November is approaching, which means citizens all over the country will soon be pulling the figurative lever to decide who will run this country for the next four years.
At least, that’s the image that we’re typically given around this time of year. The actuality is that this year, like most other election years, the race will be decided almost entirely by a small selection of states known as “swing states”. The major swing states include Florida, Virginia and Ohio. Breaking it down even further, the outcome of some of these swing states will be determined by just a few individual counties.
That’s right, the entire election, in which the whole nation supposedly has a say, is ultimately going to be decided by approximately 106 counties.
What’s more, those behind President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaigns seem to recognize this fact. The Associated Press reports that campaign advertisers have spent $127 million in these counties alone, one fifth of the national total, despite the votes from the same counties making up less than 5 percent of the totals from the last election.
This strange situation is an outgrowth of the electoral college, our country’s method of election, which has allowed for all sorts of inconsistencies and imbalances in the past.
A quick glance at a map of the current election status will give a glimpse of how completely unbalanced the current system is. Despite nearly the entire middle of the country being completely red, the election is in a dead heat.
All it takes is California, New England and a couple of other states to go blue, and the electoral scales are suddenly dead even. There have been jokes made about the coasts being the only relevant parts of the country, but to see the government apparently agreeing with this idea is somewhat uncomforting.
The electoral system has generated some intense controversy in the past, most recently with the infamous recount incident in Florida during the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote, but due to just barely losing in Florida, historically a swing state and worth a great deal of electoral votes, he lost the presidency.
At the time, there was a significant outcry and general murmuring amongst the public, arguing that something as important as the presidency should be left to popular vote. Ultimately though, like most topics of discussion around election time, these feelings diminished into nothingness in less than a year.
One can essentially look at the electoral college system as a sort of compromise made at this nation’s outset. It’s no secret that the Founding Fathers didn’t have the greatest confidence in the ability of the common man to make decisions regarding government.
To put things bluntly, they didn’t want the uneducated anywhere near true political power.
In keeping with these views, they used the electoral college as a sort of last-ditch defense barrier to shield against a disastrous selection. The side effects of this elitism have been responsible for a great deal of the major complaints about the electoral system.
It’s very clear that it needs to change. As the last four years may have indicated, talking about change is significantly easier than making it. It’s nice to dream about a country with a more straightforward system that doesn’t allow for such lopsidedness, but it would be a political miracle for such a thing to actually happen.
Ultimately, all of the people who have the power to enact such a change were placed there by the flawed system that we’re talking about. Since it’s obviously worked in their favor, what motive do they have to change it?