I’m just back from several days in Northern California: spectacular rocky coastlines, innumerable wineries, gut-wrenching mountain roads, falling-apart expressways, low humidity, bohemian lifestyles – and no presidential election.
That’s an exaggeration. They have an election, too. But no suspense. California’s 55 electoral votes are already counted toward Obama’s goal of 270. He and Mitt Romney go there only to raise money.
There are no candidate visits, no surrogate visits, no get-out-the-vote drives, no grassroots offices, no candidate ads, no superPAC ads, no ads about Romney and the 47 percent (which, the way he’s going, will be the vote he gets in November), no ads attacking Obama, nothing.
We did run into a street-side Romney booth in San Francisco. “We need to get rid of this guy Obama,” one of the young workers said. He didn’t have many takers. It seemed about as productive as hawking anti-Roy Williams petitions on Franklin Street.
Today, we have a system in which only a handful of states – this year, about nine – matter in the presidential race. North Carolina used to be like California: ignored. But now we’re a battleground. Our votes actually will decide who becomes President! What a concept.
It reminded me of a California-based group – National Popular Vote – that devised an ingenious, if somewhat hard to explain, way of making sure the national popular vote decides presidential elections. It still retains the electoral college system, and it avoids the insuperable hurdle of a constitutional amendment.
Their bill got some traction here before 2008. Carter and I worked with them, and we were intrigued. But it was hard to overcome partisan suspicions about who would benefit. The effort fizzled.
You should check out their plan. NPV is about halfway to the goal of making it happen – and fundamentally changing presidential elections in America.