Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pete duPont Taken to Task

Hendrik Hertzberg, of the New Yorker, takes a few shots at former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont on his blog today. In "Pete du Pointless," Hertzberg reacts to du Pont's op-ed in the News Journal in defense of the electoral college.

The title is a slightly cheap shot, as is this bit:
You may or may not remember Pierre S. du Pont IV, the high-born former Delaware governor who briefly ran for President in 1988 under the plain vanilla—well, French vanilla—name of Pete du Pont.
The rest of the piece, however, is a fairly workmanlike deconstruction of du Pont's arguments against the idea of a National Popular Vote plan to replace the electoral college. DuPont trots out an impressive herd of statistics. Hertzberg hobbles, harnesses or stampedes them, one by one.

I don't pretend to the same level of electoral erudition as these two, but I can't help thinking that there is some merit in simply electing the president based on which candidate gets the most votes. The way we've been doing it has had decidedly mixed results lately.


Nancy Willing said...
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Nancy Willing said...

Good catch, Pete is starting up a new wingnut think tank and he had Grover the de tax twinkie in town today for the launching of it.

I suspect that the attention to Delaware from the Biden pick and likely VP slot is what has generated the flurry of activity from DE GOPers.

The new internet broadcast show is a Burris deal even though they have Mike Matthews on for balance. And now the think tank with the much heralded last of the 50 states to have such a state policy-focused entity.

It always struck me that Pete went for the presidency in '88 out of a fierce competition. It seemed that he just couldn't stand for Joe Biden to be getting that much of the national spotlight. And now this. heh.

S said...

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com


Richard said...

I have been seeing "susan" posting at some of my favorite blogs whenever the topic of electing the president by popular vote as opposed to the electoral college. I think both Pete DuPonts' specific reasons and Hertzberg's counterarguments have problems. This is what I have already said on the issue.

The electoral college exists specifically to cause there to be 51 elections and not just one. It causes candidates to have to campaign in all 50 states and Washington DC and not just run a national campaign to get the popular vote. For the same reason we have two houses in the Congress, the House of Representatives to be proportional to population, and the Senate to be represent each State equally.

These systems were put in place because, at the beginning of our country, the less populous states were concerned that their desires would be superseded buy the wishes of the large states. Back then the large state was Virginia, now it would be California or New York. A popular vote based election wouldn't eliminate "battleground" and "spectator states", it would just change which ones were which.

The winning candidate must win 270 electoral votes from many different states. This year's "spectator" is next year's battleground. I even disagree with this nomenclature. As a resident of a smaller state I think the electoral college system strikes the right balance between pure Democracy and Republicanism or Federalism (those words in their technical meanings, not party denominations).

Mike, you are from Delaware. The electoral college benefits you the most.

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