Vichy on the Potomac

My best friend and his family live in Maryland. They’re not overly politically minded, and I’m especially glad for that today — because if they were, they’d either be as horrified as what’s going on there as I am, or would irreparably damage our friendship.

I’m trying to recall another time in history when a free people have so willingly chosen to give up their freedom and subsume their liberty to the will of others as the Maryland legislature is considering, and no examples come to mind. Perhaps Vichy France and Marshal Petain would be a good comparison.

Two measures are working their way through the legislature down there right now. The first is at least arguable — a “Living Wage” bill. This measure would require state contractors to abide by a minimum wage law of $11.30 an hour for workers on a state project ($8.50 in rural areas). This is above and beyond the state’s minimum wage, itself above the national minimum wage.

The one saving grace is that this will only apply to employees working on a state project. That means that the state itself will, ultimately, have to pick up the tab.

The other measure, though, is downright obscene. And, dammit, I was mistaken. It isn’t “working its way through the legislature,” it’s been signed into law by the governor.

The National Popular Vote movement is an attempt to get all 50 states to agree to set aside the Electoral College and abide by the national popular vote when it comes to choosing presidents.

There is so much wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin.

First up, a bit of snark.

Which is the best motto for the National Popular Vote movement?

1) “We’re too stupid to understand that we need a Constitutional amendment to do this!”
B) “We’re too lazy to pass a Constitutional amendment to do this!”
III) “We know there’s no way in hell we’d get a Constitutional amendment to do this, so we’re gonna try to cheat it!”

The Electoral College was set up for a very specific reason: because we are not a pure democracy, but a democratic republic, and simply having 50% plus one vote should not be enough to do whatever the majority wishes. Protection for the rights of the minority is a key precept in our Constitution.

By having 50 separate races for president, weighted so smaller states have a slightly disproportionate voice, ironically keeps the race more democratic. Candidates can’t afford to simply write off all but a few key states.

Likewise, they can’t afford to run a purely national campaign. (And by “national,” I mean “focused on enough major media markets.”) They need to get into the “retail” end of things, on occasion, and actually mingle with the riff-raff that makes up the majority of the people in this nation.

I have my own theory about the “National Popular Vote” movement. I suspect it’s another outgrowth of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

In 2000, Al Gore — arguably — won the popular vote. That means diddly, however, and everyone knew that going in (or, at least should have). I once ran the numbers, and discovered that, in theory, a president could be elected by a mere 12 votes.

That stuck in the craws of a lot of people who hated Bush, and would latch on to any excuse — any — to delegitimize his administration. Even this post facto, unconstitutional, undemocratic exercise in idiocy.

The notion that this would NOT be binding on Bush, but binding on all future candidates of all parties, seems to escape them.

I can’t see how anyone short of a complete idiot or an utter partisan hack could possibly think this is a good idea — but I repeat myself.

Right now, the American flag has 50 stars, one for each state. I propose that for every state that goes along with this, we remove one star to symbolize the loss of a free state. With Maryland’s action, we get a nice little bonus — the grid becomes a simple 7 rows of seven stars. And if a second state decides to vote itself out of political relevancy, we can simply revive the 48-star flag in use before Alaska and Hawaii joined the union.

I can only see a few people who have any business supporting this. Flag-makers, of course, and by extension artists and schoolchildren who have to try to cram 50 stars into that tiny field. People from large states, likewise, should welcome a chance to further dominate national politics, adding the presidency to the House of Representatives.

To cite P. J. O’Rourke once again, pure democracies tend to last about as long as it takes 51% of the people to realize they can screw over the other 49% with utter impunity. And when that 49% cheerfully cooperates, that just makes it that much faster.

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