Foreign Policy

The Strange Source of Our Cuba Policy

What does the Electoral College have to do with our shunning of Cuba? Plenty.

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Cubans
Public Domain

For a long time, the U.S. ostracism of Cuba has been like the vintage American cars on the streets of Havana: obsolete but imperishable. It didn't topple the Castro government, didn't force human rights progress and didn't unite the world behind us. Yet failure was no enemy of longevity.

There are many reasons for its endurance. But if you're parceling out responsibility, you have to start with a curious invention of the founding fathers that we know as the Electoral College. Without it, our Cuba policy never would have persisted for so many years—which is a reminder that our Cuba policy is not the only thing that needs changing.

Shortly before the 2000 election, I was invited to be part of a local TV panel that included an Illinois state senator I had never heard of: Barack Obama. The topic was the novel possibility that George W. Bush might win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College.

We were on to something, but we had it backward: On Election Day, it was Al Gore who managed this sad feat.

The outcome infuriated Democrats, who still bear a grudge against the Electoral College, but convinced Republicans that it is a priceless heirloom. They may change their minds once they grasp that its odd math now works to their distinct disadvantage.

After the 2012 election, Nate Silver of The New York Times figured out that "Mitt Romney may have had to win the national popular vote by three percentage points on Tuesday to be assured of winning the Electoral College."

Political scientist Ben Highton of the University of California, Davis, has calculated that if voters split 50-50 in 2016, the Democratic nominee's chance of winning is at least 83 percent.

What does the Electoral College have to do with our shunning of Cuba? Plenty. Cuban-Americans make up just 0.6 percent of the American population—hardly enough, you'd think, to warrant much notice from politicians. But they have nonetheless been able to dictate Washington's stance on Cuba.

Why? First, because for a long time they were united in their strong antipathy toward the Castro regime. Second, because they let candidates know any deviation on that issue was a deal-breaker.

None of this would have mattered, though, except for the Electoral College. Cuban-Americans are concentrated in Florida, where they make up more than 6 percent of the population—enough to decide an election. It's a crucial swing state that is rich in electoral votes.

Presidential candidates of either party knew that if they urged a less hostile policy toward the Cuban regime, they would lose the Cuban-American vote, which could mean losing Florida, which could mean losing the election. They also knew that it cost them nothing to appease the Cuba lobby, because the issue is of minor importance to anyone else.

So they did the politically prudent thing. As Texas A&M University political scientist George C. Edwards III, author of "Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America," told me, "The Electoral College allowed a minority in a large state to determine U.S. foreign policy."

The fact that it didn't work was irrelevant. As long as it satisfied those voters it was beyond alteration.

What changed? The sentiments of Cuban-Americans changed. Many of them came to see the policy as blind and futile.

In 2008, Obama went to Miami and dared to say he would meet with Raul Castro "at a time and place of my choosing." In spite of that pledge—or because of it—he did much better among Cuban-Americans than John Kerry or Al Gore had done. Four years later, he got nearly half of their votes. That success emboldened him to adopt his new policy of engagement.

But the shift doesn't vindicate the Electoral College. It still warps our democratic process by giving lopsided power to a handful of states—and small voting blocs in those states.

It may be impossible to amend the Constitution to get rid of this mechanism. But it's not impossible to circumvent. Eleven states, with 165 electoral votes, have passed measures to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who wins their state.

The plan, known as the National Popular Vote, would not kick in until enough states sign on to deliver the 270 votes that constitute a majority. That way, the Electoral College vote would always uphold the choice of the voters.

It may sound like a crazy way to elect a president, but trust me: We've had crazier.

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  1. You really don’t think there was a bit of outrage at the Castros for running a Communist slave state 90 miles off the coast of Florida?

    I’m pretty cynical too, but I hope the Electoral College (which I like), isn’t the sole reason politicians have expressed disgust at Castro’s bad ideas and horrible human rights record.

    1. We have diplomatic relations and trade with many countries that have awful human rights records, and have done so for the entire duration of the Cuba policy. Hell, we subsidized and militarily supported countries that had horrid human rights records (El Salvador, South Vietnam, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc).

