Election 2012: August 2012 Archives

Somehow tonight around the dinner table we got to talking about the Electoral College -- the 538 people who really get to vote for President of the United States. I talked about the two groups of seven Oklahomans that will be on our November 6 ballot -- seven pledged to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, seven pledged to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden -- about how Oklahomans will vote for one group or another, and the group with the most votes will gather in Oklahoma City in December to cast their ballots for president and vice president. Those ballots will be sent to Congress, where they will be opened in early January and counted in a joint session of Congress, and if a candidate gets at least 270 electoral votes, he will become president.

As I describe how electors vote, my 12-year-old daughter came up with a great question: What if an elector doesn't vote for the candidate he's pledged to vote for? I told her about faithless electors in the past, like the fellow in 1976 who voted for Ronald Reagan instead of Gerald Ford, but that they had never swayed an election. I told her about the year she was born, 2000, when it was close enough that as few as two faithless electors would have changed the result, and there was talk of Democratic efforts to pry loose a few Bush electors by threatening electors with exposure of embarrassing personal information. A faithless elector might be subject to fines, but it wouldn't change the effect of his vote.


My daughter's response to all this was that it would be important for the Republican Party not to choose Ron Paul supporters as electors. I told her that Oklahoma's Republican elector candidates had already been picked and explained how one was chosen at each congressional district convention, and two were chosen at the state convention. Larry Williamson, a long-time party volunteer who had supported Santorum in the primary, was nominated from our district. He spoke about the history and importance of the electoral college and pledged to support the party nominee. He won over a handful of other candidates, including our nominee from 2008 -- she'd already had a turn. I explained that we try to pick people with a long history of party involvement and loyalty, rather than someone who is new and whose loyalties aren't yet proven.

She also asked about what would happen if Ron Paul supporters broke off to form a third party -- another great question. After the dinner dishes were cleared away, I opened the laptop and showed her the map of the 1992 presidential election, and how Bill Clinton won the presidency with only 43% of the vote nationwide and a majority only in his home state of Arkansas and the District of Columbia. I told her about George H. W. Bush's broken promise on taxes, Ross Perot's candidacy and how it siphoned off enough votes from Bush in enough states to allow Clinton to win a plurality and the electoral votes.

We looked at the 2000 vote, too, when the Green Party took enough votes in New Hampshire alone to have flipped the state and the election to Al Gore. I showed the kids the 1968 map -- the last time a third-party candidate (George Wallace) won electors by finishing first in a state. In many states that Nixon won, it's plausible that Wallace pulled enough votes to keep Humphrey from winning -- enough votes might have changed to give Humphrey the win in a head-to-head battle.

That led to a conversation about runoffs. We looked at the 1992 Georgia Senate election, when the Democrat incumbent, Wyche Fowler, finished just ahead of Republican Paul Coverdell, but with a Libertarian in the race, no one had a majority. Three weeks later, the Republican won the head-to-head runoff with the Democrat. Then we looked at the 1991 Louisiana governor's race, when incumbent governor Buddy Roemer, whom polls showed beating each of the other candidates in a head-to-head matchup, finished a close third, leaving Louisiana voters a distasteful choice in the runoff between "the crook" (Edwin Edwards) and "the Klansman" (David Duke).

One way to avoid that sort of problem is multiple runoffs, removing one candidate each round, which my daughter observed would take forever. The alternative vote (instant runoff voting) is another way to solve the problem, and we looked at the seven-candidate 2011 Irish presidential election, which went through four counts, to see how that system works.

We looked one year's results in California, which featured a long list of odd parties, including Communist candidate Guy Hall. Yes, there's a Communist Party in the U. S., and they used to run their own presidential candidates. Nowadays they just encourage their members to vote for Democrats.

