President Obama, Electoral College, and Where Republicans Went Wrong

barack-obamaUPDATE: This post was written shortly after Obama won four years ago.  If does not relate to the current election cycle.  Try this.

One year ago I was certain Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president, and there was nothing Democrats nor Republicans could do about it.  It’s 10:30 on the east coast, and if CNN is right then Obama will accept winning the 2008 Presidential race sometime between now and tomorrow morning.  This has been a historic election year in every sense.  This is the first time in history that two current senators have run against each other.  Obama has just been elected as the first African-American President in our nation’s history, Sarah Palin could have been the first women to serve as vice-president.  She is the first woman to run on the Republican ticket for VP.  Like I said, the results are being counted, several states are too close to call, but even McCain advisers are reading the writing on the wall.

The popular vote is much closer than the numbers in the electoral college.  A brief history lesson for those that need it: The electoral system was created early in our nation’s history when vast numbers of citizens had very little education.  The mass populace was uninformed; there were few newspapers, information traveled very slowly (i.e. the Battle of New Orleans was fought 3 weeks after the War of 1812 had ended).  The founding fathers did not feel the “average” American was capable of making an informed decision for president.  Sectionalism was one fear, and for good reason.  The general population would choose electors who would meet and vote for president; educated men who knew the issues, and could do a better job than Average Joe Voter.  Around 9:30 or so p.m. McCain had 20 something million votes, Obama had a slightly higher 20 something million.  The difference in the number of electors however was more like 2 to 1.  After the 2000 election, I honestly thought the system might be reformed to more closely match a direct election.  What might such a reformed system look like?

I do not think the electoral college will be abandoned for popular election of the president.  There are just a couple of states at this time that actually split their electors based on popular percentages within the state.  I think that will someday be the norm nationwide.  If a candidate receives 60% of a state’s popular vote, then 6 out of 10 electors from that state would vote for that candidate.  I imagine this will happen in my life time (let’s say, during the next 40 years?).  If there is one more stolen election, that is a candidate winning the presidency despite loosing in the popular vote, then election reform will be hastened.

So what happened to Republicans in this election?  President Bush had a lot to do with the Obama win.  I voted for Romney in the Republican primary, not John McCain, but no matter.  ANY Republican would have had an uphill battle considering the war, the economy, and the record low approval rating of the current Republican president.  I’ve been a little mad at W. for the last 2 years or so for hurting any chance of another Republican in office.  He has pushed his own agenda in Iraq and other places, and so hurt the party.  Another factor it seems was McCain’s age.  His age has been more of a factor in the election than Obama’s race.  The issue of race turns out to not be that much of an issue.  John McCain is 72 years old, and I think that hurt his chances.  Add to that if he dies in office Palin becomes the president.  After an initial boost to the party’s energy level, support for Palin dropped off pretty sharply.  I have to admit that if the race were between Joe Biden and Sara Palin I can’t say for sure I’d vote for her.  I like her; I was just hoping McCain would have a few years to teach her about being the president before he died in office.

So it looks like Obama will take office, and the Senate and House will have democratic majorities.  It happened in ’92, but it didn’t last long.  I listened to one Democrat tonight address that issue, who thinks that perhaps Democrats have learned from that to govern from the center, something they did not do 14 years ago.  One can only hope.  I expect a Republican backlash in 2010 in perhaps the House and several state governor’s races.  Again, I can only hope.  Obama is the candidate for change.  Let’s be optimistic for the future, and see what changes.  Hey, at least it’s not Clinton.

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5 thoughts on “President Obama, Electoral College, and Where Republicans Went Wrong

  1. Just to clarify on the electoral college, the two states that allow their electors to be split are Maine and Nebraska. But it isn’t done as follows: Candidate A wins 60% of the vote and Candidate B wins 40% of the vote, there Candidate A wins 60% of the electors and Candidate B wins 40% of the electors. It is done by congressional districts. Let’s take Nebraska for example (which might split their votes this election incidently). Nebraska has 5 electoral votes. By the way, it should be pointed out for those who don’t know that the number of electoral votes a state has can be calculated by adding the number of members that state has in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Here in Georgia for example we have 13 members of the House of Representatives and 2 Senators (every state has 2 Senators for those who don’t know). Therefore Georgia has 15 electoral votes. There are 435 total members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators (50 X 2). That adds up to 535 electoral votes, but there are 538 total electoral votes. So where do the other 3 come from? The answer is the District of Columbia, they get 3 electoral votes (as though it was a state with 1 Representative and 2 Senators). OK, back to Nebraska. It has 5 electoral votes (3 Representatives and 2 Senators). The way the electoral votes are distributed is as follows. Whoever wins the state as a whole gets 2 electoral votes (that would be McCain this year). The other 3 are distributed based on who wins the House districts. McCain has won 2, and one is apparently too close to call, so Obama might win it. So if that turns out to be the case McCain will win 4 votes from Nebraska and Obama will win 1. McCain didn’t win Nebraska by a 4 to 1 ratio, or 80% of the vote. He won 57% to 41% with 2% going to 3rd party candidates. If the electoral votes were based on that, McCain would win 3 and Obama 2, but McCain has won at least 4 and maybe all 5 because it is based on winning cogressional districts not on percentage of population won. If it was up to me that is how the electoral college would be based. The Nebraska Plan as opposed to the winner take all plan.

    OK boys and girls civics class is dismissed for the day. There will be a test on this in 2012.

  2. The test of the electoral college will come when a candidate receives enough electoral votes to win the presidency (270) without winning the popular vote. It is mathematically possible.

    Challange: map out a scenario where this outcome could occur. Figure out which states would be needed in the win category to give you the electors, and yet have a candidate receive less than a majority of the popular vote. Don’t forget to consider third party candidates, and what lonelypilgrim said about Nebraska.

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