Making the irrelevant voter relevant
by David Atkins
Never has the need to eliminate the electoral college been more clear:
With so many resources focused on persuading an ever-shrinking pool of swing voters like those here in Nevada, the 2012 election is likely to go down in history as the one in which the most money was spent reaching the fewest people.
Much of the heaviest spending has not been in big cities with large and expensive media markets, but in small and medium-size metropolitan areas in states with little individual weight in the Electoral College: Cedar Rapids and Des Moines in Iowa (6 votes); Colorado Springs and Grand Junction in Colorado (9 votes); Norfolk and Richmond in Virginia (13 votes). Since the beginning of April, four-fifths of the ads that favored or opposed a presidential candidate have been in television markets of modest size.
There are two major problems with this. First and most obvious, this system renders the needs and desires of huge, otherwise important states like Texas and California irrelevant. There is a grand ideological battle being played out in America, and the argument between blue states and red states needs to happen honestly and in the open. When the entire presidential election gets decided on the whims of states like Nevada, Florida and Iowa, perverse things start to happen. The nation adopts bizarre and counterproductive stances on a variety of issues, from Cuba policy to corn and ethanol subsidies. Issues important to big, comfortably partisan states on both sides tend to be ignored.
But perhaps of greater concern is that the acceptable range of political discourse in the country shrinks dramatically. There are a lot of reasons why it's difficult for progressives to gain traction in America, but one of them assuredly is that any Democratic President cannot afford to adopt major stances that would offend swing voters in places like Ohio or suburban Virginia. Republicans are similarly forced to nominate candidates like McCain and Romney who in no way openly represent the true soul of the modern GOP.
The sort of voters who live in purple states and pay so little attention or are so conflicted that can't seem to make up their minds whether to cast their vote for tickets as markedly different as Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin in no way represent the real America. Putting the entire fate of the country in their hands is preposterous.
It's long past time to enact the National Popular Vote and give Americans of all political persuasions wherever they happen to live an equal chance at affecting the direction of presidential politics.