      The Cuba embargo was instituted for the sake of national security because the Soviets having a base 90 miles off our populated coast was pretty scary. (Kamchatka being close to Alaska wasn’t as bad) That threat is gone and the embargo has been perpetuated partially by FL’s importance to electoral college politics and partially due to nobody ever being blamed for continuing the status quo.

      1. So lets end trade with the other communist dictatorships as well.

        1. You’re not going to be popular with iPad users and Walmart shoppers.

      2. “We have diplomatic relations and trade with many countries that have awful human rights records, and have done so for the entire duration of the Cuba policy. Hell, we subsidized and militarily supported countries that had horrid human rights records (Israel, El Salvador, Israel, South Vietnam, Israel, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc (oh yeah, and Israel).”

        ftfy

  2. So, what you are saying is that he Electoral College helps,give otherwise electorially insignificant minorities a louder voice in American Politics? Well, that is what it wa intended to do.

    The Presidential Election isn’t SUPPOSED to be dictated by the simple majority.

    Twit.

    1. I think his point is that it gives special interests in a few states a disproportionate voice. If the Cuban exiles were concentrated in Texas or California, the EC means that nobody would give a damn what they thought. It’s the same dynamic that gives Iowa ethanol pushers an outsized voice in the govt while urban minorities in IL and NY are ignored when they see food prices go up as a result of ethanol mandates.

    2. ^ this

      because Madison et al. thought they understood human nature. but, hey, us humans have advanced so much since, like over a hundred years ago. per Steve Chapman: it’s time we give mob rule a chance.

      1. Madison understood human nature so well that he bought and sold humans (and probably beat and raped them too).

        1. Sorry, thank you for playing.

          The correct answer was not a blurted useless ad hominem.

          You can pick up your consolation prizes on your way out.

          1. Nice. I was just going to say “Oh, go paint yourself purple and moo”

        2. Dekikon, if you own an iCrap or have ever purchased stuff made in China etc you are worse than Madison and a hypocrite.

    3. Thank you. Came to say the same thing.

      Oh, it’s Chapman. Sigh.

  3. Once again Reason mag does not understand that the US is not a democracy but a limited representive republic

    And it thinks that trade with communists is free trade and free market. If Chapman had been around in the 1920’s and 1930’s he would have been happy to trade for the goods that Lenin and Stalin had stolen from their rightful owners. He’s probably right now looking if he can get a good deal on a kidney from a executed prisoners in China.

    1. Seems the US Gov hasn’t been limited or representative for a while now.

    2. Dumping the EC would not make us a direct democracy. It would make the president elected the same way that Congresspersons are.

      1. By the states?

      2. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country. It does not abolish the Electoral College.

        The bill would replace state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), to a system guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire U.S.

        The bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It ensures that every voter is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

        Every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

        When states with a combined total of at least 270 electoral votes enact the bill, the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the needed majority of 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states.

        We would still be a republic, electing the President by a majority of Electoral College votes by states, to represent us and conduct the business of government.

        1. Funny, but I’ve never been relevant in a Presidential election and doubt I would be in the new system either, since my candidate never wins.

    3. Reason mag? It’s Chapman. As much as I hate the authors here sometimes, Chapman is in his own fucking league (ok, Richman is there too).

      I wouldn’t blame Reason as a whole for Chapman’s ramblings.

      1. Good point on Chapman. I enjoy reading opinions of people that I don’t agree with as long as they present a reasoned argument. Chapman rarely does that. This article is no exception.

        One flaw is lumping all so-called cuban voters in one category. The VAST majority of these voters in Florida are fine with lifting the embargo and normalizing relations as long as the Castro family regime are held accountable for their actions, political prisoners are released and criminals that are being protested by the Castros are returned.

        Like the ultra-liberals that support glorification of Cuba, Chapman also uses the issue to one of his personal pet peeves. In his case, the electoral college. Ultra-liberals have a variety of other issues that spur their support.

