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The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."




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Sunday, August 12, 2018

YET MORE COMMENTS ABOUT COMMENTS


Well, if nothing else, I seem to be able to provoke a flood of comments and disputes.  Let me expand on one of the several things Jerry Fresia said, the idea of circumventing the Electoral College without a Constitutional amendment that would be nearly impossible to pull off.  The idea, for those of you not familiar with it, is this:  One by one, state legislatures pass a law instructing their Electors to vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote nationally, regardless of whether that candidate has won the popular vote in that state, these laws to take effect only when enough states have signed on to yield a majority in the Electoral College.  This is completely consonant with the Constitution.  Since the Electoral College has 538 votes, a group of states having in total one half plus one, or 270 Electoral votes, must join the effort for the system to be implemented.  Remarkably, it is already the case, as Jerry notes, that states having a total of 165 Electoral votes have passed such laws, leaving only 105 to go.

As an anarchist who believes that all state authority is illegitimate, I take a transactional view of these matters.  Since the political forces I favor currently command a popular majority nation-wide [thank you, California], and seeing as how demographic trends promise to only increase that majority, I am all in with this idea.  Note that the Democratic candidate has won the popular majority in six out of the last seven presidential elections.  Such a system would, of course, totally alter the pattern and structure of campaigning, since under it, running up the vote in California or New York would be quite as effective as fighting for wins in closely divided states.  Candidates would go where their popular votes were, not where the Electoral votes are.

As for at-large slates of Congressional candidates, I have mixed feelings about that reform.  On the one hand, it would make it possible for minority parties to gain Congressional representation.  On the other hand, it would eliminate the current direct relationship between a constituent and his or her representative.  I would be interested in hearing what folks think about the idea.

9 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

For the 2017 election Chile halved the number of congressional districts (from 60 to 28), increased the number of deputies by 25%, and now the districts elect a varying number of deputies according to their population (from 3 to 8), when previously each district elected 2 deputies. So in a district with 8 deputies, like my own, a candidate can be elected with 12.5% of the vote, so many young left wingers were elected to congress, from parties which had no congressional representation previously. A similar reform, although not as drastic, now functions in the Senate.

I think that it's very positive. The Chamber of Deputies is now much more diverse, much younger and more leftwing.

s. wallerstein said...

My bad math. A candidate can be elected with much less than 12.5% according to this system.

RobinMcDugald said...

Wrt “On the other hand, it would eliminate the current direct relationship between a constituent and his or her representative,” I suppose it should be clarified that the “current direct relationship” is multi-faceted: one of amity, by and large, with those who voted for him or her, one of hostility with those who voted otherwise, and one of neutrality or non-existence for those—often enough a majority of a district’s adult inhabitants—who simply ignored the election.

On a different tack, surely it’s the case that whatever current direct relationship exists, it is structured and laden with meaning by the currently in place electoral processes? Wouldn’t putting new processes in place just result in direct relationships structured and given meaningfulness in new ways? (That’s the lesson I draw from considering how the pre-Reform Acts electoral systems in Britain, of which there were many, were all defended as ensuring some sort special relationship between the electors and the elected, and how the post-Reform, post-1832, electoral system—still woefully inadequate from a democratic point of view—resulted in a quite different sort of relationship, but a relationship nevertheless.)

David Auerbach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Auerbach said...


https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/11/bernie-sanders-democratic-labor-party-ackerman includes a fascinating synopsis of the history of electoral mechanisms in USA.

RobinMcDugald said...

There's a somewhat parallel discussion going on here:

http://crookedtimber.org/2018/08/11/voter-fatigue-why-brenda-from-bristol-wouldnt-complain-if-she-knew-what-americans-have-to-put-up-with/#more-44876

Matt 2 said...

It seems to me that this approach would be less likely to work than a constitutional amendment. In order for it to work, you would need to convince the Republican controlled state governments in Red states to pass a law which would disadvantage their party. It seems more likely that a constitutional amendment could be added in a fortunate blue year than getting the sort of people who run state governments to act on principle.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Ah, but a Constitutional Amendment requires approval by three-fourths of the states.

Matt 2 said...

Ah I forgot about that, I guess it's good to pursue both strategies. I would think that enough state changes would put on the pressure for a federal change similar to how gay marriage progressed.

By the way, Prof Wolff, you should know that reading about your phone banking inspired me to sign myself up to send text messages asking people to vote for progressive candidates. It seems like it's somewhat easier to get a people to read and reply to a text message than answer a phone.