In the 1972 film, “The Candidate,” Robert Redford plays a political novice named Bill McKay who runs for the United States Senate in California.
McKay’s standard stump speech strikes a populist note as he appeals to voters of every kind and condition.
At one point, riding in a taxi, exhausted from the grueling campaign, McKay does a parody of his campaign speech which is quite hilarious, addressing the young and old, rich and poor, black and white, republicans and democrats, men and women, smart and dumb, good and bad.
It is, I suppose, in the nature of politics that everything comes down to two choices. Yes or no. Up or down. Yea or nay. Ying or yang.
As we begin to wallow in the 2012 presidential election cycle, it strikes me that America is truly divided into two kinds of people. The good guys and the bad guys.
The good guys are the citizens who care about their city, state and country. They listen to the news. They talk about the government. Argue about it. Worry about it. They know about our past. They care about our future.
The bad guys are the residents who are indifferent, ignorant, passive, uninvolved. They are like a herd of cattle, who go where the cowboys chase them. If they stampede out of control, they can do a lot of damage. Most of the time, they just eat the grass and moo.
The good guys accept the responsibility of self-government.
The bad guys respond to the manipulation of their bosses.
The good guys vote.
The bad guys don’t vote.
There are about 130 million good guys in America.
There are about 100 million bad guys.
I got to thinking about this because of an on-going debate over the way we elect the President of the United States.
Most folks think that the President should be the person who receives the most votes in the Presidential election. Our Constitution, however, provides that the President is elected by a group of electors who are chosen in each state.
Forty-eight states tell their electors to vote for the candidate who wins in their state. Winner take all. If a candidate wins in California by only a few hundred votes, he or she gets all 55 of California’s electoral votes.
And the size of the voter turn out makes no difference. If 95% of the adult population of Missouri turns out to vote, Missouri gets 11 electoral votes. If only 35% of the voters in Tennessee go to the polls, Tennessee still gets 11 electoral votes.
That’s because the electoral college is based on population. It makes no distinction between good guys and bad guys.
In 1969, the Bayh-Celler amendment, abolishing the electoral college, was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 339 to 70. In the Senate, the vote was 54 in favor and 36 against, so it failed to pass by a two-thirds majority.
Now there is a new effort being made. It doesn’t amend the U.S. Constitution. It doesn’t abolish the electoral college. It simply asks each state to give their electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes nation-wide.
Last Friday, the legislature of the State of California adopted the National Popular Vote Plan. It’s now on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.
Eight others have already agreed to the plan. Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont, Hawaii, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have a total of 77 electoral votes.
With California’s 55 electoral votes, the National Popular Vote movement will have almost half of the 270 votes needed to change the system.
It’s time for the wanna-bes who are courting Iowa and New Hampshire to step up and take a stand in favor of the good guys.