        On the electoral college. As far as I’m concerned the EC’s value was shown in 2000. Bush was a far, below average President but has Gore won the entire country would have been screwed. Gore has shown his colors since then, jetting around the country in a carbon sucking jet not coming close to practicing what he is preaching, which by the way is a big lie.

  4. The only reason the Electoral College “..warps our democratic process by giving lopsided power to a handful of states”, is because those are the most politically diverse states. Those Electoral College “swing states” can be any of the 50, depending what the political climate is in that state.

    I am an ardent fan of the Electoral College. It may not be perfect, but it is certainly a better option than Popular Vote. I, and I believe the majority of our Founding Fathers, did not want a pure Democracy. Unfortunately, I must for the most part, agree with Jonathon Gruber, the average American is stupid (at least as far as politics go). The Electoral College is set up to give a more informed and engaged voter a slightly louder voice.

    1. Voters in swing states are more informed?

      1. Yes, because all the campaigning is done there.

    2. “informed” and “engaged” don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. And even if that were the case, informed and engaged voters in states with few electoral votes would be consistently ignored.

    3. States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states.

      80% of the states and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That’s more than 85 million voters, more than 200 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

      During the course of polling, organizing, visiting, and spending on ads, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

      In 1960, presidential campaigns paid attention to 35 states.
      In 2008, Obama only campaigned in 14 states after being nominated.
      In 2012, the presidential campaigns only cared about 9 swing states.

      The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

      Paul Ryan recently said, “If there’s a thing I learned from being involved in the 2012 election, it’s that we can’t have this Electoral College strategy with the margin of error of one state.” (August 21, 2014)

      1. But with a national popular vote, candidates wouldn’t get to know all of the issues of all of the people. They would just pander to the masses. The Electoral College sounds better.

      2. Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

        The 2012 swing states — Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — collectively had a 98.6 percent chance of determining the Electoral College winner, according to the FiveThirtyEight tipping-point index as it was calculated on election morning. In other words, these nine states were 70 times more powerful than the other 41 (which collectively had a 1.4 percent chance of determining the winner) combined. That’s part of the reason so many Americans object to the Electoral College.

        Even in the recent handful of states where a presidential vote matters to the candidates, the value of a vote is different.

        The indefensible reality is that more than 99% of campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was showered on voters in just ten states in 2012- and that in today’s political climate, the swing states have become increasingly fewer and fixed.

    4. States’ partisanship is hardening.

      From 1992- 2012
      13 states (with 102 electoral votes) voted Republican every time
      19 states (with 242 electoral votes) voted Democratic every time

      If this pattern continues,
      Democrats only would need a mere 28 electoral votes from other states.
      If Republicans lose Florida (29 electoral votes), they would lose.

      Some states have not been been competitive for more than a half-century and most states now have a degree of partisan imbalance that makes them highly unlikely to be in a swing state position. In a study before the 2012 election:
      ? 41 States Won by Same Party, 2000-2008
      ? 32 States Won by Same Party, 1992-2008
      ? 13 States Won Only by Republican Party, 1980-2008
      ? 19 States Won Only by Democratic Party, 1992-2008
      ? 9 Democratic States Not Swing State since 1988
      ? 15 GOP States Not Swing State since 1988

    5. Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution– “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .”

      The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

      The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College. The candidate with the most votes would win, as in virtually every other election in the country.

      Under National Popular Vote, every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

      When states with a combined total of at least 270 Electoral College votes enact the bill, the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the needed majority of 270+ Electoral College votes from the enacting states.

    6. The Republic is not in any danger from National Popular Vote.

      National Popular Vote has NOTHING TO DO with pure democracy.

      Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

      With National Popular Vote, the United States would still be a republic, in which citizens continue to elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes by states, to represent us and conduct the business of government.

      Anyone who supports the current presidential election system, believing it is what the Founders intended and that it is in the Constitution, is mistaken. The current presidential election system does not function, at all, the way that the Founders thought that it would.

      Supporters of National Popular Vote find it hard to believe the Founding Fathers would endorse the current electoral system where 80% of the states and voters (whether informed or engaged) now are completely politically irrelevant.

      10 of the original 13 states are ignored now.

