As someone who was fortunate to twice win Electoral College elections, I took great interest in Denver Talk Radio host Mike Rosen’s recent defense of the current system. His attack on the principle of “One Person, One Vote“ embodied in Democrats’ attempts to secure a majority of Electoral College votes for whoever wins the national popular vote borders on bizarre as he attempts to defend a system based, in part, on concepts of the privilege of royalty (e.g., the U.S. Senate paralleling the English House of Lords).
Despite Rosen’s pretense the Electoral College was a result of the perfection of a republic by our founding fathers, it was a rough-and-tumble political compromise at the time of the birth of our nation. Its establishment at that time does not make it inviolable, just as the legality of slavery or the disenfranchisement of women did not mean those conditions, too, should be immune to change.
Rosen objects to modifying the current system because he is a partisan Republican who admits the Electoral College disproportionately favors small Republican states. However, his argument a national popular vote would diminish importance of Colorado has little basis in fact.
The equivalent of a national popular vote actually may increase the attention Colorado gets primarily because Coloradans are open-minded and often split their tickets — voting for Democrats and Republicans based on citizens’ evaluations of each candidate. This kind of “swing” voter is exactly the kind which campaigns target — and is one of the reasons why Colorado has received extensive attention in recent presidential campaigns.
Admittedly, the Electoral College amplifies Colorado’s attractiveness because our state (and 47 others) is a “winner-take-all” participant. Hence, winning a small majority or even a plurality in Colorado gets the winner all nine of its Electoral College votes. But attractiveness is relative and it is possible a popular vote election could make Colorado a more popular place to campaign.
It also helps that Colorado has proved to be a solid source of fundraising for many candidates — hence, attracting them to the State for non-electoral reasons. Once they are here, most candidates tend to campaign. And our geographic position makes it easy for candidates to stop while en route to wealthier and more populous states such as California or Texas.
Rosen’s argument candidates would only go to big states is too general. If big states had large citizen blocks which always voted lockstep for one party (e.g., California for Democrats, Utah for Republicans), candidates would go to states where they had a better prospect of winning new votes.
Candidates also would focus resources in geographic areas which offer better media access to swing voters. Colorado offers both opportunities — a concentrated major media market in the Denver metropolitan area (the 18th largest media market in the nation — out of more than 400 markets) and a high percentage of swing voters.
As Rosen points out, indeed the United States of America is a republic, but to conclude the founding fathers would be aghast at the idea the nation’s President ultimately would be chosen via a popular vote is silly. Given the configuration of the country today — quite different than that of the 13 colonies 233 years ago — it is entirely possible the founding fathers would be in favor of the direct election of the President while preserving the republican nature of the legislative branch. Of course, if the founding fathers saw the country today, they might have a number of other suggestions for “improvements…”
Aaron Harber hosts “The Aaron Harber Show” seen Tuesdays at 8:00 pm and Wednesdays at 5:00 pm on PBS Station KBDI-TV Channel 12 and viewable 24/7. Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com. © Copyright 2009 by Aaron Harber and USA Talk Network, Inc. All rights reserved.