Sunday, November 13, 2016

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #117 - Brush Your Breath with the Electoral College

Did the election leave a bad taste in your mouth? There's no need to do anything drastic; just rinse with the The GunBlog VarietyCast -- now with fluoride!
  • Be careful what you ask for; sometimes a cute Dysis Δύσις Sorrentino story can be a little TOO cute.
  • Beth Reoch Alcazar has been holding this in for months, but now that the election is over, she can lets out why she's happy to be on Hillary's enemies list.
  • Sean D Sorrentino answers the burning question "Who needs 12 rounds of tear gas and a robot before he gives up?"
  • What happens when you run a denial of service attack against traditional infrastructure? Barron B gives us a case in point.
  • In the Main Topic, Erin Palette explains the Electoral College, and why it's a good idea.
  • How do you keep your friends AND your political convictions? Tiffany Johnson, with the help of a creepy counter sound effect guy, gives us a list of things to do.
  • You've seen how the election has brought out the crazy in people. What do you do to get home safely? Erin Palette gives you some good advice.
  • Did you think that Joan Peterson was nuts? Wait until you get a load of the new leader of Protect Minnesota! Her recent over the top debate performance in Bloomington, Minnesota was so crazy that it had get its very own Weer'd Audio Fisk™.
  • Our plug of the week is for the Signal secure messaging app.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and now on Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here

Thanks also to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

And a special thanks to our sponsors for this episode, Remington Ammunition and Lucky

Main Segment Transcript:
Why We Have the Electoral College

Sean: Well, the election is over, and the NRA endorsed candidate won. No matter that he wasn’t my first choice, now he owes gun owners big time. Maybe we should think about what we as gun owners should be pushing for as our reward for our loyalty.

Erin: Wasn’t that the topic of Michael Bane’s podcast on Thursday? Like, his ENTIRE podcast? And I'm sure pretty much every other podcast is going to do the same thing. How about we talk about the Electoral College instead?

Sean: The Electoral College, Erin? Seriously?

Erin: Every time there’s a difference between Electoral and Popular vote results, we get the inevitable ‘Do away with the Electoral College’ arguments.

Sean: OK, so what?

Erin: So why don’t we do like Weer’d does with his segment and have a discussion of the various arguments for the Electoral College? That way, our listeners are well informed and can properly discuss it when it is inevitably brought up by the Hillary supporters.

Sean: That’s actually not a bad idea, Erin. So for those my age who slept through Civics, or those millennials who got Current Events instead, how does the Electoral College work?

Erin: In our election system, a candidate must receive 270 Electoral College votes in order to win. These electoral votes are not divided evenly by state but rather by representation in Congress. For example, New York elects 27 members to join the House of Representatives and two to join the Senate. Therefore, it gets 29 Electoral College votes. Nevada, meanwhile, has four representatives and two senators, so it gets six Electoral College votes. Whoever wins the most votes in a state wins all of the state’s electors.

Sean: So what’s the problem if we just went with Popular Vote?

Erin: If we went to a pure popular vote system we run into the same problem of pure democracies over representative republics: the tyranny of the majority over the minority.

There’s a picture in the show notes that illustrates how half or more of the US population lives in a handful of super-dense counties; if you don’t live there, under a pure popular vote system your vote doesn’t matter AT ALL.

As an example, farmers don’t want to be at the mercy of city voters who might decide that using water to fill their swimming pools is more important than irrigating crops.

Another feature of the Electoral College is that it promotes a broad two party system. Now many people think that two party systems are bad. But consider the alternatives.

Do you want three or four parties, with minor parties dragging major parties away from the political center? Currently we have a center seeking system, with politics, as they say, played between the 40 yard lines. With fringe parties that need to be “compensated” for their support, you end up with a much more polarized political environment. And do we really want more of that?

Then we need to consider the idea of regional parties. What would happen if the New England states decided to field a political party based upon the idea of high road tolls, low heating oil costs, and free Amtrak for everyone? That might be popular up in Yankeeland. If they didn’t have to worry about how that would play down here in the South, they would be tempted to split off from the main party and field their own candidates and try to force the rest of us to pay for their favored policies just to make a majority in the House and Senate.

Sean: Currently presidential candidates focus on so called “Swing” states and ignore some of the big reliable states. Isn’t that a problem?

Erin: Swing states, also called Battleground states, are states which do not reliably go to a particular party. Because these are winner-take-all states, it’s important for candidates to focus on those states to get ALL of their votes. This is why Florida is important, as it’s a very purple state, whereas candidates rarely campaign in California because that state is reliably Democrat.

If you think Swing States are important now, under popular vote the candidates would just focus on states with large cities (California, New York, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, etc)

Sean: Didn’t Andrew Branca say something about this on Facebook?

Erin: Indeed he did. He compared winning the popular vote to yards gained in a football game. Quoting:
The winner of a football game is NOT the team that has the most yards gained; it's the team that scores the most points. Any team that maximizes yards gained at the cost of points scored should anticipate losing.
Sean: So you’re saying that even though people think that the popular vote is more “fair” than the electoral vote, it’s not.

Erin: Absolutely. In fact, if anything else it’s more UNFAIR, because it centralizes voting power in cities.

Sean: Are there any other options available besides Winner Take All Electoral College voting?

Erin Yes! While 48 states are winner-take-all, Maine and Nebraska use the Congressional District method: Instead of the electors being distributed based on the popular vote of the entire state, they’re distributed based on the popular vote of the state’s individual districts.

Maine is worth four Electoral College votes, and there are two Congressional districts in the state. Winning the popular vote in a district will earn a candidate one elector. Plus, they get a bonus of two points if they win the statewide popular vote. It’s therefore possible for the Electoral College votes to be split, i.e. both candidates get some of them.

Now in my opinion, the Congressional District method seems to be a fair compromise between popular vote and electoral vote:
  • It’s more easily implemented as each state can do it via state legislature rather than nationally dismantling the Electoral College which would require a Constitutional Amendment.
  • And it actually makes your vote worth more in a state that would traditionally go the other way (such as voting Republican in California).
  • Swing states would become less relevant as candidates would have less to gain by winning that state, and could instead focus on a tactic of scoring many more districts across the country, some even in safe states -- for example, while most of Texas is red, Austin is very very blue. 
So that’s the short course on the Electoral College. The next time someone complains about it, educate them and encourage them to campaign for their state to switch to the Congressional District method instead.

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