The greatest threat to American democracy in the early part of the 21st century is not posed by ruthless ideologues from afar who hijack airplanes. The greatest threat is posed by ruthless ideologues who are homegrown and seek to hijack the entire nation. Here is further evidence of how far they are willing to go to maintain their stranglehold on power, as detailed by Bob Herbert in the New York Times:
Right now itâ€™s just a petition drive on its way to becoming a ballot initiative in California. But you should think of it as a tropical depression that could develop into a major storm that blows away the Democratsâ€™ chances of winning the White House next year.
And it could become a constitutional crisis.
Itâ€™s panic time in Republican circles. The G.O.P. could go into next yearâ€™s election burdened by the twin demons of an unpopular war and an economic downturn. The party that took the White House in 2000 while losing the popular vote figures it may have to do it again.
The Presidential Election Reform Act is the name of a devious proposal that Republican operatives have dreamed up to siphon off 20 or more of the 55 electoral votes that the Democrats would get if, as expected, they win California in 2008.
Thatâ€™s a lot of electoral votes, the equivalent of winning the state of Ohio. If this proposed change makes it onto the ballot and becomes law, those 20 or so electoral votes could well be enough to hand the White House to a Republican candidate who loses the popular vote nationwide.
Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has suggested that the initiative is a form of dirty pool. While not explicitly opposing it, Mr. Schwarzenegger said it smacks of changing the rules â€œin the middle of the game.â€?
Democrats are saying itâ€™s unconstitutional.
The proposal would rewrite the rules for the distribution of electoral votes in California. Under current law, all of Californiaâ€™s 55 electoral votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote statewide. That â€œwinner-take-allâ€? system is the norm in the U.S.
Under the proposed change, electoral votes would be apportioned according to the winner of the popular vote in each of Californiaâ€™s Congressional districts. That would likely throw 20 or more electoral votes to the Republican candidate, even if the Democrat carries the state.
A sign of the bad faith in this proposal is the fact that there is no similar effort by the G.O.P. to apportion electoral votes by Congressional districts in, for example, Texas, a state with 34 electoral votes that is likely to go Republican next year. [full text]