Sunday, September 4, 2011

The electoral college isn't real great for democracy

This little note from Ezra Klein's blog caught my eye:
Is the electoral college biased towards the Republicans or the Democrats? Brian Gaines and Neil Thomas Bear tried to take a rigorous look at this and basically found that there have been so few elections in which the electoral college was even close to mattering that it was almost impossible to tell. Democrats, they said, clearly think the electoral college hurts them -- the National Popular Vote initiative, which would undermine the electoral college, has had very little luck in Republican states and quite a bit of luck in Democratic states -- but that might just be because the 2000 election looms so large in their minds.
It seems pretty clear that the electoral college can ultimately benefit both Republicans and Democrats, in different years. A rationally managed political party should structure its platform and candidates so that it wins the maximum number of votes in any given election. When you have two such parties pitted against one another, they should split election victories more or less evenly. That is to say, Republicans adopt positions that appeal to roughly half the electorate and Democrats should adopt positions that appeal to roughly half the electorate.

The problem with the electoral college isn't that it benefits one party more than the other. The problem is that it forces the parties to change their platforms in order to maximize their chances of winning elections. For example: in a world without the electoral college, Democrats might be sufficiently competitive running on a platform that appealed primarily or exclusively to urban dwellers. But with it, they're forced to adopt positions that allow them to compete in rural areas as well. This sort of incentive wouldn't register as a "disadvantage" for the Democrats, but it's still deplorable for anyone who would prefer to see Congress represent the interests of as many people as possible.

1 comment:

  1. But how are we going to get subsidized country music television?