Saturday, August 23, 2008
When I suggested in May that a new process be used to select the Democratic nominee, the Clinton camp ignored me and in the end paid the price, losing to Obama. Now that the presidential campaign is in full swing it's hard to watch the coverage without asking yourself the question, "what the hell is it all for?" Events masquerading as 'town hall' meetings such as the Saddleback forum are created in thinly veiled attempts to woo the religious right, polls are conducted seemingly every few minutes, candidates criss-cross the country to speak at various events and fundraisers, all costing millions of dollars and wasting valuable time. And wait, the worst is yet to come, the party conventions, with the Democrats up first in Denver starting on Monday and the Republicans the following week in Minnesota. Before the accompanying blanket media coverage, I figured it's time to let everybody in on a secret, not that well kept mind you... it's all a giant waste of time, come November 4th, the results of the election will be determined by 3 voters.
That's right, in 2000, 9 people decided who it would be, this time, Emily in Nevada, Olivia in New Hampshire and William (Billy to his friends) in Virginia will decide who's going to be the next president of the United States. In case you missed it, the president of the US is determined by what's known as the electoral college. In this arcane system, the winner is determined by whoever manages to receive the most electoral votes. Each state is allocated a number of votes more or less based on its population, California the most with 55 and little states like the Dakotas, 3 each. If you receive the majority of votes in, say, Oregon, you get all 7 of Oregon's votes, making the votes of all those who voted for another candidate completely irrelevant in the final count (*see below). This is done on a state-by-state basis, and the winner is determined by who gets the most electoral votes. As has happened in the past it is quite possible for the winner of the election to actually receive less votes than the loser (in fact it's happened 4 times: 1824, 1876 and 1888 and of course 2000). Now, the fact is a majority of voters in the US are either Republicans or Democrats and it wouldn't matter if Krusty the Clown was their party's candidate, that's who they will vote for. Additionally, most states tend to be either Republican or Democrat states, for example California will be Democrat and Oklahoma will vote Republican. Of course these preferences change over time, slowly, but why are we wasting so much energy on this when we already know most of the results?
With 538 electoral college votes up for grabs, a candidate has to secure 270 to become the next president of the USA. Of those, 174 electoral votes are locked up for the Republicans (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming), while 207 are virtually assured to vote Democrat (California, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin). For all practical purposes, these states don't matter, don't waste your time thinking about them, there are only 12 competitive states which can influence the result one way or the other.
We've got 157 electoral votes left, of which Obama needs 63 and McBush 96 for victory. Minnesota has gone Democrat the last 8 elections so I'm gonna give Minnesota to the Democrats, using the same logic, North Carolina goes Republican having voted that way the last 7 times. Colorado and Ohio have both gone Republican the last couple of elections and McBush leads them both, so Republican for both. Obama is polling ahead by 5 points in Pennsylvania, more in Michigan and they've both gone Democrat the last 4 elections, while in Florida, McBush leads, done, done and done. While we're at it, let's give New Mexico to Barack.
Leaving us with only three states to decide the election, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia. Now, assuming the polls are correct (yes, I know, a very large assumption), these states are all practical dead heats, which I will take the liberty to extrapolate until election day, meaning we have a draw in all three of these states moments before the close of the polls. Enter Emily, Olivia and William, and with them, the fate of a nation.
So, here's my proposal, let's skip the conventions (PLEASE!), air some old re-runs of the Dukes of Hazard instead of the TV debates, dedicate the news coverage to news, really, just focus our energy on improving the world instead of this silly election. If we'd have adopted my plan for the primaries combined with this new approach, billions of dollars (over a billion for the campaigns, maybe $100 million for the conventions, then there's the cost of holding elections!) could have and would be saved. If you look at the environmental angle, think of all the flyers, posters and confetti that have been and will be printed, hung and tossed. Obama announced his VP choice with a text, why don't we just call up Emily, Olivia and William and ask them what they think and be done with it?
(*)Maine and Nebraska allocate two electoral votes to the popular vote winner, and then one each to the popular vote winner in each Congressional district (2 in Maine, 3 in Nebraska) in their state. Note that since these rules were adapted, neither state has ever split their electoral votes.