

  • It is hyper-partisan, and nothing else. There is no pretense that this is really fair, makes sense, or has been careful considered as an improvement of the system. It makes it easier, as things stand now, to put a Republican in the White House, that’s all.
  • It increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood of a President being elected without winning the Popular Vote. That result is always bad for the country. Thus the plan is unpatriotic and a breach of the duty of citizenship.
  • The plan undermines the integrity of the Presidential election. It is bad enough that Nebraska and Maine choose electors differently than everyone else, but under the Republican scheme, we would end up with a mish-mash of systems in the states, no consistency, no predictability, no public trust , confidence or understanding, and no integrity.
  • It is probably discriminatory in effect, minimizing the voting influence of blacks and Hispanics, who are concentrated in urban districts.
  • As a result, the plan is vulnerable to being called racist in intent…and if you give Democrats a chance to cry racism, they will. When enough people claim racism (the mainstream media will always join in), it undermines race relations in the U.S., whether the or not it’s justified.
  • Most of all, the plan is bad because it makes democracy and the republican (small r) form of government look like a shell game, diminishing public trust, which is dangerously low already.

Otherwise, it’s just a dandy idea!

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Sources: Best of the Web, Washington Post

Graphic: Thinking Right

22 thoughts on “Ethics Dunces: Republicans

  1. Is it? State Legislatures, under the constitution, can determine how electors are apportioned. It doesn’t even have to be by popular vote. They can do so with a random selection of people.

    In this proposal, I think it is a good idea. One real problem I see is that a city like Chicago or New York City tends to be very dominating statewide. If we were serious about protecting the rights of the minority, it would be a good idea for states to adopt the “by Congressional District” system.

    Anything that can lessen the influence of ethics cesspools like Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia is a good thing.

    • Is it what? I said it was legal—I also said it was wrong. Your last sentence is “ends justifies the means” unethical bile. The people who live in cesspools still should have the same impact with their votes as anyone else.

      You’re kidding, right?

      • Precisely why our Founding Fathers chose federalism, and a particularly ‘internally conflicted’ federalism to try to slow down the ram-rodding of impassioned legislation. To ensure that only truly needed legislation, which would appeal to more than just a simple majority of the people and the states would make it through.

        The system has been broken as of late through a gradual century long erosion of reliance on the federal system and slow but obvious digression towards nationalist democracy (where essentially the will of the majority (good or bad) is imposed upon everyone, like it or not)

  2. I wouldn’t mind a “one man, one vote” system where it just goes in a huge pile, at least for President. I’m not sure how you’d do district things like Senators, so I sort of begrudgingly accept it might not be as easy to get rid of.

    I would have less of a problem with the electoral college if gerrymandering weren’t a thing.

          • Ok, this I don’t get. We must have some way of determining if each segment of the population’s votes are being tabulated properly. If we trust all THOSE numbers are accurate, why not just put all those numbers together and get the one-man, one vote election that way? Nothing has to change as how it’s collected, just the way they’re counted.

      • To the contrary, without the electoral college, Gore’s lead of more than half a million votes would have made the outcome clear, and no recount would have been needed.

        It is only because we use the Electoral college that the statistically insignificant 600 (or so) votes that divided Bush and Gore in Florida were important. If we went by overall popular vote, then which one of them won Florida wouldn’t have mattered at all, and no one but a few Florida election officials would even know what a hanging chad is.

        • This is a mistake thinking the vote came down to statistically insignificant Florida. Yes, Florida is where the controversies arose, but EVERY state that had a narrow popular margin, yet giving all their electors to the winner constituted the exact same style contribution as Florida.

    • Gerrymandering would be a minuscule issue if our representatives weren’t representing upwards of 600,000 people each and the senators were representing states again and not a bastardized version of the House of Representatives.

