Electoral College system: archaic antiquated, undemocratic

Published 6:52 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

By By Steve Flowers
Many of you have wondered about my prognosis in last week’s column that Barack Obama would probably not win the presidency, although he has all but wrapped up the Democratic nomination. The reasoning is based on the fact that we do not have a direct election of the President in this country. The person who gets the most votes does not necessarily win the White House.
Our Electoral College system is archaic, antiquated and undemocratic. Most Americans are not aware of the fact that the person who gets the most votes does not win in our American process. Whoever gets the most votes is each state gets all the electoral votes in that state. Each state’s electoral number is equal to the state’s number of congressmen and senators and these electors elect the president.
Under the Electoral College system, about 40 of the 50 states tend to be either Democratic or Republican in historical tendency. Alabama and the other Deep South states are some of those predetermined 40. We are a Republican state. Conversely, New York, California and Massachusetts are Democratic states. These 40 states are pretty much in the barn, so to speak. We will be ignored in the fall because the book is written on us, at it is for New York and California. Thus, it all boils down to about 10 swing states.
Some of the swing states, like West Virginia and Colorado, are smaller. Therefore, the three large pivotal swing states, which will elect the president, are Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These three states have already shown their hand. They have voted. The book is written. Hillary Clinton defeated Obama by landslide proportions in all three states in the Democratic contest. The so-called Reagan Democrats in these three must-win states did not and probably will not vote for Obama. He lost Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida among Democratic voters by double digit margins, despite massively outspending Clinton by more than three to one. The facts speak for themselves. The national polling figures are meaningless at this time as well as in late October. As stated, it does not matter who gets the most votes. In America, it is the Electoral College that counts and it all boils down to Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The Democrats have a weird convoluted system for selecting delegates. Obama won the nomination by winning the vast majority of his delegates from caucuses and primaries in Republican states that neither he nor Hillary will carry in the fall. He won the primaries in states like Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Nebraska and Kansas, that will vote overwhelmingly Republican in the fall. Hillary carried all the important Democratic states of New York, California and Massachusetts, along with the primary battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Hillary would have probably defeated McCain, but Obama probably cannot.
However, I predict that a deal is in the works to put Hillary Clinton on the ticket as Obama’s vice-presidential running mate. Obama made a statement a week or so ago, which indicated a deal is in the works. He said, “I am a pragmatist. I know I have to first get elected to be effective.” He also referred to Abraham Lincoln’s move to put all his rivals in his administration, as illustrated in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, “Team of Rivals.”
Hillary has also been vetted and defined. She received about the same number of delegates as Obama and more popular votes. If the Democratic process had been like the Republican with a winner take all delegate allocation, rather than one based on proportional congressional district allocation, she would be the nominee.
I believe that Hillary will be the compromise choice. You will see the most diverse ticket in American history, the first African American and the first female at the same time. It will not be the first time that rivals have married at the end and coalesced around a team for practical and political expediency, especially in the Democratic Party. It was Will Rogers who said, “I’m not a member of any organized party. I’m a Democrat.”
It remains to be seen if indeed Obama acquiesces to Hillary, but she is his best shot at carrying those three pivotal swing states. A newcomer would not be heavy enough. The choice of a Pennsylvanian like Senator Bob Casey or Gov. Ed Rendell would help carry that state, but Obama still loses Ohio and Florida. This is a fun and interesting presidential year.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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