Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugurating Change or Preserving an Outdated Legacy

Perhaps this happened to you when growing up. Perhaps you were the one who did it. Here's the scenario:  

Children gathered for a game are told by one of the group they have to play a certain way, by a different rule than normal. Or maybe that the owner of the bat and ball or the board game has to be picked first or else he or she will simply take his or her stuff home so nobody will be able to play. Or maybe in the middle of the game the owner of the equipment gets upset and decides to gather it up and go home.

Sound familiar? An adult version of that selfish, manipulative stance may be about to be played out across the country in the wake of President Barack Obama's second inauguration, the failure of Republicans to win the overall popular vote in five of the last six elections and a changing demographic that may alter GOP strangleholds in such states as Arizona, Kansas and even Texas. 

In states where Republicans control the governorship and the legislature, they are pondering changing the way votes are cast in the Electoral College. They would change the winner-take-all system with a proportional division of votes based on the percentage of popular votes cast for each candidate. The changes are meant to make it harder for a Democrat to secure the required 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency, or at the very least reduce the mandate a candidate may claim.

Maine and Nebraska already apportion votes. As the Associated Press reported the other day, "Each state has the authority to shape its own election law. And in at least seven states—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina—Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's office" (

Thus, in a state such as Pennsylvania, where 20 Electoral College votes were at stake, Obama would have won just 12; Mitt Romney would have garnered the remaining eight votes. Nationally, Obama secured 332 Electoral College votes to Romney's 206. 

On its face, proportional representation in the Electoral College seems fair, a democratic advancement of the presidential selection process. But only if ALL states adopted the practice. This would even out the imbalance seen in recent presidential elections that focused on swing states. Candidates would spend lots more time in all states to improve their chances of securing at least some electoral votes. They'd really focus on states where they expect to win to earn even higher percentages of the popular vote. 

But like Republican attempts to pass more restrictive voter registration laws this last election, the real intent of proportional representation initiatives by GOP-controlled states is to preserve the dwindling status of the Old Order—white, male candidates.

All this potential maneuvering of election laws places more emphasis on the choice of governors and state legislatures, especially in the election before new census data is used to redistrict congressional seats every 10 years. Redrawn district lines make it harder for the party on the outside to oust incumbents. 

Politics is not a vocation for the faint of heart. Nor should it be for any citizen who cares about the future and path of his or her country. In their desperation to redraw the lines of combat, Republicans are poised to change the rules—legally, to be sure—but with the clear intent of making their restrictive philosophy of life a never-ending legacy to a country and population shifting away from their "white bread" society.