Editorial: Ryan Fairfield County visit highlights need for popular vote
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will be visiting Connecticut on Sept. 30. Giving a speech to a sold-out gymnasium? Meeting and greeting ordinary voters? Not a chance. Ryan will be coming here solely to fundraise money for his campaign in Fairfield County, one of the wealthiest areas in the country.
This is not solely a Republican phenomenon. President Obama stopped at Stamford and Westport in August for the same purpose, without anything resembling a mass campaign event.
This just demonstrates the need for a serious reform of the American presidential election system, specifically the Electoral College. A state with over three million people is being utilized solely as a cash cow. Candidates meet with hedge fund managers and Wall Street investors here, taking their money and using it to run advertisements about how their own policies would benefit voters in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.
This phenomenon is not limited to Connecticut. Fewer than 10 states are truly considered swing states in play this election year, according to many pollsters and election analysts. No presidential candidates seriously consider how their policies or proposals will affect Connecticut. Or California, or New York, or Texas, or any other state whose red or blue outcome can be solidly predicted in advance.
What this country needs is a popular vote election, or at least a reasonable alternative to the current format, designed in such a way as to render the vast majority of states’ votes essentially meaningless. Four presidential elections have had a winner who failed to command the most popular votes, the most recent instance being the infamous Bush-Gore election in 2000. As a result, presidential elections become about winning the hearts and minds of fewer and fewer voters, with potentially disastrous results for the nation at large. David Leonhardt wrote recently in The New York Times about how candidates on both sides of the aisle support ethanol subsidies primarily to win the vote of ethanol-dependent swing state Iowa, even though much evidence actually argues against such subsidies.
Connecticut used to be something of a swing state. Between 1960 and 1988, we voted Republican five times and Democratic three times for president. But since 1992, the state has voted Democrat five times in a row, creating a blue-state label which causes both major-party presidential candidates to count the state as “in the bag for the Democrats.” This has become true of most states in this country, not just us. It does not have to be this way. With an abolition or at least significant enhancement of the Electoral College, Connecticut’s primary role in presidential elections will no longer be as an ATM, but as a collection of over 1.6 million voters whose opinions truly matter.