      Four out of five Americans were ignored in the 2012 presidential election.

      1. If the Founders had wanted a national popular vote to elect the President, it would have been easy for them to write the rules that way. They didn’t.

        1. There are no set “rules” in the Constitution for how each state can award their electoral votes.

          Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1:
          “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors?.”

          The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

          The Constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected.

          There is nothing in Article II (or elsewhere in the Constitution) that prevents states from making the decision now that winning the national popular vote is required to win the presidency.

          The founders did not intend that women, black people, and native Americans vote.
          Most of the founders intended that only white men with money could vote.

        2. Prior to arriving at the eventual wording of section 1 of Article II, the Constitutional Convention specifically voted against a number of different methods for selecting the President, including
          ? having state legislatures choose the President,
          ? having governors choose the President, and
          ? a national popular vote.
          After these (and other) methods were debated and rejected, the Constitutional Convention decided to leave the entire matter to the states.

          A majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

          Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

          In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    7. One of the problems with the Electoral College is that it’s generally hidden from elections. Voters see only the names of candidates, when in fact they are voting for a slate of electors pledged to those candidates.

      We might end up with a better system if we voted for individual electors, some of whom may be pledged to more than one candidate (with rules stated as to which they will ultimately choose) or even electors who are not pledged to any candidates at all.

  5. So, let me get this straight, 50%+.000001 deciding an election is bad, but 50%+.000001 deciding an election is good.

    You are aware, of course, that there are articles here that say both things–though, I must say, I am truly repulsed every time I see support for what amounts to NPV on reason.

    Isn’t there any way that some kind of board could weed the writers a bit? There are far too many that clearly support various leftist collectivisation processes–do these people really need to continue to pollute reason? Particularly since they frequently link to articles thay have published(and possibly been paid for) in leftist magazines they clearly favor over the untidiness of liberty.

    1. Yeah, debate and contrarian POVs are stupid!

      1. If I want progressive claptrap, I’ll go to The Daily Kos or The Nation. This crap really doesn’t belong in this venue.

    2. In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 338?70 margin. It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and various members of Congress who later ran for Vice President and President such as then-Congressman George H.W. Bush, and then-Senator Bob Dole.

      On February 12, 2014, the Oklahoma Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 28?18 margin.

      On March 25, in the New York Senate, Republicans supported the bill 27-2; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party by 26-2; The Conservative Party of New York endorsed the bill.
      In the New York Assembly, Republicans supported the bill 21?18; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative party supported the bill 18?16.

      The National Popular Vote bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 250 electoral votes, including one house in Arkansas (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), and Oklahoma (7), and both houses in Colorado (9).

      1. Sounds like a good start. Why don’t they just amend the Constitution as required, since the idea is so popular?

        1. The U.S. Constitution says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .”

          The normal way of changing the method of electing the President is not a federal constitutional amendment, but changes in state law.

          Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President have come about by state legislative action. For example, the people had no vote for President in most states in the nation’s first election in 1789. However, now, as a result of changes in the state laws governing the appointment of presidential electors, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states.

          In 1789, only 3 states used the winner-take-all method (awarding all of a state’s electoral vote to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state). However, as a result of changes in state laws, the winner-take-all method is now currently used by 48 of the 50 states.

          In 1789, it was necessary to own a substantial amount of property in order to vote; however, as a result of changes in state laws, there are now no property requirements for voting in any state.

        2. The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes. The abnormal process is to go outside the Constitution, and amend it.

          Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President have come about by state legislative action. For example, the people had no vote for President in most states in the nation’s first election in 1789. However, now, as a result of changes in the state laws governing the appointment of presidential electors, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states.

          In 1789, only 3 states used the winner-take-all method (awarding all of a state’s electoral vote to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state). However, as a result of changes in state laws, the winner-take-all method is now currently used by 48 of the 50 states.

          In 1789, it was necessary to own a substantial amount of property in order to vote; however, as a result of changes in state laws, there are now no property requirements for voting in any state.

