1.12.16

DEMOCRATS USED TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE AT BUYING PROXIES.

That is, when they could buy additional representation in Congress, and the additional electoral votes, at the exchange rate of three proxies for the price of five slaves.  But today, when the proxies are clustered in places like Chicago, Baltimore, and big cities in California, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the Democrats occasionally find themselves losing a presidential election despite massive turnout by their proxies in the safest states (California, Illinois, and New York: I'm looking at you.)

Thus, we get a switch from Donald J. Trump complaining about a rigged system (great theater, in my view: he won the presidential and he got Hillary's media to pay for it) in advance of the election, and the Hillary cheering section complaining about the rigging afterward.

We'll start with a nuanced complaint about the rigging from, of all sources, Vox.  Sean Illing interviews Yale's A. R. Amar.  Professor Amar gets directly to the matter of the proxies.
In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn't vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that's what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. And thus it's no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. (Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.)

This pro-slavery compromise was not clear to everyone when the Constitution was adopted, but it was clearly evident to everyone when the Electoral College was amended after the Jefferson-Adams contest of 1796 and 1800. These elections were decided, in large part, by the extra electoral votes created by slavery.
There's probably a separate strain of analysis, on the importance of the diffusion of the cotton gin after 1794, and Britannia ruling the waves in such a way as to impede the importation of slaves, with the concurrence of the United States, after 1807.  I wonder if there's anyone adventurous enough to suggest that apportioning the House of Representatives on the basis of free population, or that going to direct election of presidents would have headed off secession ...

But Professor Amar suggests that reformers be careful about casting off the current method of electing the President of the United States too casually.
There are always transition costs. Brilliant reformers never fully anticipate possible defects in their reforms, and there are always unintended consequences.

We've managed to limp along with this system. It's not highly skewed to either party today. The Democrats tend, in general, to win more big states. The Republicans tend, in general, to win more states overall. And these skews offset for the most part.

If we have a direct election, we're going to need far more federal oversight over the process, and that's a massive undertaking. States might also have incentives to push democracy too far, like lowering [voting age] to 16, for example. Hence you'll need more federal regulation over the process.
Yes, and yes.  The conventional wisdom until 12.01 on November 9 was that the so-called blue wall would hold, with Mrs Clinton narrowly winning the popular vote and Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  As recently as 2012 it was the Republicans trashing the electoral college in the 48 states that vote winner-take-all, as Mr Romney picked up pluralities in sufficiently many congressional districts in states such as California, Illinois, and New York to have carried the electoral vote under the Nebraska and Maine rules: and he, too, would have lost the popular vote.  That gets into more complications than I wish to deal with today, but stay tuned.

That second yes?  The universal 55 mph speed limit on interstate highways, and funding for highways tied to a 21 year drinking age turned out so well, didn't they?  Perhaps there's something to be said for devolving federal powers, rather than raising the importance of the presidency.

But the complaining about the rigging is going to get louder, if this Common Dreams screed is any sort of harbinger.
In fact the Electoral College system was created by slaveholders, and remains undemocratic and racist, and biased to the Republicans. Obama showed that the system can be overcome and even turned to our advantage, but the Clinton and Gore losses show it is an uphill climb.
No. Mr Obama was willing to outwork his opponents. “I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW Hall… There’s some counties maybe I won, that people didn’t expect, because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for.”  That prompts Ed Rogers of Washington's Post, no house organ for Mr Trump, to offer Democrats constructive advice.  "In other words, instead of worrying about the electoral college, the Democrats should start worrying about their ability to connect with middle America."

But ... but ... virtue signalling and pouting are so refreshing.
The pro-Republican bias of the Electoral College derives from two main dynamics: it overweights the impact of mostly conservative voters in small population states and it negates entirely the mostly progressive votes of nearly half of African American voters, more than half of Native American voters and a major swath of Latino voters.

For decades now, with a couple of exceptions, Republicans have dominated rural areas, small towns and small population states, and the Democrats control big cities and most big population states.

Well, the Electoral College rules give as much as three times as much weight to the mainly conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared to states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic populations.
There's more to the geographic sorting, and that, too, is for another day.  There's a map that's been circulating that might shed some light on that Democrat control of big cities, or that Democrat failure to connect with middle America.


That's an opportunity for future research:  are we simply counting total crimes, or are we truly looking at a crime rate (e.g reported property crimes per thousand citizens)?  That may also be a dimension of any future Democrat approach to people outside thickly settled areas.  The current approach?  There isn't one.
“The Democratic Party ceded rural America to the Republicans quite some time ago,” said Vickie Rock, a member of the Nevada State Democratic Central Committee from rural Humboldt County. “They invested nothing, they built no bench. They don’t even send out signs anymore, which is a staple of rural politics.

“All Trump had to do was peel off a small percentage of urban votes, and he was going to win,” Rock said. “Because he already had, in his back pocket, rural America.”
And when there is one, well, let's say that sending in Pajama Boy loses friends and alienates people.
“People just love it when you show up,” said Ted Sadler, a Democratic political hand from rural Georgia. “But for us, there was zero Democratic action in the 8th Congressional District.” (The district sits in the heavily rural south central part of the state.)

In Georgia, Sadler said the party was instead obsessed with driving up turnout in Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs at the expense of Democratic-friendly areas in other parts of the state. It was a common refrain among the Democratic strategists interviewed for this story, all of whom said they saw a party that believed it no longer needed rural votes to win elections.

When Democratic officials did show up, Sadler and others said they were ill-equipped for the nuances of a campaign in rural America.

“When they do show up, it’s 22-year-old kids from the Ivy League,” Sadler said. “And they’re telling you what do, as opposed to stopping and listening.”
Funnily, the Common Dreams guys, in the middle of their rant, even see this.  "This year the Electoral outcome was able to reverse Clinton’s large popular vote margin because, for the first time in decades, the Republicans carried large population states Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan in addition to Texas."  Put another way, Detroit (or Cleveland, or Milwaukee, or Philadelphia) is what Democrats do, and, no matter how incoherent his message appeared to be, Mr Trump did something to crack that blue wall.  Or perhaps the hipsters lost those voters, just by being themselves.  Or they took for granted that they had bought enough proxies with National Endowment grants for court intellectuals and food stamps for the people rendered unemployable by government schools and the minimum wage.

As far as the nonlinearity in the electoral vote, perhaps that is in part the consequence of the House of Representatives comprising 435 seats since 1929.  More seats in California, and more seats in a few of those single-Member-of-Congress states, and in several of the swing states?  That could get interesting.  Britain's House of Commons currently seats about six hundred.  And enlarging the House only requires an Act of Congress.  Changing the method for electing the Chief Magistrate of These United States takes a Constitutional Amendment.

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