After the 2000 election I saw a lot of criticism of the electoral college. Make no mistake, as it turns out Al Gore did technically win that election but not because he won the popular vote. He technically won Florida, and with the electoral delegates from that state he would have won had he not ceded the election to George W. Bush prematurely in the hopes his noble act would prevent the country from tearing itself apart. How wrong he was.
But now we hear Hillary Clinton talking about how the popular vote is the "truest" measure of which Democratic candidate should get their party's nomination. Of course, anyone who has been paying attention knows that she's winning in the popular vote — as long as you count Florida and Michigan and as long as you don't give Obama any votes from Michigan (most of the candidates removed their names from the ballot there, "Uncommitted" received 40% of the vote) and as long as you don't count votes in any of the states that had caucuses (which largely went for Obama).
That being said, Senator Clinton has also said that Superdelegates are a good thing because they're better informed than the actual voters who elect the "pledged" delegates from each state. So I guess the popular vote isn't so important to her after all, but Senator Clinton has certainly been clear that all 50 states are equally important in this process.
She also is trying to make the case that her successes in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky prove-out her electoral map for the fall — in other words she believes she can win the important states, and that the ones that Senator Obama can win aren't really important. Also, Clinton surrogate and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has said that the Senate and the Electoral College are both elitist.
So it's important to note that Sen. Clinton's positions are completely inconsistent with Sen. Clinton's positions, and frankly it's painful for me to even watch, but when I see remarks like those from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz it's just flat-out disturbing. She's a U.S. Congresswoman, she should know better.
The point of the delegates in the Democratic nominating process, as well as the Electoral College, is to balance two very different ideas. The first idea is that every U.S. State should be given an equal voice. After all, there are 50 states and the people who live in each one have their own culture and values that might be similar to their neighbors, but not necessarily the same.
The second idea is that States with more people are by definition more important and should be more equal than other States. This is a very valid point, but at the same time it should be immediately obvious to those who have knowledge of other States that gun laws that work in Texas aren't necessarily a good idea for New Yorkers. Public parks and social programs available in New York don't really have a place in less populous (and more fiscally conservative) states like New Hampshire.
Ultimately, the resolution for this in legislature became two houses: One where each state was represented strictly by their populations (The House of Representatives) and one where each state was represented equally (The Senate). This method of government gave more populous states like California a larger voice than states like South Dakota and Montana, but with a small counterbalance so those smaller states wouldn't be entirely powerless or without a voice.
Of course, in the Democratic nominating process the states split their delegates between the candidates depending on how the vote split, but in the Republican process it is winner-take-all. In the Electoral College for the general election it is also mostly winner-take-all, but a few states do split the delegates. It's up to the state, and the smaller states largely decided to use all their votes for the winner in order to get the biggest voice for their state. Larger states mostly followed suit in their attempt to maximize their own power in the process and that's how we got to the way it is today.
Personally, I think that all states should be required to split their delegates rather than go with a winner-take-all system, but even the winner-take-all system is preferable to a strict popular-vote count because each State is its own miniature country. We are United but we are not Identical. The delegate-based systems are in place to honor our commitment to both the states themselves as well as the people living in those states. Ultimately, these systems allow us to keep our individuality.
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