    3. In May 2011, Jason Cabel Roe, a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant wrote in “National Popular Vote is Good for Republicans:” “I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives . . . , and it is good for America. National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome.
      It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state ? and every voter ? to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States [that then existed in 2011].

      National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help . . . Republicans. . . . Opponents either have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or don’t fully understand it. . . . We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it.”

      The National Advisory Board of National Popular Vote includes former Congressman John Buchanan (R?Alabama), and former Senators David Durenberger (R?Minnesota), and Jake Garn (R?Utah).

      Supporters include former Senator Fred Thompson (R?TN), Governor Jim Edgar (R?IL), Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R?GA)

      1. We need to move in entirely the opposite direction.

        Each state, regardless of population, should get two electoral votes.

        These should be awarded as follows, both votes going to any candidate that garners more than 50% of the popular vote of the given state, and the votes split between the two top vote getters if no one recieves a majority.

        Territories and Districts should each get one electoral vote.

        Ties should be broken as per the Constitution.

        This would make it dangerous for a candidate to ignore any state. It would place all states on the same footing. It would make population loading pointless.

  6. Liberal hate the Electoral College because it reminds them that this is supposed to be a federation, states are supposed to have rights, the federal government is supposed to be limited, and the President isn’t supposed to have any real affect on the lives of most Americans.

    1. Liberals hate the electoral college because it reminds them that there is such a thing as history, that that history is more complicated than The Narrative?, and that they know next to nothing about it, which call into question their firm belief that THEY are the Top Men who should be running things.

      Basically; Liberals like things nice and hazy. Don’t bring up any details, you might break their tiny minds.

    2. Liberals hate the electoral college bevause it went against them in a big way in 2000. Just as they hated the judicial filibuster when it was turned against them but sang its praises as a bastion of good government when they used it agai.st Bush’s nominees. They have no principled thoughts on these procedural issues at all.

    3. In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

      Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it would be wrong for the candidate with the most popular votes to lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    4. With the Electoral College and federalism, the Founding Fathers meant to empower the states to pursue their own interests within the confines of the Constitution. National Popular Vote is an exercise of that power, not an attack upon it.

      Now 80% of the states and people were just spectators to the presidential election. That’s more than 85 million voters, more than 200 million Americans.

      Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    5. States have the responsibility and power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond.

      Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution– “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

      Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, or national lines (as with the National Popular Vote).

  7. Democracy can really, really suck. Go back in a time machine and ask German Social Democrats around 1933 just how badly it can suck. Any possible buffer between “the will of the people” and some demagoguing tyrant is fine by me. That such a system could possibly work against Republicans is of little concern to me.

    1. If you have “the will of the people” on one side & “some demagoguing tyrant” on the other, what good does a buffer or anything else between them do you?

    2. Adolf Hitler did not come to power in Germany as a result of a national popular vote.

      The National Popular Vote compact does not abolish the office of presidential elector or the Electoral College. Thus, there would be no change in whatever protection the current Electoral College system might provide in terms of preventing a demagogue from coming to power in the United States. However, there is no reason to think that the Electoral College would prevent a demagogue from being elected President of the United States, regardless of whether presidential electors are elected on the basis of the state-by-state winner-take-all rule or the nationwide popular vote.

      The current system does not provide some kind of check on the “mobs.” There have been 22,991 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector’s own political party. 1796 remains the only instance when the elector might have thought, at the time he voted, that his vote might affect the national outcome.
      The electors are and will be dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

      The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).

  8. That success emboldened him to adopt his new policy of engagement.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

    Oh, wait, you were serious.

    Obama left this “change in policy” to not only after his re-election, but also after the last Congressional election of his administration. That’s blatant cowardice, ensuring that the voters will never, ever be able to punish him for it, directly or by proxy.

  9. The topic was the novel possibility that George W. Bush might win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College.

    Did no one there study history? That was not a novelty, it’s happened several times prior to the 2000 election.

    1. Except the last time it had happened was 1876. Which was also the only time that a candidate got a majority (not just a plurality) of the popular vote and lost.

      1. Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) in 48 states, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation’s 57 (1 in 14 = 7%) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes. In 2012, a shift of 214,733 popular votes in four states would have elected Mitt Romney, despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of 4,966,945 votes.

