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"Indeed, the rage of theorists to make constitutions a vehicle for the conveyance of their own crude, and visionary aphorisms of government, requires to be guarded against with the most unceasing vigilance."
     -- Joseph Story
     Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
     Book III, § 1857.
 

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Being a conservative in the traditional sense, and therefore disapproving of ex post facto ideology, I don't hold much with the Republican Party. Still, they wind up getting my vote far more often than not; it's very rare that I find myself voting for a Democrat. Not that Republicans aren't capable of idiocy, but that, for Democrats, idiocy is by and large an integral part of the platform, whereas for Republicans it's more of a hit-and-miss thing (I don't mean the kind of idiocy that's just dumb for its own sake; I mean that kind which, being enacted into law, screws up a lot of things very badly). But I have, in the past, voted for the occasional Democrat. As a general rule, Democratic candidates lose my vote without even trying; still, every once in a while, either they put forward an extraordinarily good candidate, or the Republicans screw up big time.

Now for the most part, Dianne Feinstein is possessed of much more ordinary common sense than most Democrats. If I faced a choice, for example, between her and our other Senator, the toxic Barbara Boxer, there is no question where my vote would go. Every once in a while, though, Feinstein dishes up some piece or other of mind-boggling stupidity.

One may find many excellent reasons for the Electoral College mentioned in the debates of the Convention of 1787, mostly having to do with the defects of all other modes that were proposed. And one of the aims of the Electoral College (that of preventing nationwide cabal, by having each state's Electors meet and vote in their respective state capitols upon the same day) has been obviated by modern communications. The best reason for keeping the College, though, is one the Framers never considered: that only rarely will there be any possible benefits of cheating that are not enormously outweighed by the risks.

Here's what it took to turn the 2000 Presidential election into a circus:

  1. The vote in the Electoral College had to be close enough that a different result in a single state could change the overall outcome. Compare, say, the 1984 blowout: No single state could have come anywhere close to changing who became President.
  2. The vote in that state had to be close enough to hold out hope of changing the result. Compare the 2004 election, where Ohio might have changed things, but wasn't close enough to make it feasible (though some bitter-enders were trying nevertheless).
  3. The losing candidate, and party, must have been willing to put the entire Country through the wringer, trying to change the result. Compare the 1960 election, which was colorably worth challenging, except that the loser (Nixon, no less) refused to do so.
Even when things go haywire, as they did in 2000, we still have the inestimable benefit, that the mess, no matter how ugly it gets, cannot spill out of the single state under challenge.

Now compare, say, the late Gubernatorial election in Washington, where the election runs upon such lines as Feinstein wishes upon the Country for the Presidency. Given the fact of a close election, every precinct, no matter how definite the local verdict, becomes embroiled in the overall challenge, and any cheating anywhere might swing the result. As it stands now, the election hinges upon ten votes found, lost, or changed anywhere in the State, and whichever way the thing settles, no one is going to trust it. This is what Feinstein would have for the entire Country, for a much more important office. We can count ourselves lucky, that her proposal will never go anywhere.

As I said, every once in a while she gives way to mind-boggling stupidity. Which is why, unless the Republicans really screw up, she will never have my vote.

-- posted by Clayton 12/23/2004 06:42:00 PM


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