The Democratic Strategist’s first Roundtable Discussion for 2008 was on the perennial controversy over “swing” versus “base” voter strategies. Who are these voters? How valuable are they? Do swing voter appeals sacrifice principle or “base” support? These are among the questions we posed to a distinguished group of commentators, including practitioners, political scientists, activists and journalists. They included Robert Creamer, Bill Galston, Chris Bowers, Al From, Joan McCarter, and Ed Kilgore (who introduced and concluded the Roundtable). (Click here for a PDF version of the roundtable in its entirety).
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By Ed Kilgore
The more Republicans argue for maintaining the Electoral College, the more they tend to undermine their own positions. I wrote about an example this week at New York:
The case for the perpetual continuation of that grand anti-democratic institution, the Electoral College, is ancient and generally (as my college Eric Levitz definitively demonstrated earlier this year) threadbare. But it’s useful to blow up defenses for it one by one as they arise, with the latest being a remonstration by Senator Joni Ernst aimed at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s arguments for abolishing the electoral dinosaur:
Actually @AOC, eliminating the Electoral College would silence our voices here in Iowa and in many other states across the country.
This is just more evidence of how out of touch the Democrats have become. https://t.co/yfm4oDCpkm
— Joni Ernst (@joniernst) August 21, 2019
To state the most obvious issue, there’s something fundamentally stupid about the claim that giving voters everywhere the exact same power to elect a president is going to “silence” anyone. Besides, is voting for president the only way citizens can “voice” their opinions? What the hell is Joni Ernst doing in the U.S. Senate? Are her efforts just a waste of time unless presidential candidates are lusting after Iowa’s six electoral votes every four years?
Now it’s true that the “losers” — relatively speaking — in a shift from Electoral College to a popular-vote system would be closely contested “battleground states” that naturally attract candidate attention more than safely Democratic or Republican states. Presumably, Ernst thinks of Iowa as a battleground state, which it has indeed often been in recent years. But these things change. In the 2016 presidential election, Iowa was ten points more Republican than the nation as a whole. It was redder than Texas. Is Joni Ernst going to urge Iowans to tilt more Democratic so that the state remains a battleground, thus keeping their voice from being silenced? I don’t think so.
Generally speaking, Iowa needs the Electoral College to make sure presidents are aware of it about as much as the current president needs more self-esteem. Joni Ernst or whoever runs her Twitter account should take down that tweet before it really embarrasses her.