"We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape - that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.” — James Madison
Last week George Will wrote for the Patriot Post:
“At his Friday news conference-cum-tantrum, Barack Obama imperiously summoned congressional leaders to his presence: 'I've told' them 'I want them here at 11 a.m.' By Saturday, his administration seemed to be cultivating chaos by suddenly postulating a new deadline: The debt-ceiling impasse must end before Asian markets opened Sunday evening Eastern time, lest the heavens fall. Those markets opened; the heavens held. ... Obama has marginalized himself. Inordinate self-regard is an occupational hazard of politics and part of the job description of the rhetorical presidency, this incessant tutor. Still, upon what meat doth this our current Caesar feed that he has grown so great that he presumes to command leaders of a coequal branch of government? He once boasted (June 3, 2008) that he could influence the oceans' rise; he must be disabused of comparable delusions about controlling Congress."
In the February 23, 2009 edition of the New American Jack Kenny opined:
“Something similar, but more subtle, can be seen today. Barack Obama had been president for exactly one month when he addressed a gathering of the nation's mayors in Washington last Friday. One month apparently was time enough for him to flex his imperial muscles and survey his vast new powers. For he warned the city mayors that he would be watching them to make sure the money they receive under the economic stimulus bill is spent wisely and well: "If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it, and put a stop to it," he said. "I want everyone here to be on notice that if a local government does the same, I will call them out on it, and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it."
The Democrat Party wants to be the party of an Imperial America, an America ruled from Washington, D.C. They want an America where we will no longer be citizens, but subjects — subjects to imperial presidency.
To accomplish the goal the Democrats need to insure their continued election to national office without amending the Constitution. This process is now in play in 31 states. It’s called the National Popular Vote. The NPV would basically override the Electoral College by assigning the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Even conservatives and Tea Partiers are supporting this measure. They think it would nullify some of the bigger states like California, Texas and New York.
Earlier this month, California’s legislature passed Assembly Bill 459, which would adopt the National Popular Vote compact. Under this scheme, the state’s Electoral College slate would go to the presidential candidate with the most popular votes nationwide, whether or not that candidate won California. The compact would take effect only after it gained approval from states with a combined 270 electoral votes, the minimum necessary to elect a president. So far, seven states and the District of Columbia have joined the compact, for a total of 77 electoral votes. Governor Jerry Brown’s signature would add California’s 55 for a total 132.
It’s a terrible idea. Driving the compact is the memory of the 2000 presidential election, in which George W. Bush won the slimmest of electoral-vote majorities even though Al Gore gained a plurality of popular votes. But that election itself suggests a fatal flaw in the proposal. A legal battle over the Florida vote ended in a controversial Supreme Court decision. As messy as that fight was, it had the virtue of taking place only in one closely contested state. The compact would tear down that firewall and extend the madness nationwide. If the national popular vote decided the presidency, the losing side in a tight race would challenge election results everywhere it could, even in states where the margin was large. If you liked Florida 2000, you’ll love the National Popular Vote.
Absent a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College, the idea of a “national popular vote” is fuzzy at best. In our federal system, each state has its own laws for counting votes. No official, definitive national tally takes place. Even when there isn’t a contested election, determining what counts as a vote for whom can be ambiguous. In 1960, Alabama voters cast ballots directly for electors, not presidential candidates. Of the 11 Democrat electors who won, five voted for John F. Kennedy, while six electors supported segregationist Senator Harry Byrd (D-Virginia). Even though JFK’s name wasn’t even on the state ballot, most reference books credit all of Alabama’s 324,050 Democratic popular votes to him, thus giving him a national margin of 113,000. But by following the Electoral College split, one could plausibly assign him 5/11 of the state popular vote. By this means of counting, Kennedy’s Alabama total was 144,355 —meaning he would have lost the national popular vote to Nixon by more than 50,000. So would Nixon have become president in 1960 if the National Popular Vote had been in place? Not so fast: the Kennedy forces, like any other losing side, would have mounted an all-out legal battle.
Nowhere in the Constitution is there a mention of “popular” vote to elect the President of the United States. Article II, Section states:
“The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:
Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.
The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.
The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”
This Article was amended by the XII Amendment which states:
“The electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;--The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;--the person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.”
Our Founders were specific in their not wanting national popular vote to elect a president. This would have smelled like a democracy, something they did not want. They wanted a republic, where states had more rights than the central government — something so many of my fellow Americans do not understand.
Look ahead to 2012. Suppose President Obama wins big in California while narrowly losing the national popular vote to, say, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann. Suppose further that California would tip the election one way or the other. Would Democrats gladly let the state’s electoral votes, and the presidency, go to the hated GOP candidate? Of course not. In the legislature or in the courts, they would try to break the compact. The folks at the National Popular Vote organization insist that the compact is airtight. But if they doubt that California is full of lawyers who know how to get out of a contract, they aren’t following the Hollywood trade press. Contemplating a President Perry or Bachmann, Democratic attorneys would suddenly remember that the state constitution does not empower the legislature to let nonresidents decide state elections, and that the United States Constitution requires congressional approval of interstate compacts.
Even in the unlikely event that this scheme survived legal and political challenges, it would still be a mistake. Under the current system, candidates must build a coalition of states that gets them to 270 electoral votes. Accordingly, they campaign in places where their election is not a sure thing. Republicans go to Pennsylvania and Michigan, while Democrats stump in Virginia and Missouri. The proposed plan would change those strategies dramatically. Each side would focus on ramping up turnout in its base areas: Republicans in Texas, Democrats in California and New York, for instance. The likely result would be heightened partisan polarization.
The proposal’s California supporters point out that presidential candidates spend little time in the state during the general election. That’s true, but irrelevant. During fundraising season, candidates come here with outstretched hands and bended knees. Moreover, the state enjoys enormous clout on Capitol Hill. During the past decade, Californians have chaired key House committees including Appropriations, Rules, and Ways and Means. They’ve also served as Majority Whip and Speaker of the House. Both of our U.S. senators currently chair major committees. No one can seriously contend that California lacks political power in Washington. This is a faux argument put forth by the Democrat majority to insure a perpetual Democrat imperial presidency.
So, on the one hand we have a system that produces results that Americans accept, and does not deny California a powerful seat at the political table. On the other, we have a risky scheme whose only sure result would be to make lots of money for lots of lawyers. It’s a sign of dysfunction that California’s state lawmakers chose the latter.
We have a system that has worked well for 234 years. Yes, there have been a few glitches, but the system has worked as our Founders envisioned. We made a mistake when we adopted the Seventeenth Amendment that allowed senators to be elected by popular vote. This amendment has brought forth an imperial senate where senators can serve to the detriment of the people of their state. As Example Florida has a Republican controlled state legislature and a Republican governor, but is saddled with a Democrat senator who tows his party line and not the interest of the state.
In retrospect, the amendment failed to accomplish what was expected of it, and in most cases failed dismally. Exorbitant expenditures, alliances with well-financed lobby groups, and electioneering sleights-of-hand have continued to characterize Senate campaigns long after the constitutional nostrum was implemented. In fact, such tendencies have grown increasingly problematic. Insofar as the Senate also has participated in lavishing vast sums on federal projects of dubious value to the general welfare, and producing encyclopedic volumes of legislation that never will be read or understood by the great mass of Americans, it can hardly be the case that popular elections have strengthened the upper chamber's resistance to the advances of special interests. Ironically, those elections have not even succeeded in improving the Senate's popularity, which, according to one senior member, currently places a senator at about "the level of a used-car salesman."
Instead of a National Public Vote compact we should repeal the 17th Amendment.