Will Delaware Act Against Its Own Interests?
The Delaware Senate spent portions of this week considering HB 198, which would commit the state to NPVâ€™s anti-Electoral College scheme. The House already approved the legislation last year, so senate approval would send the bill to the Governorâ€™s desk. The Senate has three legislative days left in which it could still approve the bill.
Save Our States director Trent England was in Dover earlier this week. He and Shaun Fink of the Caesar Rodney Institute visited with legislators and helped to educate them on the logistical and legal aspects of the bill. A few talk radio hosts in Delaware and a timely National Review Online blog post have all helped to get the word out. The grassroots response was overwhelming: Delaware citizens flooded state senate offices with phone calls. They want their senators to vote â€śNOâ€ť on NPVâ€™s scheme, which would badly hurt a small state such as Delaware. Good news: Senators appear to be listening to their constituents (keep calling!). The Senate has considered, but then postponed, a vote on the measure twice.
An interesting tidbit: Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, has taken an interest in the issue and went to Delaware to lobby senators. For someone who claims to be an â€śunabashed Reagan-conservative,â€ť his position is pretty surprising. He is urging Republican Senators to vote for the NPV plan. He claims that the Electoral College hurts the Republican Party; he says that getting rid of it would benefit Republicans in upcoming elections.
There are three big problems with Anuzisâ€™s analysis.
First, even assuming that Anuzis is correct about the immediate political benefits, he is absolutely wrong to campaign against the Electoral College based on purely partisan concerns. Constitutional provisions are meant to serve the entire country on a permanent basis. It is destructive to change them simply to serve one person or party at one moment in time. The Electoral College serves all of us by ensuring that presidential candidates must always take into account the needs of a wide variety of Americans. They canâ€™t cater to one region, state, or special interest group. Small states such as Delaware have a particular interest in preserving the Electoral College, which prevents them from being tyrannized by the majority in large cities and states.
Second, no one can know which political party will benefit the most if the Electoral College is abolished. As this author has explained elsewhere, eliminating the Electoral College would probably mean at least two things: Elections will become easier to steal and the two-party system will be undermined. So it follows that two types of political parties would benefit the most: Those that donâ€™t mind stealing elections and third parties. Unfortunately, extremist third parties and special interest groups are most likely to benefit from the eradication of the two-party system. Surely none of this is what Anuzis really wants.
Finally, even assuming that the two-party system remains relatively stable after the Electoral College is gone, Anuzis has jumped to some questionable conclusions. He seems to think that the Republican Party will benefit from NPV because it will make candidates more likely to campaign outside of the big cities. (One vote in Delaware has the same weight as a vote in Los Angeles, but the media market is less expensive in Delaware so candidates would be motivated to buy air time where it is cheaper.) But the Los Angeles media market is more expensive because advertisers have the opportunity to reach so many people with their message simultaneously. Itâ€™s the simple rules of supply and demand, and candidates will know this as well as anyone else. Since their goal is to amass large numbers of individual votes, they will spend their money where they can reach the most people at once: the big cities.
In a 1977 radio broadcast, Ronald Reagan described the security that the Electoral College affords to all states, but especially to small states: â€śThe very basis for our freedom is that we are a Federation of Sovereign States. Our Constitution recognizes that certain rights belong to the state and cannot be infringed upon by the National government. This is the guaranty that small states or rural, sparsely populated areas will have a proportionate voice in national affairs. Those who want to do away with the electoral college really mean they want the President elected in a national referendum with no reference as to how each state votes. Thus a half dozen rural states could show a majority for one candidate and be outvoted by one big industrial state opting for his opponent.â€ť
Anuzis, the â€śunabashed Reagan-conservative,â€ť should pay more attention to Reaganâ€™s wisdom on this matter. He should not be trying to sway legislators in Delaware (or anywhere else!) to support NPVâ€™s anti-Electoral College legislation. The Electoral College is healthy for our country. States such as Delaware will act not only in its own interest, but also for the benefit of the country, if it does its part to preserve the system.