After his victory in 1980, Ronald Reagan chose the best, brightest, and make no mistake, the most politically powerful to fill his cabinet.
In an acknowledgement to the Republican might of Pennsylvania (a state he won), he chose three cabinet officials from the same county! Drew Lewis (who fired the striking air traffic controllers), Alexander Haig, and Richard Schweiker all hailed from Montgomery County.
In 1994, Pennsylvania was the nation’s most Republican state in terms of elected officials. And in 2010, the Keystone State was at the epicenter of the GOP wave as five congressional seats flipped.
Yet the biggest prize of all has eluded the party for a quarter-century: a win for their presidential candidate. Not coincidentally, the suburban Philadelphia counties, home to nearly half the state’s population, have trended Democratic in that time frame, with these former GOP strongholds abandoning Republican nominees since 1988.
So it’s no surprise that leading Republicans, including Gov. Tom Corbett, have come up with a plan to change how the state’s 20 electoral votes are awarded. Under their proposal, one electoral vote would be allocated for each congressional district a presidential candidate wins, as opposed to the current system, which is winner-take-all.
Let’s look at why this naked political ploy is a bad idea:
1. It politicizes the election process in an unprecedented way: Congressional districts would be gerrymandered like never before, drawn by the party in power to win the most districts. This is NOT what the Founding Fathers had in mind, and puts the politicians ahead of the people. It’s supposed to be the other way around.
2. It sets the stage for the system to constantly change: Although labeled a plan offering “electoral fairness,” it is being pushed simply because the GOP now controls Harrisburg and wants to bolster the Republican nominee’s electoral total. Remember, the Democrats need Pennsylvania to win the White House, whereas the Republicans do not.
Where does it end? If Pennsylvania Democrats regain control in 2014, and a Republican occupies the White House, would we then see the winner-take-all system come back into play? The electoral system in constant flux would only breed resentment and confusion.
3. It’s a wash on the national level: If enacted nationally, this system would ultimately be a wash, or even negatively impact the GOP. For example, Republicans would no longer win all of Texas’ 38 votes, perhaps only taking 25. Taking it further, it is possible that in 2004, despite George W. Bush winning 31 states, he might have lost, since he only won the Electoral College with 16 votes to spare.
4. The system works: It is not easy to pigeonhole the American people’s voting preferences. Montana and North Dakota, for example, both Republican in most presidential elections, have Democratic senators, as did solidly Republican Georgia a short time ago. Indiana had voted Democratic for president only once since 1940 — but that changed in 2008. Obama also won the normally-GOP states of North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida. Yet the Republicans are close to winning the traditionally progressive states of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
Voting patterns are not set in stone. The more competitive elections are, the more engaged the electorate. The Electoral College works, so why mess with a good thing?
5. It all comes down to having good candidates who can articulate a message with charisma. When Republicans instead coronate those whose “turn it is,” they get clobbered. Bob Dole and John McCain are prime examples. Neither had any business being the presidential nominee.
Not much has changed, as the GOP is in disarray heading into what many call the most important election in history. Truth is, only two candidates are capable of winning the nomination, both of whom carry tremendous baggage. Yet McCain, the party’s patriarch, just stated, “We have the deepest bench in the Republican Party . . . that I have ever seen.” And that says it all.
The GOP’s demise can be attributed to running untenable candidates, valuing insider contracts and solicitorships over issues and choosing laziness over grunt work. Consequently, it has lost huge chunks of the political landscape.
Fix the problem, and they win Pennsylvania — and the White House. But the electoral system shouldn’t be changed just because the entrenched business-as-usual hierarchy is the poster boy for incompetence.
Those pushing this change should look in the mirror, asking themselves if they are truly the leaders they purport to be. If so, they should abandon this foolhardy plan and seize the day, winning the hearts and minds of the electorate the old-fashioned way — through hard work.
The Founding Fathers knew a thing or two about how government works best. Honoring them by not punting a good thing is the least we should do.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com.
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