Thursday, November 26, 2020
Nov. 26, 2020

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Jayne: Let’s level playing field for voters

By , Columbian Opinion Editor
Published:

Last month, in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers blasted to a 15-0 lead by the third inning.

After that, however, the Atlanta Braves outscored the Dodgers, 3-0. The Braves scored in two different innings while the Dodgers did not score. Not once. Not even a single run for six innings.

Why should the fact the Dodgers scored more runs in the game count for so much? You wouldn’t want an 11-run first inning to decide the contest, would you?

Of course, those are silly, ridiculous, absurd questions. But they provide a metaphor for how some people view the Electoral College. After writing a couple weeks ago about America’s method for selecting a president, I heard from many readers.

“Without the Electoral College, the president would be elected by California, and the votes in other states would be meaningless. Does Jayne really want to have a single state control the election of our president?,” one wrote.

“We don’t want California, New York and Illinois deciding all of our elections from now on,” wrote another.

“In 2016, Hillary Clinton received over 2.9 million votes more than President Trump. In California, she won by about 4.3 million votes. Take away California and Trump won the popular vote,” wrote a third.

There were more, but you get the idea. And when they were not worried about California deciding presidential elections, they were writing something such as, “a handful of big cities run by extreme liberal government officials would be able to sway most elections.”

All of which is fascinating. Because with each of these writers residing in Washington and presumably being Republicans, they ignore the fact that their vote in the presidential election counted for nothing. Whether they voted for Donald Trump or wrote in Ronald Reagan, Joe Biden earned Washington’s 12 electoral votes on his way to victory. Trump received no electoral votes in Washington.

Which is exactly the point. Abolishing the Electoral College is not about allowing California to decide presidential elections, it is about having Trump’s 1.5 million votes in Washington count for something; and Biden’s 5.2 million votes in Texas; and Trump’s 5.4 million votes in California.

As in 2016, the popular vote this time around is roughly even outside of California. Biden leads by about 300,000 out of nearly 150 million votes if you remove the country’s most populous state.

But there is a problem with that thinking. California not only has more people than any state, it also has the largest economy. And pays by far the most in federal taxes. And ranks in the top 10 of states that are the least dependent on the federal government per capita. It is, by far, the most productive agriculture state in the country, and it has the most productive manufacturing.

Spiting California is akin to cutting off your nose. But many people believe Wyoming’s per-capita influence on the presidential election should be larger than California’s.

Sure, there are reasons to defend the Electoral College. One is that it is written into the U.S. Constitution — a valid point. Another is that neither Congress nor three-quarters of the states will rewrite that part, and therefore the argument is moot — another valid point.

But the eagerness of many people to diminish the vote of fellow Americans is disturbing. So is their eagerness to diminish their own vote. And it points out several problems with our state of politics.

Like how pundits and politicians have managed to demonize the “other” side. This is not exclusive to either party; it happens across the spectrum, and we are worse off for it.

And how political parties pander to the worst traits of their followers. If Republicans are worried about California crowning the president — a falsehood in itself — perhaps they should develop policies that appeal to a broader spectrum rather than hoping an antiquated system keeps them in power.

Because in presidential elections, as in baseball, all scores should count equally.

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