  3. I don’t think that any of the reasons given are valid ones for it to be unethical.

    (1) It may seem hyper partisan now, but that doesn’t make it unethical. Ending slavery was hyper-partisan too, that didn’t make it unethical. I live in a state that votes Republican in most presidential elections (at least in the last 8), but there are areas that vote Democratic. Obama would have received more electoral votes here had such a plan been implemented. I am kind of surprised the Republicans are trying this, because I don’t think it helps them if they only do it in Republican dominated states.

    (2) I’m not sure that the second is true, and even if it is, I don’t think that necessarily makes it unethical. The senate allows citizen’s of small states a disproportionate vote on national issues. That doesn’t make it unethical.

    (3) I am not sure why you think that. The only reason this would cause more problems is because the existing problems would become visible. I think that makes it ETHICAL. Sweeping problems under the rug is not usually considered ethical.

    (4) The current system is also discriminatory. It essentially disenfranchises the rural and semi-rural populations in this country. Why is their voice less important than the voice of blacks and hispanics?

    (5) So? When Reagan proposed “Cash for Clunkers”, he was called racist. When Obama did it, it was a good idea. Reagan was going to get the cars without catalytic converters off the road, it would have had a much greater impact on pollution and helped prevent much of the LA smog of the 80’s. It would have saved lives in predominantly urban areas (with high minority populations, incidentally).

    (6) I don’t understand the last point. It embraces democracy by allowing smaller units of population’s voice to be heard. The idea that THIS turns government into a shell game when we allow gerrymandered districts and allow over 100% of the registered voters to vote in some districts is a laugh. It DOES mean that you can’t have the same impact on the election by rigging the election in a few cities, however.

    The main difference this proposal makes is that it lessens the domination of cities on presidential politics and allows rural areas to have a voice that is seen and heard.

    • (1) It may seem hyper partisan now, but that doesn’t make it unethical. Ending slavery was hyper-partisan too, that didn’t make it unethical. I live in a state that votes Republican in most presidential elections (at least in the last 8), but there are areas that vote Democratic. Obama would have received more electoral votes here had such a plan been implemented. I am kind of surprised the Republicans are trying this, because I don’t think it helps them if they only do it in Republican dominated states.

      Let me be clearer—it is unethical because it puts partisanship before the best interests of the nation, and is based on expedeinecy only, none of which applies to the anti-slaver movement.

      (2) I’m not sure that the second is true, and even if it is, I don’t think that necessarily makes it unethical. The Senate allows citizens of small states a disproportionate vote on national issues. That doesn’t make it unethical.

      This is a rationalization, not an ethical argument. In fact, the point you bring up is unfair at this point in the nation’s development. So there are other flawed systems, let’s add another one??

      (3) I am not sure why you think that. The only reason this would cause more problems is because the existing problems would become visible. I think that makes it ETHICAL. Sweeping problems under the rug is not usually considered ethical.

      Pretty obvious, I’d say–if the states don’t determine their votes the same way, it’s like the Florida precincts all judging their chads differently. Integrity means, among other things, that the system should embody consistent values and standards.

      (4) The current system is also discriminatory. It essentially disenfranchises the rural and semi-rural populations in this country. Why is their voice less important than the voice of blacks and hispanics?

      No, it doesn’t. It treats larger populations as larger populations. It is not “discriminatory, in any event, because local isn’t an invidious category. Race is, and the nation desperately needs to built minority trust, not tear it down. Perceptions matter. And again, this is a rationalization argument: we already have inequity, so an even more harmful iniquity is fine. No.

      (5) So? When Reagan proposed “Cash for Clunkers”, he was called racist. When Obama did it, it was a good idea. Reagan was going to get the cars without catalytic converters off the road, it would have had a much greater impact on pollution and helped prevent much of the LA smog of the 80′s. It would have saved lives in predominantly urban areas (with high minority populations, incidentally).

      So it is damaging for an entire political party to be perceived as trying to minimize the electoral influence of a minority group. “Cash for Clunkers” is pretty pathetic comp for “one man/ one vote.”

