No resting on our laurels
No event in American democracy is more magisterial than the inauguration of the president. The strains of “Hail to the Chief” inspire in most citizens an assurance that the White House has the authority and power to protect their interests.
Those who supported the losing candidate for president understandably did not feel festive, especially since the Obama victory represents a tectonic shift in American politics. The Republican base of support was primarily among older, white men. This group is naturally dwindling in accordance with actuarial attrition. On the other hand, the Democratic base is more dynamic. Blacks, Latinos and Asians voted for Obama in overwhelming percentages, and these groups are young and growing.
Political polls identified this demographic problem for Republicans even before the votes were cast. In a repudiation of the democratic principle of “one man, one vote,” several states attempted to implement restrictive photo ID laws. However, the governors of Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina and New Hampshire vetoed such laws and a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied clearance of Texas’ act under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
State courts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania also prevented the implementation of photo ID laws. Also, federal courts in Florida and South Carolina prevented practices that would restrict the turnout of elderly, low income and minority voters. These groups would more than likely vote Democratic.
Since their substantial defeat in the 2012 election, Republicans have come up with another strategy to give them an edge. Their idea is to do away with the winner take all system of allocating a state’s electoral votes. The new system would be easy to calculate because a state’s electoral vote is determined by the number of representatives to the U.S. House plus the two senators.
Under the proposed system, the presidential candidate with the most votes in the state would get two electoral votes plus the number of congressional districts that he won. Charles Blow, a New York Times columnist, wrote an analysis of what the results of the 2012 election might have been in pivotal states including Michigan and Ohio.
Obama won Michigan by 449,313 votes with all of its 16 electoral votes. However, Obama won only five out of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts. Consequently, under the proposed system, Obama would have won only seven of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes.
Similarly, Obama’s margin of victory in Ohio was 166,241 votes. He won all 18 electoral votes. However, since he won only four of the 16 congressional districts, his electoral vote would have been only six under the proposed system.
Obama would have lost Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and possibly other states as well as the election. Even apathetic Americans will not tolerate a system that is so egregiously undemocratic. Astute politicians are running away from the idea, but its proposal should awaken racial and ethnic minorities from the festive illusion of political victory.
A battle has been won but the war for human rights and the modification of economic disparity goes on.