Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Demogogues and Demographics

The electoral college was invented to respect the differences between states politically speaking. It was a way of localizing a national election for president and respecting that the interests of New York are different from those of Alabama.

Yet today it is likely not the state you live in or even your income that are likely to determine your party allegiance. Rather it is your cultural demographics and tendencies that will likely determine who you vote for in a primary or in the general election.

In 1976 a relatively close election 25% of voters lived in a "landslide" county. Landslide being defined as a win by 20 points or more. In 2004, that percentage went up to 50% of voters. This has led to the continued "Balkanization" of voters. As the general election progresses the candidates will begin to spend the bulk of their time in the swing states, the electoral battle grounds that will determine the election.

The candidates involved in this general election (assuming Senators Obama and McCain do indeed become their party's nominees) are seen as bridge builders. They are seen as candidates that can reach across the aisle and work from a centrist position. They are swimming against the tide of demography.

But let me return to my original premise. The electoral college breaks the country into states. But when a state is broken so sharply along its own county lines into shades of red and blue, one wonders if simple state wide counts tell the story any more.

Is the Democratic Party's system of proportional delegate counting a more accurate way of assessing the electorate? Or should we do away with all slicing and dicing and do our elections by a simple popular vote of all citizens? The way you count is the determining factor for how the game is played. Do our rules and the country's trends force our candidates to play into a box?

1 comment:

Alex Lotorto said...

In the electoral college, you can get 10% of the vote in every state and still clock in at ZERO.

We need reforms like those outlined in Ralph Nader's Concord Principles from 1992:


(a) a binding none-of-the-above option on the ballot;
(b) term limitations, 12 years and out;
(c) public financing of campaigns through well-promoted voluntary taxpayer checkoffs on tax returns;
(d) easier voter registration and ballot access rules;
(e) state-level binding initiative, referendum, and recall authority, a non-binding national referendum procedure; and
(f) a repeal of the runaway White House/Congressional Pay Raises back to 1988 levels -- a necessary dose of humility to the politicians.

The greatest champion in our lifetimes to fight for change is Ralph Nader.

If you don't like it, support Ralph!