Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

April 4, 2014

Just because something's popular doesn't make it right

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The New York State Legislature did something last week that the vast majority of Americans support. And I wish they hadn’t. 

By an overwhelming majority in both the state Senate and the Assembly — and in bipartisan fashion — the Legislature approved something known as the “National Popular Vote.”

In short form, the National Popular Vote agreement would bind the state to allocate its electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate gets the most votes nationwide, no matter whether they actually gained the most votes in New York. In order for the agreement to take place, however, enough states need to approve similar agreements.

The National Popular Vote is a means to an end — around the Electoral College — of which a large percentage of Americans disapprove. It would ensure that the candidate who wins the hearts and minds of most American voters wins the White House. It empowers people. It’s good for people. But — it’s bad for America.

While I’d venture to guess that most Americans don’t comprehend the purpose behind the Electoral College, the Founding Fathers put it in place for good reason. And that reason exists in 2014 as it did in 1787.

The Electoral College essentially evens the playing field between big states and small states. It gives states like Delaware and New Hampshire a bit of a leg up, while diluting the power of states like New York and California. Yes, a vote for president in Wyoming or South Dakota actually carries a bit more weight than a vote for president in Texas or Florida — in a manner of speaking.

While most people argue that’s a bad thing and the bigger states should carry more power, I disagree — as did the writers of the Constitution.

Big states with lots of people tend to have urban interests, for example. They tend to not have as much interest in rural matters, though. In a way, the Electoral College protects small-town folks and farmers. In a way, it protects people like Western New Yorkers — especially those who live on country roads or count cows on their way to grandma’s house.

Plus, the National Popular Vote ignores the fact that we’re not the “United People of America.” We are the “United States of America.” And as more power flows from the states and into the hands of voters directly, what it really does is empower the federal government. The more power the federal government has, the less power the people have. So by pushing the National Popular Vote, people are actually giving up some of their power to the federal government, which will take as much as it’s given. And once it’s given enough, it will be powerful enough to take the rest.

Strong states make for a strong nation. A strong federal government, however, makes only for a strong government. 

Scott Leffler has no desire to live in Wyoming or South Dakota. But he's sure there are some fine people there. Maybe they should follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.