      (6) I don’t understand the last point. It embraces democracy by allowing smaller units of population’s voice to be heard. The idea that THIS turns government into a shell game when we allow gerrymandered districts and allow over 100% of the registered voters to vote in some districts is a laugh. It DOES mean that you can’t have the same impact on the election by rigging the election in a few cities, however.

      You don’t understand that a party coming back after it not only lost an election fair and square and clearly, but due to its own ineptitude, and proposing a system that would have given it a victory in that election even though it lost by millions of votes makes democracy look like a shaell game? I have trouble believing that.

      • This is only true if the only diversity that matters is skin color. Diversity of opinion and viewpoint also exists. It does disenfranchise rural voters. Even in seemingly rural states, such as Missiouri, the majority of people live in the cities. When the rural areas get grouped with the cities, their voice is mostly lost. This is how gerrymandering works. You dilute the undesirable, dissenting group into a slightly larger, desirable group. If you want to do this, why even take votes outside major cities then? Just allow voting in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. This would greatly simplify vote counting, election planning, and reporting. It would make everything more uniform. It would also be more honest by clearly stating that you don’t want to hear any dissenting voice from the wrong type of minority.

  4. Here’s my idea: let’s vote for our electors by name, like we do our congressional representatives. Let them announce who they’ve pledged to support, but let them be free to change their minds and lawfully be a faithless elector.

  5. Thanks for posting this – I was pleased to see it here.

    This is as much an example of trying to rig the results of the previous election as what the Republicans are trying, though it is much, much fairer and ethically defensible on it merits. (Still a bad idea, though.)

    I don’t think it’s trying to rig the results of the previous election; i think it’s saying “what just happened – the winner of the popular vote losing the election – is bad. Let’s try and fix this bug in the system so it doesn’t happen again.”

    It’s natural that people are more interested in addressing problems right after the problems come up. That’s human nature, I think.

    I really don’t see any reason that the popular vote winner being the president is a bad idea. (Admittedly, sometimes Republicans will win under that method, but I can live with that. :-p )

    • Because the Founders did not want the President to be a partisan individual.

      The founders wanted the people and the States to have a direct say in the Legislative process, not so much in the process of executing the laws and prosecuting wars. They did not want the passions of the people to corrupt so great an office. His original purpose, and that which was generally pursued by most presidents until the birth of the bully pulpit and growth of the imperial presidency, was to Support and Defend the Constitution of the United States. If anything, the President was to be a check against the temporal passions of the people and the states passing potentially ill conceived laws.

      A purely democratic President would serve little purpose in the Checks and Balances system as he would be quick to approve anything and everything the passions of people demanded; a purely state-selected President would not be democratic enough. Hence the compromise of the Electoral College.

      This is not a complete explanation as I’ve been frantically perusing the Federalist Papers and the State’s Ratification debates for a more informative essay.

      Needless to say, there were 3 schools of thought during the Constitutional convention and ratification process:

      Nationalists – who wanted a purely democratic President: the fears of which were he would be too malleable to the short-lived passions of the people and not protect the Constitution.

      Hold-overs from the Confederacy – who wanted a State Selected President: the fears of this was it wasn’t democratic enough, smaller states had too much influence in the chief magistracy.

      “parliamentarians” (for lack of better terminology) – who wanted the President selected by Congress – This was feared more by the Nationalists and “Confederacy-ists” than they feared each other, because it merged two separate branches to much.

      Ultimately the compromise came when the Nationalists and old confederacy hold-overs unified because they knew that the parliamentary option would be disastrous.

      The electoral college additionally was meant to be men who would willingly be faithless electors if the popular candidate was seen to be incompetent or worse. Language by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #68 hints that the Electoral College was a protection against the temporary passions of the people during election years.

      The pure system was quickly corrupted by the winner take all system established by the party systems in the separate states.

      Further corruption occurred when Presidents began overstepping their bounds by becoming activists, versus administrators and guardians of the Constitution.

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