If nothing else, the 2010 elections were about a renaissance of the United States Constitution. The constitutional restraints on the power of government are en vogue. A resurgent GOP has claimed the document as a unifying rallying cry. This is why it is so curious that one of the leading candidates for Republican National Committee chair has fought for one of the most anti-constitutional ideas of the last half-century.
Saul Anuzis, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, has aggressively championed the National Popular Vote movement. If you don’t know what that is, count your blessings. The National Popular Vote movement is a frontal assault on one of the most important parts of the Constitution — the method we use to elect the president.
The National Popular Vote movement would have states allocate their Electoral College votes to whichever candidate wins the nationwide popular vote. For example, South Carolina would have thrown their electoral votes in 2008 to Barack Obama even though McCain handily won the state.
It is a peculiar idea for a candidate for RNC chair to champion.
The plan relies on statutory changes in the states, not a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College. Naturally, there would never be sufficient support to amend the Constitution this way. States would never sign that suicide pact. Americans may be disturbed, however, to learn that 31 state legislative chambers have passed this purely partisan initiative. Notice the blue hue of the states which have done so.
The Electoral College is not some ancient relic whose time has passed. Instead, it is a way to preserve nationhood, to make elections matter in every corner of the union. Successful presidential candidates must appeal to a cross section of voters to obtain a majority of electoral votes. Obama appealed to more than New York, California, Massachusetts, and Vermont. He had to capture the formerly industrial Midwest and a southern state or two to win. The pattern repeats in other elections.
The National Popular Vote plan promoted by Saul Anuzis would trigger a massive power shift to urban areas. Why do a time consuming crisscross of the upper Midwest when you can buy the New York City and Philadelphia media markets and open the spigots with urban voters? Under Anuzis’ plan, there is no reason for a candidate to visit Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, or West Virginia. Just set up camp in Los Angeles or Chicago instead and wring out as many votes as possible in densely populated urban areas.
Urban voters also have the least political diversity of any voters. Contrary to what some believe, voters in places like Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle are actually the least tolerant of competition ideologically. They vote as a cohesive bloc, more so than suburbia or even rural areas.