Things To Act
Sunday, June 20, 2004
EC PR Reform II
In my post analyzing potential electoral college reform below, I conclude that switching to a PR system in initiative states likely would hurt Democrats, which obviously implies that it would help Republicans. A logical follow-up question, therefore, is to ask why Republicans don't embrace this strategy. After all, not only does it look likely to help them, but they also have fewer Blue and Blue-leaning states to target. Forcing a switch in California alone would be hugely advantageous, and even forcing national Democrats to spend money trying to fight it off might have its benefits. However, I can think of several reasons why Republicans (generally, not necessarily specific Republicans) might think this to be a bad idea.

*First of all, this year's evidence of the failure of campaign finance "reform" implies that forcing national Dems to drop a few million in California is barely scratching the surface.

*Second, Republicans may be wary about starting a process of Electoral College reform, given that the current system does advantage them slightly. A genuine movement for reform could lead to pressure for a constitutional amendment, which would diminish this advantage.

*Furthermore, Republicans ideologically are probably closer to a position that values the moderating influence of indirect institutions such as the EC. Democrats tend to affiliate more with the populist democratic government strain of thought, while Republicans tend to affiliate more with the checks and balances/limited republican government strain of thought. This is obviously a broad oversimplified generalization, but I think a compelling case can be made that Republicans are less amenable to the notion of proportional representation in the EC in general, even if it helps them in the short term.

*Fourth, PR in CA (and even possibly FL or IL) opens up the possibility of third party spoiler candidates, which could make a mess of things. Amusing as the spectacle of Nader picking off votes from the left may be for them, the threat of a libertarian or religious conservative candidate picking off votes from the right cannot be dismissed.

*Finally, the Republicans may not want to go down the same road the Democrats did. The Dems have acquired an unsavory reputation for fiddling with election rules to get around not being able to win elections--litigating in Florida in 2000, tossing out election law in New Jersey in 2002, using various tactics to keep previous redistrictings' gerrymanders in place, etc. Republicans may want to continue on the high road for now.

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