The six-year-old boy was mainly interested in the meaning of the different colors on the maps. My daughter wanted to know why the Democrats were red and the Republicans blue, contrary to what she usually sees. I told her that it made more sense for Democrats to be red, since red symbolizes socialism and communism all over the world, while blue is the color of Britain's Conservative Party. Dave Leip of U. S. Election Atlas says his color scheme has nothing to do with ideology or symbolism; he picked a scheme when he started his site circa 1996, before the famous 2000 USA Today map of results by county which brought about a standardization on Republican red and Democrat blue.

MORE: Great comment from pollster "Blue Pat" McFerron, who also remembers when red was reserved for communism & socialism and blue was for capitalism.

The last three evenings were occupied with an election night watch party (disappointing results, but some good conversation late into the night that only confirmed my conviction that Oklahoma is much the poorer that someone as principled, intelligent, and sincere as Shane Saunders won't be serving in the state legislature next year), dinner with visiting customers, and grading Greek papers.

There's a lot I'd like to say about the rules changes that Romney's forces pushed through the Republican National Convention Rules Committee last week and the convention as a whole on Tuesday, but no time to say much now, so I'll point you to four articles that cover the important details and correctly comprehend the significance of what came to be tagged on Twitter as #goppowergrab.

First, just a few points from me:

1. This wasn't about Ron Paul and his supporters. It was about shutting down grassroots conservatives of all stripes -- old timers and newcomers alike -- in favor of the wheeler-dealers and K Street insiders.

2. It wasn't about 2012. It was about 2016 -- protecting Romney from a conservative challenger if he turns out to be a RINO in office -- and 2020 -- letting the next establishment candidate sew up the nomination as quickly as McCain did in 2008. The rules don't just govern this convention; they govern the party until the next convention, and they set precedent for future rules.

3. Too many conservatives want to know why we wind up with candidates like Dole, McCain, Romney, but then they dismiss rules disputes as "inside baseball," not worth noticing, not worth fighting about. Folks, it all starts here. Rules shape the race. Rules shape the structure of the party and the distribution of power. If you want to debug the system, you have to analyze the source code.

4. I had been trying for some time, without much success, to get conservative bloggers to pay attention to this issue. Back in January I'd suggested to a conference planner that the "inner workings of the Republican Party" should be a panel topic at the next conservative bloggers conference, with a panel made up of bloggers who, like myself, had been involved in Republican Party politics:

I see a lot of frustrated commentary from conservative bloggers about the GOP, often anthropomorphizing the party as a monolithic entity, when it's really a complex system of individuals, forces, rules, and institutions. Rather than blame the party as a whole and attack the symptoms with no lasting impact, conservatives need to identify and target the causes of the problems we see, and conservative bloggers can play an important role in providing context and directing activist energy in productive ways.

More recently I suggested that any bloggers who could be in Tampa before the convention began should report on the Rules Committee meeting, as I had done in 2004 and 2008, specifically mentioning the possibility of an effort to undo the primary calendar reforms that governed the 2012 primary cycle, reforms that this time around prevented a super-frontloaded national primary. As far as I know, no conservative bloggers reported from the meeting itself, and there weren't any conservative-leaning news outlets there either. Live tweets (which I captured with the GOP 2012 Rules Twitter list) were coming from reporters with Buzzfeed, CNN, Huffington Post, and Politico.

If more conservative bloggers and reporters had been paying attention from the beginning, and if Team Romney and the Rules Committee knew we were paying attention, perhaps some of the Romney changes would not have been put forward by the Romney people or won the Rules Committee's approval.

All that said, here are four well-done articles on the controversy and its aftermath:

Washington Examiner's Tim Carney: Republican leaders trample their grass roots in Tampa

Michelle Malkin: RNC Power Grab: The Aftermath

FreedomWorks' Dean Clancy: Romney's "RNC Power Grab": What Really Happened

Mark America: Becoming a Top-Down Party of Nothing

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Election 2012 category from August 2012.

Election 2012: July 2012 is the previous archive.

Election 2012: September 2012 is the next archive.

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