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April 05, 2007

Maryland fights the last war

How deeply has Bush Derangement Syndrome been absorbed into the bloodstream of the Democrats? I can't say with any precision, but if recent events in Maryland are indicative, the answer is very deeply.

Let's imagine for a moment that in a particular presidential election, you vote for some loud, angry moron with a huge carbon footprint, and the election is very close. Your candidate wins the national popular vote by about half a percent but loses by a handful of votes in one specific state, whose electoral votes completely determine the winner. Your candidate choses not to recognize the results gracefully -- as even Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon did in the face of voter fraud several decades earlier -- but instead forces the country to endure six weeks of recounts, invoking new standards for eligible ballots and (naturally) bringing multiple lawsuits before finally giving up.

As a result of this, you are royally p'ed off, and you throw around accusations that the election has been stolen. It becomes far worse for you, because you absolutely despise the guy who wins the election. Perhaps you come to believe that the next election is stolen, too, even though it isn't nearly as close.

So about six years later, you decide you're going to shoot the winner -- metaphorically speaking -- while he's down. You aim low to hit him.

Unfortunately for you, you miss and hit your foot by mistake.

If this story applies to you, you might be a member of the Maryland legislature, which has just passed a bill that would throw out the traditional winner-takes-all method of assigning electoral votes for the state and substitute a rule that gives all of the state's electoral votes to the national popular vote winner. The text of the state senate's bill is here.

The joke's on you. Maryland is a blue state for the foreseeable future. Under current electoral-vote rules, Maryland's electoral votes will be a lock for the Democrats' candidate. If this change is ever going to make any difference at all, it can only be to throw Maryland's electoral votes to a Republican candidate who narrowly wins the popular vote but loses the electoral vote under traditional rules. Any damn fool knows this. The only reason for Democrats in Maryland to support this bill is Bush Derangement Syndrome. By changing the way electoral votes are assigned, they get to refight the election of 2000 and to say to themselves, "If only this rule had been in effect . . ."

Yes, I know this bill doesn't go into effect until enough other states, whose electoral votes represent a majority, pass similar legislation. That doesn't alter my analysis. It's the blue states that are most likely to demand changes in the electoral college.

So how can this legislation help the Democrats? Only if the country as a whole eventually moves toward a pure popular vote. A pure popular vote regime enhances the value of voter fraud, which traditionally favors the Democrats. This is a large enough problem at the state level. In a national election, every single vote in the country could affect the result, and even if the Democrat won in California by two million votes, the Republican would have an interest in reducing that margin by even 50,000 votes. Hello, statewide recount in California! A close election would absolutely paralyze the country. Just imagine 50 separate state recounts like what we had in Florida. The final results could be delayed for months, if not years, into the presidential term.

Whatever else you think about the Electoral College, it has one clear advantage: It almost always magnifies the size of a victory. (For example, in 1992, Clinton won 43% of the popular vote, Bush 38%, and Perot 19%. In electoral votes, Clinton won 370, Bush 168.) In some ways, I guess that doesn't seem "fair." On the other hand, it isn't so bad if you place any value on finding a winner and moving on.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike, although others are not as immature as I am.