Tuesday, November 8, 2011

states' rights

States' rights is a misnomer. It's really Republican rights--the rights of the minority of Americans who are conservatives to not have their rights swamped by the populous, Democratic-dominated, urban areas.

Yet people continue to talk about this issue as if it has anything to do with states per se. You can see the falsity of this when Republicans get control of Washington, as during the Bush Era. Then they run roughshod over states' rights in their efforts to enact their social agenda.

Which is why we never get anywhere with states' rights issues--because we aren't talking about it honestly. It invites hypocrisy on both sides.

So when urban types say we should abolish the electoral college, rural types naturally bristle. The kind of society they prefer would indeed get dented by liberals' opposed social agenda.

What no one discusses is compromises that would give urban areas somewhat more voting power, yet without removing the imbalance completely.

Thus the real problem with the electoral college is its being coupled with our Winner Take All system, which disenfranchises all conservatives in liberal states and all liberals in conservative states.

Thus if all the states agreed to adopt proportional electoral college representation instead of today's winner take all system, it would preserve today's small state advantage--which they'll never vote to lose, frankly--but would empower the minority conservatives and liberals in all the states, and force the two parties to take them seriously--which they don't today. And it could conceivably happen, because it's truly a nonpartisan structural reform that empowers huge numbers of both conservatives and liberals.

For example, in my state--California--we always vote Blue for the President, representing the vast majority of the state's population. But a third of the state is conservative, and occupy a majority of the eastern 2/3 of the state, away from the coast. This conservative minority simply has no say in who becomes president. The liberal minority of Texas--about a third, I think-is similarly voiceless.

Proportional electoral college representation doesn't advantage either party, yet gives a huge number of Americans much more of a say in national politics.

It's the kind of reform fair-minded liberals, conservatives and moderates should go for. And if we propose things like this we also start to make the political dialog less polarized, which helps with other issues as well.

Nonpartisan redistricting is another. Today redistricting is seen by both parties as a tool for partisan advantage, ruthlessly wielded. Nonpartisan redistricting moves power away from both parties' Washington leadership and back towards the people. That's another nonpartisan reform we should be arguing for--perhaps ahead of more divisive issues.

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