Scott Walker’s electoral new year

There’s a lot to hate about the winner-take-all system most states use to apportion their Electoral College votes. If nothing else, you can point out that our current system gave us George W. Bush, a guy who’s currently polling slightly ahead of Bashar al-Assad and slightly behind Bashar al-Assad’s ingrown toenail. Nevertheless, Bush had enough mojo in 2000 to eke out an Electoral College victory despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore. That’s partly Al Gore’s fault for having the sex appeal of an incontinent emu, but it should never have happened. The people’s will was thwarted, and we all suffered because of it.

So one might think I’d have agreed with Scott Walker when he recently suggested that Wisconsin should think about changing the way it hands out its electoral votes – perhaps adopting a system like Nebraska’s and Maine’s in which the statewide winner receives two electoral votes and each candidate receives one electoral vote for each congressional district he or she wins. Then again, Scott Walker is behind this trial balloon, so you can pretty much assume it would be a way to a) further the GOP’s agenda, b) stick it to Madison liberals, c) roll the clock back on Wisconsin’s progressive ideals even further, no doubt lingering longer than is necessary in 1986, when rockin’ a sweet mullet was not just accepted but fervently embraced, or d) all of the above.

Surprise. This isn’t a move to make the electoral system more sensible, democratic, and fair. It’s a naked attempt to elect more Republicans, plutocrats, and Romney-bots.  

In Wisconsin, which is a swing state but hasn’t gone Republican in a presidential election since 1984, splitting the electoral votes probably looks pretty appealing to the GOP right now. In the most recent election, Barack Obama took all 10 of our electoral votes. Had Nebraska’s or Maine’s system been in place, he would have received just five votes, even though he won the state by 7 percentage points.

Now that’s the kind of affirmative action Scott Walker can support – a built-in edge for rich white guys.

Of course, you’d be naïve to think that Walker’s tentative support of tweaking the electoral system was arrived at casually. As Ed Garvey reported in The Cap Times, there’s a movement afoot to give future Romneys a beachhead against the nation’s rising tide of unwashed 47 percenters:

National Journal editor Reid Wilson reports, in “The GOP’s Electoral College Scheme,” that Republicans are aiming to change how electoral votes are awarded specifically in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Obama won the overall state vote, but Republicans won a majority of the congressional seats. They can change the law because they are in control of both the governorship and the legislatures in those states.

I can understand Scott Walker’s frustration. I recall past elections, when Republicans looked at the sea of red on their electoral maps and wondered why these affairs should be so close when such a strong majority of the country appeared to support GOP candidates. If only there were a way to give more voting power to soil and less to voters! I hear this frustration when I travel north and people talk about Madison as if it were an alien colony populated by nothing but raw vegans, Wiccans, unreconstructed commies, and unemployed, hemp-festooned, Hacky Sack-obsessed layabouts, which is a half-truth at best.

This year, part of me (the sarcastic and moderately evil part, which waxes and wanes with the cycles of the moon) was hoping that Romney would win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote, plunging the GOP into a 100-year nuclear winter of splenetic, Karl Roveian rage. In fact, Donald Trump’s face briefly and rather famously Doppler-shifted from Oompa Loompa orange to pistachio-nut red as the election returns came in and he hilariously misinterpreted them, perhaps auguring the kind of crazed-dingo reaction we’d have seen from GOP stalwarts had my wished-for scenario actually played out.

 

Of course, had Romney actually lost the election while winning the popular vote, both sides would have been stung – Democrats in 2000 and Republicans in 2012 – and we might have finally achieved the kind of momentum we needed to scrap our silly and antiquated Electoral College system.

It’s a system that pretends that swing states, like Wisconsin, are somehow more worthy of attention (and pandering) than safe states like New York, California, and Texas. This, folks, is why we get absurd, market-distorting products like ethanol (Iowa is both a swing state and an early caucus state, giving it a double dose of unearned self-esteem far out of proportion with its actual importance). And ever wonder why you can fill your child’s bloodstream with lead from Chinese toys but can’t legally smoke a Cuban cigar? You can thank Florida and its 23 electoral votes. No candidate wants to risk alienating the Cuban exiles who live there.

Anyway, why do we have to suffer through a disproportionate share of TV ads each election cycle when people in Illinois are at least as deserving of mental anguish, if not more so?

Rather than tweaking the electoral process to preserve one party’s fading prospects, why can’t we simply agree to – finally – create a system that best reflects the will of the people? Isn’t that a proposition that everyone should support?

How about it, Scott?  

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