Will Texas Legislators Drink NPV Kool-Aid?
Or will NPV claims be exposed?
Perhaps you wouldnâ€™t expect Texas to join an effort to eliminate the Electoral College. Â In fact, you may find such an idea to be ludicrous and a bit far-fetched. Unfortunately, a California-based group is working hard to prove you wrong. Indeed, its proponents are in the state today, making a pitch to the legislatureâ€™s House Committee on Elections. They want Texas to join an anti-Electoral College effort that has already been approved by six states and the District of Columbia.
National Popular Vote is practically guaranteed to tell Texasâ€™s largely conservative, Republican legislature that its end-run around the Constitution is good for the Republican Party. Unfortunately, some Republicans in other states have fallen for it, hook, line and sinker. Others fell for the line at first, but then learned more and began to see that the Emperor has no clothes. Hereâ€™s hoping that Texas legislators will see through the ruse right from the beginning.
NPV asks state legislators to change the way that their states allocate presidential electors. Instead of giving them to the winner of a stateâ€™s popular vote, electors would be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote. So, for instance, Texasâ€™s thirty-four electors would have gone to Barack Obama in 2008, despite the fact that John McCain won by a landslide within our own borders. If enough states were to agree to such a method of elector allocation, the Electoral College would be effectively eliminated, all without the bother of a constitutional amendment.
This probably sounds like a crazy liberal idea that could only succeed in places like Massachusetts and California. It probably should be, but NPV has more political savvy than that. It saw the writing on the wall last November: The emergence of the Tea Party as a political force convinced NPV to reconstitute itself. It now claims to be good for conservatives and good for Republicans. NPV describes its plan as pro-statesâ€™ rights, pro-federalism, and consistent with an originalist reading of the Constitution. Why, to listen to them describe it, youâ€™d think the Founding Fathers practically expected states to do something like this eventually.
Yes, these would be the same Founders who explicitly rejected the idea of a direct national election for President, as proposed by NPV. Obviously, something doesnâ€™t quite add up.
But NPV is hoping no one digs too deep or researches the issue too thoroughly. Otherwise, Republicans might start to wonder how NPVâ€™s bill jibes with respect for the Constitution. Democrats might start to wonder why NPV is talking out of both sides of its mouth: It tells Democrats that NPV is a progressive measure that will update the Constitution, democratize American presidential elections, and consolidate political power in Democratic-leaning urban areas. But it tells Republicans that NPV is good for a center-right country that values the Foundersâ€™ wisdom; it will help the GOP to recapture the White House.
More research would show members of both political parties that the Electoral College serves everyone. It has a long and successful history of serving Americans in a non-partisan fashion. It ensures that the most successful presidential candidates are those who, in the spirit of FDR and Ronald Reagan, reach out to a wide variety of voters. It brings Americans together, encouraging us to focus on moderation and compromiseâ€”many other systems would instead drive us apart. It provides stability and certainty in presidential elections: It is harder to steal elections when you must predict in advance which state will be close and where stolen votes will matter. Finally, more research would show legislators the many dangerous legal and logistical problems created by NPVâ€™s plan.
NPV has been introduced in the Texas legislature before. It was not taken seriously then, and it should not be taken seriously now simply because NPV has changed its tune and will be trying to sell the measure as a conservative, Tea Party measure.
States Representatives on the House Committee on Elections would act wisely if they treat the plan for what it is: An idea that is at odds with the lessons of history and inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution.
This article originally ran on TexasInsider.org on April 18, 2011.