Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is Pennsylvania pushing us to a parliamentary system of government?

Pennsylvania is considering a new method for apportioning its presidential electoral votes:
A new proposal is pushing the often-forgotten Electoral College into the spotlight as Pennsylvania officials ponder the state's role in next year's presidential race.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi is trying to gather support to change the state's "winner-takes-all" approach for awarding electoral votes. Instead, he's suggesting that Pennsylvania dole them out based on which candidate wins each of the 18 congressional districts, with the final two going to the contender with the most votes statewide.
So far, the idea has received support from colleagues of the Delaware County Republican in the state House and from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. But Democrats, who have carried the state in presidential contests since 1992, said the shift would erode Pennsylvania's clout.
Only two states -- Nebraska and Maine -- divide their electoral votes instead of giving the whole bloc to the candidate that wins the state's popular vote. Even for those two states, the piecemeal approach has been a rarity, with Nebraska historically dividing its five votes in the 2008 election, when one went to President Barack Obama.
An analysis by the online news service Capitolwire noted that had the proposed distribution process been in place in Pennsylvania in 2008 before the state lost one congressional district due to a population decline in the 2010 census, Mr. Obama would have won only 11 of the state's 21 votes.
Blasting the idea as "a disturbing effort to put their self interests and party interests ahead of the people," Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said the plan would dangerously link the presidential vote to redistricting. In a written statement, Mr. Costa asked: "Will we now be looking at state gerrymandering that serves a larger, national agenda?"
Mr. Pileggi and others disagreed, saying congressional districts that are more competitive would receive more attention and would not be overshadowed when the state leans one way or another politically.
AllahPundit describes the possible effects, in positive terms for Republicans:
Here’s the district-by-district breakdown from 2008. The new rule wouldn’t have affected the outcome of that election, obviously, but a 10-vote flip might affect it next year. What’s happening here is simple, yet strange: You’ve got a state that’s been reliably blue in presidential elections over the last two decades now suddenly completely red at the top thanks to last November’s GOP wave. Tom Corbett, the new governor, is a Republican and Republicans control both houses of the state legislature. You might think under those circumstances that the party would be willing to take its chances with winner-take-all next year, especially with The One’s job approval in Pennsylvania now in the low 40s, but I guess local GOP wise men have less faith in a sustainable conservative majority in the state than the base does. A lot less faith, actually — the net effect of apportioning EVs by district will be to essentially detonate Pennsylvania’s stature as a prime swing state worthy of the candidates’ attention. Obama and the Republican nominee will show up if 20 votes are in the balance, but if only four or five are, who cares? The GOP’s attitude apparently is that they’re better off banking a minimum of six or seven EVs each election than playing for 20 on what’s been, in recent history, unfavorable turf.
One nice thing about doing it this way, though, is that each voter’s vote will count more. Tonight’s special election in NY-9 is proof enough of that: Ain’t no way no how no chance New York State is going red next year, but if NYS followed Pennsylvania’s lead, there’d be a very good chance of the GOP picking up a few EVs here and there by district.
Ace of Spades seems to like it as well. I do not. For several reasons.

First, since much of my family comes from Pittsburgh (yes, I love both the Browns AND the Steelers, along with, obviously, the Chargers. Deal with it.), I do not like anything that reduces Pennsylvania's political clout. If you visit Pittsburgh -- a beautiful city, to be sure -- you will see that it needs all the help that it can get.

Second, Costa's point about gerrymandering is well-taken.  If you think gerrymandering is bad now -- and it is -- imagine how bad it will be if every district is for all intents and purposes nationalized.

Third, this proposal if taken on a national scale would effectively be a fundamental change in our national government.  We would no longer be a federal system, but a parliamentary system.

Think about it.  Generally, in a parliamentary system the party that wins the most seats in parliament gets to try to put together a government.  If the party that has the most seats does not hava a majority, which is common in parliamentary systems, that party must form a coalition government with other parties in order to get a required number of seats in parliament (usually a majority) to form a government.

That is basically what Pennsylvania is trying to do.  If each electoral vote is based on who wins each congressional district, then, in effect, the congressional majority gets to form the executive branch of our federal government.

Do we really want to do this?  I mean, I actually prefer a parliamentary system -- they are often more responsive to the people and can actually enact government programs, plus if a government loses popularity you can get rid of it right away.  In the case of the US, Obama would likely have been gone in 2010.  Parliamentary systems have more than two parties, so we would not be held hostage by the extremities of both Republican and Democratic parties like we are now

But I don't believe such a system is necessarily.  Plus, in the US we tend to have a preference for divided government.  One party holds the executive, the other holds at least part of the legislative.  This proposal would destroy that divided government.

Changing the very nature of our national government should not be done on the whim of an individual state.  Just as California's idea to award its electoral votes to the winner of the national popualr vote is a horrible idea, Pennsylvania really needs to rethink this proposal.

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