Democrats going to college
Some readers who don't personally know me very well are often shocked to find that I have among my list of personal friends and acquaintances a number of liberals and Democrats. They find it shocking largely because they don't quite understand how an admittedly hard-core conservative like myself can associate with people so diametrically opposed to my world view. (Note to these folks: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness). I don't think I've been closer to any Democrat in terms of personal friendship, however, than I am to an old college buddy of mine-one Kevin Michael O'Brien.
As a matter of full disclosure, I should point out that Kevin is fully pro-life, is a member of the NRA
, and is a devout Catholic. Indeed, we met for the first time at Mass. For some people on the Left, those three factors alone would disqualify Kevin as a bona fide member of their number. However, we disagree on far more than we agree about, on everything from immigration policy to foreign policy to education. Kevin ran for the Ohio legislature in 2006 and managed to get 40% of the vote in an overwhelmingly Republican district against one of that State's dynastic political families. His performance surprised many local Democratic officials there.
One of the things that Kevin and I do agree on is that the Constitution
actually means something. We usually disagree about the meaning of the Constitution, but we agree that it ought to be followed as best we understand it. For this reason, we are both opposed to initiatives such as the PATRIOT Act
since such legislation tends to trample on people's basic constitutional rights. In a position that sets Kevin apart from many Democrats, he also believes firmly that when it comes to voting for President, the Electoral College must be maintained in order to insure that the diversity of our country is properly represented in the process.
Many on the other side tend to complain that the Electoral College
does not accurately reflect the popular will. Of course, if the Union moved to a directly popular election, it would mean that nearly all of the political power in the nation would rest in 10 to 15 large cities. The votes of smaller States, cities, and towns would be significantly diminished in influence, if not completely irrelevant. Such a scheme would almost uniformly favor the Democrats. As Kevin has pointed out to me, if the reverse were true, Democrats would be ready to wrap themselves in the mantle of the Electoral College and the Constitution-and were ready to do so in 2000, as they anticipated that the election might yield Bush winning the popular vote with Gore winning in the Electoral College. In the run-up to the 2004 Election, Kevin told that me he hoped Kerry would win the Electoral College and Bush the popular vote, largely to prove the value of the college to his fellow Democrats.
I did not join Kevin O'Brien in his wish for a Kerry
Electoral Vote victory (not in the least), but I did see his point. Angry liberals call for the abolition of the Electoral College in the ultimate insult to Middle America. It is as if they are giving up on ever winning the Heartland of the country-"we can't win your States, so we don't even want to try." The Electoral College as we use it does
reflect the popular will, after all, but does so by allocating Electoral Votes to the candidate who wins the most votes within each given State-it gives every State some say, and gives a voice to every kind of voter-urban, suburban, and rural.
Attempts to trifle with the system are also misguided. Republican attempts to break down the Electoral Vote in California by Congressional district
could trigger Democratic attempts to do the same throughout the South and upset the balance of power, causing mischief in nearly every Presidential Election henceforward. Similarly, a recent Maryland bill to tie that State's Electors to the winner of the national popular vote would have given Maryland's Electors to George W. Bush in 2004, despite the fact that Marylanders voted for John Kerry by a sizable margin. How would that be fair to those folks?
For all of the talk from some on the Left about the greatness of diversity, many liberals would do away with the one part of our system of electing a President that, for all of its faults, truly represents via the vote the diversity of the American people and the nation as a whole. It also helps preserve authentic federalism in our republic. We shouldn't let election results that we might not like cause us to scrap a system designed to insure that the votes of people in little Wyoming have as much power as voters in Lower Manhattan.
Labels: Federal politics, Presidential Election