Why the Electoral College Will Be Banished

By John C. Dvorak

 Over time national elections in the USA have evolved into serving two distinct functions. The first is obvious, it's to re-elect representatives. The other, less obvious, is to finance mass media with infusions of advertising dollars. The second, less apparent function, is why campaign finance reform will never get very far. And I also believe it's why the Electoral College will be eliminated in the years ahead.

When people of either party talk about leveling the playing field with campaign finance reform one party always blames the other when it fails to be implemented. I blame the media. The history of campaign finance reform has one interesting anomaly: both political parties at one time or another support it but have never compromised on implementation. Every time someone comes close to it there is always circumvention. Clinton's "soft money" scandal comes to mind as well as the growth of odd PACS and exempt organizations. If everyone wants reform why does this circumvention always happen?

Just look to the media to see how it happens. It's the media that highlights infractions and circumventions to skew reform and panic both sides into spending more money on these campaigns in new and creative ways. Where does all that money go? To the media. The media, not the candidates are the beneficiaries of campaign spending. Why would they want to see this gravy train stop?

It's the newest threat to this income flow that has the media concerned. The newest campaign strategies more carefully target key states for the bulk of the Presidential campaign spending - the big money. Some states, such as California and other states, whose voter outcome is a foregone conclusion, got very little national campaign spending dollars. The big networks also got stiffed during the last election as all the real money went to states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida where there were a lot of electoral votes and which were on the fence.

What was interesting to me, being in California and Washington during the election was how people from the swing states were telling tales about tough-hitting advertising and the overall deluge of advertising. We out West, meanwhile, thought things were quite mild and there was very little activity.

Since local media in Ohio, swimming in advertising dollars, isn't about to split the booty with California media outlets this trend towards targeted campaigning has got to stop and stop fast. The only way to stop it is to eliminate the Electoral College and go to a national popular vote. The fact that Bush lost the popular vote (by one account) to Gore in 2000 was the leverage the media needed to begin a belated campaign to discredit the Electoral College. Added to this was the media created "red states" and "blue states" concept, something that nobody ever heard of prior to the Bush campaigns. The media has even managed to place the terminology into the popular lexicon as commentators now regularly refer to red states and blue states reinforcing the concept.

This dichotomy between the two types of states along with constant usage of the terms "divisive" and "divisiveness" by the media (and now the politicians themselves) promotes the notion that we are splitting apart along political lines in ways that we've never witnessed before. This is hardly true as any history professor will attest. But it's true enough to require some sort of political reform to supposedly make the country whole again, right? That reform will eventually come around to the dissolution of the 'old-fashion" and "unnecessary" Electoral College. I'm already convinced that it's pointless and I'm cynical about this action. So it's toast.

Once the Electoral College is gone then Presidential campaign spending will once again be normalized across the nation and flow back into the network and national mass media. And that means these elections are going to be even more expensive and all that new money goes right to the media companies. And that's what it's really all about.


add your comments here

return to Dvorak Uncensored