        After the 2012 election, Nate Silver calculated that “Mitt Romney may have had to win the national popular vote by three percentage points on Tuesday to be assured of winning the Electoral College.”

  10. If we a have a problem with the electoral system that needs a-fixin’, we should start with direct election of senators. The Constitution never intended to have two bodies of direct representatives. Making the Senate a smaller House of Reps disconnected individuals from their state elections and state representatives. This was a problem.

    1. It also permitted the Feds to run roughshod over the states. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Federal power began its exponential growth once the states began to lack representation in Congress.

      1. You realize that happened because the state-elected Senate passed the amendment with a supermajority, and 3/4 of the state legislatures ratified it, right?

        1. I’m bemoaning their myopia and lack of self interest. How is that not obvious? Is your head made of iridium?

        2. Yes, I know it was passed legally. So were a lot of stupid things. Just because there was a majority (and probably would be today) doesn’t mean I have to like it.

          And you haven’t actually addressed the issue, just said “Well, people seemed to like it, so … “

          1. His point is that the fact that the amendment was passed with overwhelming support from the US senate and state legislatures seems to indicate that senators being elected by state legislatures was not and would not be an effective means of limiting government (which I agree with).

            1. Yes yes yes. I get that.

              I am not saying that it would be an efective way to limit government. Put enough yammerheads together and, eventually, they will grow government as much as they can.

              What I am suggesting, and what I believe the framers intended, was to keep one body connected directly to the people, letting the House of Reps represent the “popular” vote (directly responsible to their district), the Senate, intended to represent the home state and responsible to the state government, and the Electoral College, who were intended to be the Proxy Vote for their state, representing the state as a whole (not individual districts), but bypassng the local government.

              Three bodies (not including the judicial system) that all derived their power from the people, but none of them were ever responsible to the same group in the same way. When you take away any of these three (as we have done with direct election of the Senate) you take away that voice from federal government.

              You are right, it wouldn’t necessarily limit government, but it WOULD force senators to answer directly to their state bodies for federal overreach. Thus, if they consolidate power away from the state their will be held accountable, theoretically, by their state government who sent them there.

      2. I think it is a coincidence. I see no reason to think the combination of state + national power over people would diminish if the states were represented in like manner to the way they were previously.

    2. Except it is the same type of fetishization of democracy that fuels opposition to the electoral college was behind the direct election of senators. It is a mode of tjought that is weakening the republican aspects of our form of government.

    3. What needs fixing is the voter rolls. When they’re not fraudulent, they’re often far out of date. All the tussle over IDing voters at the polls is a spit in the ocean compared to IDing voters between elections.

    4. If senators were still elected by state legislatures, I’m pretty sure that 99 of our 100 senators would be the exact same people, and Rand Paul would still be an eye doctor in Kentucky.

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  13. The slate of a state’s Electors is meant to represent the views and wishes of the populace of the state, not that of the country at large. Any Elector who votes against the majority of the state’s voters is a ‘faithless Elector’ and, Roger MacBride notwithstanding, that’s generally not a good thing. And anyone who argues that a National Popular Vote scheme does not strip states of their control of its electors and functionally eliminate the Electoral College is either too damned stupid to pour the piss out of their own boots without illustrated instructions or is an evil twisted liar.

    1. Or a sore loser who thinks it should be easier to amend the Constitution.

    2. “The bottom line is that the electors from those states who cast their ballot for the nationwide vote winner are completely accountable (to the extent that independent agents are ever accountable to anyone) to the people of those states. The National Popular Vote states aren’t delegating their Electoral College votes to voters outside the state; they have made a policy choice about the substantive intelligible criteria (i.e., national popularity) that they want to use to make their selection of electors. There is nothing in Article II (or elsewhere in the Constitution) that prevents them from making the decision that, in the Twenty-First Century, national voter popularity is a (or perhaps the) crucial factor in worthiness for the office of the President.”
      – Vikram David Amar – professor and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the UC Davis School of Law. Before becoming a professor, he clerked for Judge William A. Norris of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Justice Harry Blackmun at the Supreme Court of the United States.

