Part two of a two-part series looking at the Popular Vote Pact and its potential implications for our American constitutional republic. Part one can be read here on Liberty Nation.
The process by which Americans select their presidents may change fundamentally if 10 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have their way. While 48 of the 50 states currently award their electoral votes to the candidate who wins in their state, those that have joined the Popular Vote Pact would award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, no matter how the residents of their own state voted. This idea would utterly change the face of American politics and has far-reaching implications for the survival of the U.S. as a constitutional republic.
In part I of this series, we discussed how the Popular Vote Pact affects the current Electoral College system and why supporters of the pact believe the proposed new system would ensure that every vote in a presidential election has equal value. In this second part, we look at how the idea of direct democracy would, in fact, disenfranchise a large section of the population and, further, how it would create far greater inequality among states than currently exists.
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
The United States was founded as a republic; a union of states represented at the federal level by congressional delegations based on the size of their respective populations. It is an equitable system; states with very large populations have more representatives. Likewise, in the context of presidential elections, the more populous states command more electoral votes.
This is huge country. In the time it takes to drive across just two or three of the larger American states, one could almost drive across the whole of Europe, passing through six or seven countries. The people of the U.S. are bound together by a common language and, for the most part, a common set of ideals – if not necessarily a political philosophy. Beyond that, Americans in different parts of the country are almost as diverse as the inhabitants of those European countries.
States have different economies, different topographies, and different cultures. The people of south Louisiana, for example, have entirely different lives from the people of Oregon or Wisconsin or Nebraska. Someone who has lived their entire life in rural Vermont could hardly imagine what life is like fora native of Los Angeles, California, and vice versa. This is the whole point of a republic, and the delegations each state sends to Congress have different priorities, based on the diverse needs and wants of their respective home states.
Calculations Behind the Popular Vote Pact
The idea of a national popular vote negates the entire concept of republicanism; everyone is lumped in together. This would change the way things are done in Congress; it would change the way federal funds are allocated; it would, indeed, change the entire relationship between Congress and the states.
Under the current Electoral College system, it has become apparent that the same group of five or six states usually determines the outcome of presidential elections. An argument can, therefore, be made that residents of all other states never really influence the results of these elections. This is, of course, inaccurate. The electoral votes of every state contribute to the determination of every election result. Kansas always chooses the Republican candidate but what if it didn’t? Those six electoral votes would then make a difference.
What can we learn by looking at the group of states that usually decides elections? It is a unique group, sharing two characteristics; these states have sizeable populations, giving them enough electoral votes to swing a result and they are all states that have a politically diverse population and, thus, may swing from Republican to Democrat based on the vote tallies in just one or two counties. Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are the three prime examples of states in this group.
Yet several other, smaller states may also become the kingmakers, so to speak. If a candidate can swing four or five small states to his or her side, then those electoral votes, collectively, can change an election. The states with overwhelming numbers of Republican voters seem less significant only because the vast majority of their residents always choose to vote Republican. The same can be said of staunchly Democratic states. The point, here, is that these states are still important to presidential elections but it is the choice of their respective populations that keep them safely in one column or the other and, so, prevents them from attracting much attention during election season.
If the presidency went to the winner of the national popular vote, the residents of more than half of the 50 states would be entirely disenfranchised. Their votes simply would not matter. This is because the 11 most populous states, between them, control 270 electoral votes. Of these, four are solidly Democrat; California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey. In 2016, President Donald Trump won the other seven states on this list, but Democrats know that they can usually expect to win Michigan, with Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina all being within easy reach. Thus, Democrats see a realistic possibility of having nine of the 11 within their grasp in future elections.
It is not by mere chance that Democrats are working hardest to turn the remaining two states on this list, Texas and Georgia, to their side. Nor is it a coincidence that all 10 of the states in the Popular Vote Pact, along with Washington D.C., are Democrat. Even without Georgia and Texas, Democrats can additionally count on Washington, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, Delaware and the New England states to more than make up the required 270 votes.
A Two-Tier America
So, what of the voters supposedly disenfranchised under the current system – the Democrats in red states and the Republicans in blue states? The popular vote system wouldn’t resolve that issue because the voters in all of the most sparsely-populated states would be wasting their time casting a vote at all. Democrat voters in red states would still have no impact on the final result and all Republican voters in overwhelmingly Democratic states may just as well go fishing on election day.
In the final analysis, adopting the popular vote system would mean that presidential candidates would campaign exclusively in the most populous states; it would all but ensure that every future president would be a Democrat and, furthermore, it would lead to the federal government always favoring these states in terms of funding, regulation, welfare programs, infrastructure projects and so on to ensure the loyalty of their voters. Ultimately, the United States would become a distinctly two-tier society, with the less populous states being neglected because they had no power to ever influence a presidential election.
The Constitution was designed to lay out the framework for a functioning republic where each state had proportional representation at the federal level. The Popular Vote Pact would quickly erode that foundation and split the nation into one block of about 20 states catered to by Washington and another block of remaining states all but ignored. The only viable solution for this second block would be secession.