Opinion » Bill Cope

E.C. Bad

It's not really a college, you know


I start this without knowing who won. It's the morning of Nov. 6. As a general rule, it takes me three sessions of writing to get one of these things presentable--day one to find direction, day two to finish the thought, and day three to make certain I didn't say something exceedingly dumb.

Sometimes, I start a column (as I did yesterday--Nov. 5) and change my mind as to topic overnight. When that happens (as it did last night), it means I need a minimum of four days from commencement to handing something over for publication. I admit to being neither a fast writer nor a fast thinker. Sometimes, if things go really flooey, I need five days, or even six, to knock out this measly 1,000 (or so) words you have before you.

The point being, I can't afford to wait until tomorrow (Nov. 7)--when presumably I'll know who we'll be calling president for the next four years--to start writing. Now, I could assume Barack Obama is going to win (as I indeed am assuming), but then, if the unthinkable happens and my assumption proves wrong, I would have some mighty gooey egg on my face, wouldn't I?

By the time I finish this up Nov. 8 (Nov. 9, maybe), I will, of course, know the outcome, unless one of those waking nightmares like Florida 2000 happens. But for now, anything I have to say about why Obama won (or lost) and why Mitt Romney lost (or won) can wait. It's best I play it safe, put off my victory lap column (or my "We are doomed!" column) until next week and find another theme with which to occupy my three typing fingers. And to that end, we shall discuss today the urgent need--nay, I say emergency need--to toss that rotting piece of archaic crap, the Electoral College, into the recycling bin of history before something horrible happens.

I (and many others) have argued before that the Electoral College has outlived any usefulness it ever had and is now little more than a tire-shredding, axle-snapping pothole smack-dab in the middle of Democracy Road. Had we ditched the college back when we should have (at the dawn of the era of telegraphy), the nightmare of Florida 2000 would never have happened. Two out of the last three presidential elections were conflicts between the Electoral College vote and the popular vote. (You betcha, I am confident John Kerry actually won Ohio in 2004, which would have made him president even as George W. Bush took the popular vote.)

It's eminently possible the same damn avoidable mess could happen tonight (Nov. 6), when they count up the ballots. It's been on the lips of bean counters and hair splitters for months that one candidate could win the college vote and the other the peoples' vote. And I'm telling you, peoples, this is no way to run a modern country.

Those traditionalists so fearful of any deviation from the muddy rut the founding fathers dug for us in establishing the Electoral College argue that the college gives puny little backwater states (Idaho, say) more clout than they would have if all that counted were the popular vote of such backwaters. I have never understood this iffy theory. Tell me, how is it that converting all of Idaho's votes (no matter how diversified they are) into four unified votes conveys any more bang per capita than turning all of California's votes (no matter how diversified they are) into 55 unified votes?

Frankly, the conservative reliance on this mythical clout obscures the real reason anyone thought we needed the college in the first place--that being: It could take weeks for the results from separate regions of the newly born and oversized nation to make their way to a central location--and it also ignores the very real and immediate ills with which the college has infected our modern politics.

Not that I object to missing out on the dense swill-storm of campaigning and advertising that a handful of swing states had to endure over the last year. I'm sure everyone outside the battleground--Californians and Alabamans, lucid progressives and foggy tea baggers, elitist merlot-sipping liberals and catfish-wrestling, Coors-slurping hillbillies--are thankful that when we switched on our televisions during campaign season we could enjoy a normal Viagra commercial or Charmin ad rather than another tsunami of political proselytizing.

However, by distilling millions of opposing votes into a single-voiced Electoral College delegation that marches lock-step with no hint or history of opposition, we are committing an offense to the very fabric of a democracy, the very nature of which is for citizens to combine their voices across the broadest spectrum. And that fusion of the like-minded should not be forced into irrelevance because a state line falls between them.

Oh, wow, is it Nov. 7 already? It must be. I didn't wake up all nervous and jumpy. In fact, I woke up happier than hell.

But I haven't changed my mind about the Electoral College. Just because we got lucky last night doesn't mean the two-headed troll won't eventually come out of its cave again. And every time it happens we are another step closer to a calamity.

One more point: Imagine how much harder it would be for the dirty bastard, voter-suppressing vermin to disrupt the polls and deny other citizens their voting rights if it didn't always come down to a few urban counties in Florida or Ohio. Think doing away with the Electoral College would be bad? Try winning another election with rotten, racist tricks and we may find out what real bad is all about.