Thursday, July 29, 2004

A little more about the Electoral College.

Back during the Constitutional Convention, there was the worry that the large states like Virginia would dominate the country. At the same time, there was the objection that states with a large population should have more say than sparsely populated states. From this came the great compromise, our modern Congress.

The idea of a Congress with two houses came from England where they have the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The Lords inherit their seats, the Commons are elected.

In our version, the House of Representatives is elected and is similar to the Commons. The Senate was originally selected by the state legislators and corresponded to the Lords. Every state gets two senators regardless of its population. The number of members a state gets in the House depends on population with every state getting at least one representative.

The states get votes in the Electoral College equal to the total number of members they have in Congress (the number of House members plus two). This gives smaller states a proportionally larger voice in selecting a president. Bush won the election even though he lost the popular vote because he carried most of the small states.

Originally the state legislators selected who would go to the Electoral College. During the 19th century, the Constitution was changed to allow for direct election of both the President and Senators.

Slavery didn't enter into this at all. The abolisionist movement was barely started when the Constitution was written.

What confuses people is that Congress eventually reached an uneasy balance. By counting their slave populations, the southern states had enough members in the House to stop any serious anti-slavery legislation. The Missouri compromise preserved that balance.

None of this was enough to stop the election of an abolisionist in 1860. The newly-formed Republican party was mainly made up of abolisionists and its candidate, Abraham Lincoln, was a moderate who planned on isolating the South by only admitting free states until they had a clear majority in Congress.

So, the Electoral College had nothing to do with preserving slavery and it did not keep an abolistionist from being elected. The 2000 election was not tainted by racism or slavery and Bush won according to the rules in place at the time (and still in place).

Michael Moore presents an interesting challenge to the Kerry campaign. Among certain circles he is a superstar. He gets on Nightline and the Tonight Show. His movie has brought in $100+ million. Among the faithful, he is stoking the flames.

The problem is that he is not reading from the same prayerbook. He is still advocating troop withdrawal from Iraq. A lot of points from his movie have been disproven but he keeps saying them. He says things like "The conservatives get up everymoring and think 'who can I screw today'".

So how should the Kerry people handle him? They seated him in the Presidential box next to the Carters on Monday implying that they support him. This gave the GOP an opening. They have released eight, soon to be ten, press releases quoting Moore and showing him next to Carter.

Does this mean that Kerry agrees with Moore? Will he spend time trying to disown his most popular supporter? General Clark tried that and tanked.

Moore may turn out to be Kerry's version of Pat Buchanan.

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