    3. Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In virtually every of the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 70-80% range or higher – in recent or past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.
      AK ? 70%, AR ? 80%, AZ ? 67%, CA ? 70%, CO ? 68%, CT ? 74%, DC ? 76%, DE ? 75%, FL ? 78%, IA –75%, ID ? 77%, KY- 80%, MA ? 73%, ME ? 77%, MI ? 73%, MN ? 75%, MO ? 70%, MS ? 77%, MT ? 72%, NC ? 74%, NE 74%, NH ? 69%, NM? 76%, NV ? 72%, NY ? 79%, OH ? 70%, OK ? 81%, OR ? 76%, PA ? 78%, RI ? 74%, SC ? 71%, SD ? 71%, TN ? 83%, UT ? 70%, VA ? 74%, VT ? 75%, WA ? 77%, WI ? 71%, WV ? 81%, and WY ? 69%.

      NationalPopularVote.com

    4. In state polls of voters each with a second question that specifically emphasized that their state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states, not necessarily their state’s winner, there was only a 4-8% decrease of support.

      Support for a National Popular Vote
      South Dakota — 75% for Question 1, 67% for Question 2.
      Connecticut — 74% for Question 1, 68% for Question 2,
      Utah — 70% for Question 1, 66% for Question 2

      NationalPopularVote.com

    5. National Popular Vote allows individual states to use their unqualified and absolute right to have the Electoral College accomplish a goal that more than two-thirds of Americans, throughout the country, have consistently supported since polling on this began in 1944.

      States enacting the bill replace their state or district winner-take-all laws to guarantee every vote, everywhere, in every election matters to the candidates, is equal and counts, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

      The presidential election system of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

      The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates. In the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.

      The Founders in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

      The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution,

  14. Hell, you could say if it weren’t for television, Nixon would’ve beat Kennedy for POTUS, and there’d’ve been no Bay of Pigs or missile crises. Electoral, electrical…it’s all about the same thing, right?

  15. It is laughable that an argument for the Electoral College is that candidates pay attention to only a few states in national elections. The reason is that the two party systems has locked these states up. If there was legitimate competition for these two parties the story would be different. I live in California and the idiot sheep voters in this state have sold their souls to the democrats that have run the state into the crapper with their oppressive regulations based on nanny control and the out of control taxes. In Kansas or Nebraska or some other oppressive conservative state the far right wing of the GOP have a death grip on every election.

    Changing a process for the Presidential race isn’t going to solve the problem of extremes in the country deciding the course for the rest of us.

    1. 80% of the states and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That’s more than 85 million voters, more than 200 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

      During the course of polling, organizing, visiting, and spending on ads, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

    2. In 1960, presidential campaigns paid attention to 35 states.
      In 2008, Obama only campaigned in 14 states after being nominated.
      In 2012, the presidential campaigns only cared about 9 swing states.

      The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

      Paul Ryan recently said, “If there’s a thing I learned from being involved in the 2012 election, it’s that we can’t have this Electoral College strategy with the margin of error of one state.” (August 21, 2014)

      States’ partisanship is hardening.

      From 1992- 2012
      13 states (with 102 electoral votes) voted Republican every time
      19 states (with 242 electoral votes) voted Democratic every time

      If this pattern continues,
      Democrats only would need a mere 28 electoral votes from other states.
      If Republicans lose Florida (29 electoral votes), they would lose.

      Some states have not been been competitive for more than a half-century and most states now have a degree of partisan imbalance that makes them highly unlikely to be in a swing state position. In a study before the 2012 election:
      ? 41 States Won by Same Party, 2000-2008
      ? 32 States Won by Same Party, 1992-2008
      ? 13 States Won Only by Republican Party, 1980-2008
      ? 19 States Won Only by Democratic Party, 1992-2008
      ? 9 Democratic States Not Swing State since 1988
      ? 15 GOP States Not Swing State since 1988

    3. Under National Popular Vote, every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

      National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate. In 2012, 56,256,178 (44%) of the 128,954,498 voters had their vote diverted by the winner-take-all rule to a candidate they opposed (namely, their state’s first-place candidate).

