So far it’s only affected California, but that means it soon may be heading your way, for what begins in California often spreads across the land. Take, for example, auto emissions, clean air standards and talentless Hollywood “celebrities” In this case, it’s a new strategy devised by the California Republican Party. Call it the Table Scraps strategy.
The party leaders have taken a leaf from the circa 1975 playbook of Congressional Republicans. In those days, after so many years in the minority, the Capitol Hill Republicans had settled into what conservative publisher William Rusher called “Yes, but” status. Their response to the highly partisan Democrat majority was “Yes, but a little slower; yes, but a little less.” The Democrats, in effect, had told them to sit down and shut up and, if they did, they would get some table scraps in the form of desired committee assignments and minor concessions in House rules.
In California, the GOP has long been in the minority in the state legislature. With the exception of a handful of Republican State Senators who are currently depriving the Democratic majority of the two-thirds vote it needs to pass a profligate budget, the party has become accustomed to table scraps. In the 2000 reapportionment, incumbent Republican legislators made a deal with the majority: draw the lines so we are safe and we’ll agree to the rest of your plan. That is, a more-or-less permanent Democrat majority.
Now comes the direct descendant of that loser mentality, a scheme to hive off a few of the state’s electoral votes following the 2008 election. Party leaders reason this way: The state “always” goes to the Democrats, thus giving them all its 55 electoral votes. If these were apportioned by Congressional Districts, they say, the GOP would get at least 19 votes, for that is how many House seats they hold. They point out that while John Kerry won the state over George Bush by 55-to-44 percent, Bush carried 22 Congressional Districts. So, the GOP leaders are out circulating a petition for a ballot initiative that would require the state’s electoral votes to be apportioned according to how many House districts each party wins in 2008. That’s where the 19-vote figure comes from.
What’s wrong with this picture? Two things. It plays directly into the hands the left-wing movement to ditch the Electoral College altogether, declaring the aggregate winner of the popular vote to be the president. This means that a handful of large cities — voting mostly Democrat — would decide the national outcome.
The Electoral College was one of the nation’s Founders’ ingenious checks-and-balances devices that have been the foundation of our successful 231-year-old system of representative government. In this case, less populous states were protected from being swamped by the most populous ones.
Other than playing into the hands of the opposition for the purpose of a getting a few election votes in the short-term (based on the assumption the GOP will always be in the minority), the Republican strategy will almost certainly end up being hypocritical. If the Republican nominee were to win in 2008, the state party will rue the day it trumped up this device and will clamor to change it back to winner-take-all.
Some of the putative Republican nominees — Giuliani in particular and probably Thompson, too — think California is winnable. It is hard to imagine them thinking this short-sighted approach is a sound one.
The only idea out there worse than this one is embodied in California Senate Bill 37, dreamt up by Sen. Carol Migden who is better known for having pled nolo contendere last week to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving over a 30-mile stretch of I-80. Her bill, if it became law, would mandate that all of California’s electoral votes would be rewarded to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how Californians had voted. This would turn the Electoral College upside down, which is her purpose. It is a case of myopia, based on left-wing ire over the 2000 Bush-Gore race.
Neither Republican loseritis or Democratic peevishness are good things on which to base public policy.