Sunday, January 17, 2021

Electoral College

The News Junkie over at Maggie's linked to an article over at Zerohedge about the Electoral College. I have mixed feelings about Durden, but that article is good if not very deep. He does hit on one point I had not fully thought of, that most democracies have a two-step process for national elections, though those differ.  That doesn't strike me as accidental.  But he touched on a point I think deserves a little more expansion.  Presidential candidates have to develop an appeal to more than one group, and this is a good thing. We get upset when none of those groups are our own, and make objections when our own groups are not only poorly represented but actively discriminated against. But most of us understand that this is how the system works in general. If someone assembles a coalition and does not abuse his power against the defeated, we hope to win next time. 

David Hackett Fischer in Albion's Seed, which I used to reference often and still recommend as essential for understanding colonial history and beyond, tracked the voting patterns of the presidential elections against the four British folkways in America (Puritan New England, hierarchical coastal South, especially Virginia, Middle Atlantic Quaker, and Appalachian Scots-Irish, and the further places they went on to settle) and notes that no one won without having a solid grip on the votes of two of those four, even into the 1980s - and I think that continues.  The people who came from other places tended to seek places where they were comfortable - German Pietists to Pennsylvania and further west, for example - so the founder effect did not dissipate. 

Texas was founded by Appalachia plus Germans and Czechs coming in on a foundation of a few Mexicans and some natives, but now Houston and Dallas and Austin have people from all over.  The Pacific Northwest was mostly settled by New England and the Upper Midwest.  Yet even though very different groups have moved in, there remains a founder effect, and those new groups do somewhat choose on the basis of the culture they want to enter. 

The Electoral College is only a restraining influence on the domination of a single American culture over the many others, but it's something, and I don't think we should be giving it away.

1 comment:

Christopher B said...

While I support your point and understand the qualifications, I think coalition building, even geographical coalitions, is a pretty weak reed to support the EC. Every system that awards office to the first horse past the post bifurcates into two main blocs, even parliamentary systems that can support multiple minor parties.

While I heard Henry Olson on the Powerline podcast call the GOP under Trump an electorally efficient coalition, i.e. it can win the EC without winning the popular vote, I think the Democrat coalition exhibits some of the same tendencies. Look at a state like Minnesota that hasn't been won by a GOP Presidential candidate for almost half a century. There's plenty of Republicans there, half their Congressmen are now GOP and the GOP controls half the state Legislature, but the Democrats have a narrow majority in the Twin Cities metro that effectively negates that in state-wide elections. Illinois and some other states with large metros are in a similar position. At the national level this is masked by the almost super-majority the Democrats have in California and New York but their Presidential coalition tends to depend on delivering large EC states with just a small difference in votes. If we went to a true popular vote for President, I think there might be some surprising results.