      And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state are wasted and don’t matter to candidates. Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

    4. A nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention?roughly in proportion to their population.

      The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

      With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

    5. In 2008, voter turnout in the then 15 battleground states averaged seven points higher than in the 35 non-battleground states.

      In 2012, voter turnout was 11% higher in the 9 battleground states than in the remainder of the country.

      If presidential campaigns polled, organized, visited, and appealed to more than the current 63,000,000 of 314,000,000 Americans, one would reasonably expect that voter turnout would rise in 80% of the country that is currently ignored by presidential campaigns.

      1. Your autism is showing.

  16. Eh, not really. While the Electoral College does lead to continuance of policies that should die, these policies would die if there wasn’t actual substantial (if not as passionate) support for them nationwide. With Cuba, enforcing the embargo was a good way to show you are “anti-communist”; showing any support for weakening the embargo could put you on the immediate defensive.

  17. So now Steve Chapman thinks he’s smarter than James Madison and Alexander Hamilton?

    1. Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1:
      “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors?.”

      The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

      The Constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

      Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

      In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

  18. I’m sure it’s also to blame for rampant obesity.

  19. Susan Anthony, despite your massive text dumps you are still WAAAY off base here. The problem is democracy itself. Read your Moldbug! A Stuart restoration would be the best thing to happen to this continent.

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    1. The Republic is not in any danger from National Popular Vote.

      National Popular Vote has NOTHING TO DO with pure democracy.

      Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

      With National Popular Vote, the United States would still be a republic, in which citizens continue to elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes by states, to represent us and conduct the business of government.

      1. You misunderstand; not unsurprising, most moderns are in the thrall of the cult of Whig demotism. What I meant is that democracy, of any type, is poisonous and evil and should be abolished in favor of, at least, monarchy but ideally a corporate state, complete with CEO, board of directors, shareholders, etc. Giving the commonweal, especially a commonweal with no economic incentive to maximize profit, a say in the affairs of state is truly bloody stupid.

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      2. Susan, you have this entirely wrong. If the National popular vote is enacted then the electoral college would be superflous, and presidential policy would be based off of the wants of the most highly populated regions (most voters per region) at the expense of everyone else. It would lead to the effective disenfranchisement as a rule of the minority of people that live in regions that are not easy to pander to (read midwest, due to lower population density).
        Furthermore the Cuba embargoe is a fluke of the system not a rule. And its continued existence is due as much to the antipathy of the rest of Americans as it is to the Anti-Castro crowd.

  20. Leaving the electoral college issue aside for a moment (Florida was not always a key swing state since 1962) the longevity of the failed embargo of Cuba has other sources.

    In the partisan world of Beltway foreign policy choices, the embargo became a litmus test – a fairly low cost one – of hack politician macho credentials. On the contrary, any suggestions that this utterly discredited policy should be reviewed, much less changed, brought hysterical charges (see Marco Rubio’s public statements for reference) of coddling dictators and abandoning the freedom loving people of Cuba.

    I had always assumed that it would be a right wing Republican who, like Nixon vis China, would have has the political “cover” to say – look, this policy has become a joke, lets do something else. But it ends up being a lame duck Democrat.

    Besides, ref Florida, the 6% of the population which is Cuban-American includes a larger and larger number of anti-embargo younger people, and the die-hard anti-Castro mob is now elderly and disappearing. My guess is that this won’t even be an issue in Florida in 2016, much less anywhere else.

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  22. The electoral college is a VERY good thing, for this reason. It prevents the majority from trampling on minorities. The electoral college forces politicians to give a damn about flyover states. Without the electoral college as it is politicians would simply campaign in the most heavily populated urban areas to try and get as many national votes as possible. This should be read as “they will promise lots of handouts to poor urban areas at the expense of everyone else”. The National popular vote would be the worst thing to happen to this country since our civil war, indeed the polarization of regions this would cause would set the stage for renewed civil-strife.

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