Safe States Count!
31 October 2012, 3:55 PM
Your Humble Blogger is, reflexively, a defender of the current electoral system. I would guess that many Gentle Readers of this Tohu Bohu are not. Either they would prefer direct election of Our Only President, or they feel that the election cycle is too long or too expensive or too this or too that. Yes, there are problems—primarily, in my view, the choice of individual electors to ritually cast the actual ballots for the states—but on the whole, I think we have a pretty damned good system for the country we actually live in. So my irritation with those who deride the American system may be over the top. Bear with me.
One thing that comes up a lot is the idea that it’s unfair (for some definition of unfair) that the election will be decided by a handful of voters in Ohio and Virginia. One version of this is the wonderful Jon Carroll, who in a column called California - too blue to matter said:
So if you’re a Californian and you vote for Obama, big deal; your vote has already been registered, accounted for and then discounted. If you’re a Californian and you vote for Romney, your vote has, by contrast, already been registered, accounted for and then discounted.
The general tenor of this (and many others—I don’t mean to single out Jon Carroll, but he writes it well, and I could easily find the column) is that it stinks to be in a blue state or a safe state generally. The implication is that nobody cares what you think. This is wildly, egregiously, epically wrong.
How wrong is it? Imagine that Willard “Mitte” Romney were to win California’s votes. Election over, right? There is no way that Our Only President wins re-election without winning California. California is absolutely indispensible. It’s a fucking bedrock.
I live in Connecticut—Connecticut votes for Poppy Bush in 1988 and Poppy Bush becomes President of the United States of America. If Connecticut votes for Willard “Mitte” Romney in 2012, then Willard “Mitte” Romney becomes President of the United States of America. Is there any question about that? There is not. I tell you this: no pundit anywhere has published their prediction of the electoral map that has Our Only President winning the election without winning the state of Connecticut. Our votes are so fundamentally valuable to the re-election campaign that nobody anywhere is even considering how he can go about winning without them. He can win without Ohio, he can win without Colorado, he can with without New Mexico, he can win without New Hampshire—but if he can’t win Connecticut, he can’t win. Period.
And if you are in the Other Party in Mississippi or Georgia? Same deal: if your guy loses your state, he loses the country. That’s how important you are.
Now, people are going to say, sure, but there is no way that Georgia’s electoral votes are going to go to Our Only President, or that my own Connecticut will go for Willard “Mitte” Romney. And that’s true—except that it isn’t, of course, true at all. Connecticut went for the victorious Republican in 1988, as I said up there, and Georgia for the victorious Democrat in 1992. Remember 1984? Or 1972? Republican candidates have lost Arkansas three times out of the last nine—and lost the election each time. New York has voted for a victorious Republican three out of the last nine elections, but a Democrat has not won without New York for a generation. So if Our Only President was going to sail to easy victory or plummet to abject defeat, then those safe states wouldn’t be safe at all.
Still. Assume that they are safe, because in short-term practical terms they are safe for 2012. What does that mean about Connecticut’s electoral power? It means that no-one unacceptable to Connecticut Democrats can be the nominee of our Party. When Jon Carroll says that the votes of Californian Democrats have already been registered, it’s true, and that’s a profoundly powerful thing. California Democrats are so freaking powerful that their preferences are taken into account even before the primary campaigns begin. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? That’s a big deal. That’s not a discounted vote, that’s a vote with one hell of a multiplier.
Now, if you are working for a campaign, sure, you want to use your resources where they will do the most good, and since Connecticut and Arkansas are already baked into the proverbial, we are further away from the nearest field office and may not get so many telephone calls. But the money isn’t being spent where the votes are the most important, they are being spent where the votes are the hardest to predict. And frankly, while those unpredictable votes will be the ones in the balance on November 6, they will not be the ones anyone will be paying the most attention to on November 7, or on January 20, or over the next years.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,