I think Digby is far too quick to dismiss Dick Morris's latest column:
Morris is best understood as the top pundit in ... DC Comics' Bizarro World of Htrae, a cube-shaped planet in which everything is opposite of what we know as reality here on Earth. (Opposite of Htrae, get it?) Take his latest offering in upside-downism: He claims that in their latest nefarious vote fraud scheme, George Soros and his Democratic minions are preparing to steal elections from Republicans by having states adopt the national popular vote to determine electors in the Electoral College.Hendrik Hertzberg explains what's got Morris so upset:
Yes, you read that right. Using the national popular vote to determine who wins the presidency would be stealing elections. Let that sink in for a minute.
Suppose you could get a bunch of states to pledge that once there are enough of them to possess at least two hundred and seventy electoral votes -- a majority of the Electoral College -- they will thenceforth cast all their electoral votes for whatever candidate gets the most popular votes in the entire country. As soon as that happens, presto change-o: the next time you go to the polls, you'll be voting in a true national election. No more ten or so battleground states, no more forty or so spectator states, just the United States -- all of them, and all of the voters who live in them.The plan seems quite straightforward -- an exercise in pure democracy, and perfectly constitutional, because, according to the Constitution, states are free to allocate their electoral votes as they see fit.
Unless you've been following this pretty closely, it will surprise you to learn that, before this week, ten states (counting D.C.) had already signed on. Now [with New York] it's eleven, and between them they have a hundred and sixty-five electoral votes -- sixty-one per cent of the total needed to bring the compact into effect.
So why should we take Morris's denunciation of the plan seriously? Because he's road-testing arguments that, if the plan takes off, will almost certainly be used by other right-wingers to disenfranchise Democratic voters and delegitimize elections that Democrats win:
Why are Democrats pushing this plan?I'll briefly note that Morris is wrong about which are "the biggest cities" in America -- Washington is actually #24, San Francisco is #14, and Detroit is #18, while three of the top 10 (Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas) are in decidedly non-blue Texas.
Democrats usually see a smaller percentage of their people go to the polls than Republicans do.
Under the electoral vote system, they figure why beat the drums to get a high turnout in New York City when the state will go Democratic anyway? But if it’s the popular vote that matters, the big-city machines can do their thing -- with devastating impact.
And think of the chances for voter fraud! Right now, the biggest cities, the ones most firmly in Democratic control -- Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco -- are all solidly in blue states. Not only does this make it unnecessary to maximize turnouts there, but it also makes it unnecessary to promote double voting, fraudulent voting, and all the other tricks of the trade at which Democrats excel.
If the popular vote determines who will be the next president, we can bet that the machines will be out in force lining up voters, real and phony, to pad their statistics.
But never mind that. In a country where voter ID laws are (alas) regarded as a very worthy idea by large majorities, this kind of talk doesn't sound crazy.
As soon as we approach the moment when states intend to put this into effect, I expect the entire right to argue along these lines -- and claim that what we need is a national set of vote-suppression laws, because now that nasty voter fraud by Those People really might have implications for the whole country.
At the very least, this line of argument could help delegitimize any Democratic president elected after the plan takes effect. (I know, I know -- that will happen anyway.)
Republicans are going to use this as yet another excuse to rally their base around hatred and suspicion of the rest of us. They're going to make this seem like a sneaky, devious, anti-democratic move intended to encourage fraud. They're going to pit us against one another again.
Remember Lani Guinier? President Clinton nominated her to be an assistant attorney general for civil rights. Then it was revealed that she'd written favorably about alternate ways of allocating votes in elections as ways of empowering minority groups -- for instance, in an election for a five-member city council, each person would get five votes, which could all be allocated to one candidate if the voter chose.
"Proportional representation" voting would be available to every voter -- but it was caricatured as a devious scheme, and Guinier was called a "quota queen." She didn't get the job.
We could have a fight like this again, and a lot of right-wingers who are less buffoonish than Dick Morris will be saying what he's saying now.