Laird: Remember, Mr. Paul, electors (not voters) matter most

By

Published:

 

Ron Paul found another wrong tree to bark up Thursday afternoon in downtown Vancouver, and his idolators turned out in full force. Hundreds were turned away from a capacity crowd at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

Sadly for the presidential hopeful and his frenzied fans, there’s little hope he’ll become president. And that faint national chance is gaining even less traction in our state, hence the wrong-tree reference. Paul and his fellow Libertarians-masquerading-as-Republicans seem to forget that voters don’t directly elect presidents here in Washington, or any other state. They also seem to forget that no vote in our state for a Republican presidential candidate has really mattered for at least two decades.

Due to the Electoral College, it is fancy-pants electors, and not the real voters, who choose the most powerful leader on Earth. We have 12 electors in our state (up from 11 because of this year’s redistricting). And we’re one of 48 states that assign all electoral votes to whoever carries the state in the election.

Republicans in our state don’t like to talk about this subject, for two sharply contradictory reasons. On one hand, they love the Electoral College because it’s archaic, and they hate change. On the other hand, they hate the way the Electoral College continually ignores their votes for president. Those 1.2 million votes in our state for McCain/Palin in 2008? They were essentially tossed into a figurative trash can, treated as if they never happened. (Talk about election fraud!) That year, all 11 electoral votes from Washington state went to Obama/Biden.

The wrong tree up which Paul barked here Thursday is deeply rooted. Prior to Obama’s carrying Washington state in 2008, John Kerry won all of Washington’s electoral votes in 2004, as did Al Gore in 2000, rascally incumbent Bill Clinton in 1996 and chaste rookie presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.

Defending a hidden enemy

Ironically, Paul fiercely defends the Electoral College that blocks his path to the presidency. According to http://paul.house.gov, he wrote in 2004 that “election of the president by pure popular vote totals would damage statehood. Populated areas on both coasts would have increasing influence on national elections, to the detriment of less populated southern and western states.”

However, reality tells us otherwise: The status quo is much worse than a system of popularly electing a president. Currently, presidential candidates focus their campaigns on “swing” states, many of them small.

Personally, I’d rather have large population centers on both coasts dominating presidential elections, because that would preserve the sacred principle of voter equality. And, although Republicans in our state don’t want to admit it, changing the Electoral College would allow them to finally matter in presidential elections.

The Electoral College probably will never be abolished. But eight states (including Washington) have signed on to a compact that would allow all of a state’s electoral votes to be cast for the national popular winner. The compact will not take effect until enough states approve it to constitute 270 electoral votes, the amount needed to win the presidency. Currently, this national effort (http://nationalpopularvote.com) is about halfway toward that goal. Several states are considering legislation that would expand the list.

This change won’t happen soon, probably not in my lifetime. The status quo is rock solid. Swing states will keep wielding a disproportionate influence on presidential elections, and millions of votes will be essentially tossed into figurative trash cans.

My Republican friends in Washington, think for a moment about your utter impotence as you try to influence this year’s presidential election. Then think about your abiding defense of a system that disenfranchises you and others who believe the way you do. And then try to answer the question I’ve been posing for many years: What could possibly be wrong — ever — with a leading vote-getter winning an election?