Popular Vote vs. Congressional districting vote

Since the election and with the impending lemur-like plunge over the fiscal cliff looming, the vitriol from either side of me has become rampant. Accusations of the President not willing to concede to “Plan B” and reduced government spending, and the Republican House stonewalling on any attempt to raise taxes.

I started thinking, as have a few other pundits including David Wasserman over at the Cook Political Report, if the election would have turned out differently had all the states awarded their electoral vote a la Maine and Nebraska. (For those of you who do not know, these states award one vote per congressional district, not winner take all based on popular vote.)

After some searching, and data crunching, this is what I’ve come up with. (My sources are listed at the bottom of this article.)

In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney would have won.

how would the elections have changed if we used the congressional method

how would the elections have changed if we used the congressional method

And there it is.

Or is it? I suppose the Republicans will call this a victory and prance about saying that while Obama won the popular vote, he isn’t the majority of the nation’s president. But, really, it doesn’t change any other election result. I took this further back, and the next election swung by the ME/NB method was the 1960 election. We end up with a tie in 1976.

Looking at the results post 1988, I wonder what effect gerrymandering had on the results.

Gerrymander2We all know that gerrymandering is “bad”.

We all have heard one side vs. the other lambasting each other for their redistricting at the other party’s expense.

And we’ve all, I hope, stood in amazement at the sheer hypocrisy of the parties.

If the election shifted to the ME/NB method how often would the parties attempt to gerrymander their way to victory?

In California, they’ve attempted to dampen the ill-affects of the gerrymandering game by having a non-partisan standing committee to address the boundaries of the state’s congressional districts. By all accounts, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission works.

Looking at the results above, did gerrymandering affect the outcomes?


Well, okay. Twice.

1960 and 2012.

2012 can be attributed to more people coming out to vote against the incumbant.

1960 election came down to a difference of 0.17% in the popular vote. With numbers this tight, it is fairly obvious that a switch to any different accounting method would change the results.

In the long-run, however, even with the gerrymandering game in play, whether we elect the president via a popular vote-winner-take-all election or the ME/NB method, the results, at least for the past, would be fair and equal.

What the ME/NB would mean for America, is that people may feel that their voice actually matters. For Republicans living in the rural districts of California (eighteen total districts voted Republican), their vote wouldn’t be washed away by the urban centers along the coast. Democrats in Texas (9th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 23rd, 28th-30th, 33rd-35th districts) can legitimately claim that their vote went to their candidate.

If the end goal of the elections, as trumpeted by the Obama machine, is to get out the vote, then what better way than to have everyone in each district feel that they had their own little part in the election?

I say that America gives this a try. Let’s end the winner take all method where a candidate need only win a quarter of the states to become president.










October’s Pumpkin Polls

Morton, Ill.–Frustrated by the seemingly random nature of various mainstream presidential polling, a coalition of independent voters met here today, at the self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World, to announce a new polling system. The Gord Group gathered at The Pumpkin Farm home of Morton’s annual pumpkin chunkin contest and presented their informal polling system which they feel will be more accurate than any of the current systems in place.

The group’s spokesman, Luke Wearm, announced, “We’ve tired of the obvious bias in the various polls, including Rasmussen, Gallup, NBC/Marist, CNN, and ABC.” Behind him, on large, wooden tables sat pumpkins of differing sizes and colors, intricately carved with images of Barak Obama and Mitt Romney. “When the crowds gather here in a week, we’ll offer the pumpkins to the hand tossers to chuck into the field,” Wearm added. “We’ll see how many we have left and that’ll tell us who the voters prefer.”

When asked if they would be present at other pumpkin contests, Wearm insisted, “We intend to be at each contest throughout the country. We are announcing here, in Morton, with the Libby Pumpkin Plant in the background, but we will be visible at every contest, finishing with the World Championships in Bridgeville, Delaware on November 4th and 5th.”

According to the Gord Group, they are also asking for citizens to carve pumpkins for Halloween using the Obama and Romney templates available on their website, gordgroup.org. They suggest putting the pumpkins in a very visible place and when one is destroyed by neighborhood vandals they have a link available to report the pumpkin damaged.

“We look forward to the World Championships,” Laura Norder, the Gord Group’s assistant director, said. “The day before elections will tell us exactly who the toss-up region of Virginia will vote for. However, we would love to see thousands of people at our booths at every pumpkin chunkin event.”

Kissing Babies and Boozing the Electorate



As the election nears, we will witness a barrage of photos of the candidates wallowing amongst the throngs of the unwashed masses. They will hug and smile citizens that they would otherwise probably not speak to in a restaurant. They will shake hands with men and women that might not socialize in their rarefied circles.


For a few weeks, they will be us, and we will think that we are them. They will bring themselves down from Olympus, disguise themselves as peasants, and seek out Baucis and Philemon to wine and dine beside.


But what started this trend? Why did some of these go away?




Liquoring up the electorate is a common to American history as elections themselves. In fact, America owes its very Puritanical start to alcohol–or the lack thereof. The original charter of the Mayflower colonists had them landing in “northern Virginia” which, at the time, was the Long Island area. There were casks of beer, enough for a gallon a day for every man, woman, and child, aboard and yet they still ran out. Fear spread amongst the colonists and they stopped their voyage early, settling in Plymouth. In 1755, George Washington ran for a seat in Virginia’s House of Burgesses. He ignored the fact that alcohol was ingrained in Virginia society (it was used as medicine, trade, and in social circles), and his actions cost him the election. By 1758, when another seat opened, George Washington the Statesman was born–he handed out everything from beer to rum punch, brandy to hard cider. And guess what? He won.


Some elections are most known because of alcohol. The most notable is the “Hard Cider”


Van Buren pull card from the 1840 election


election campaign of 1840. William Henry Harrison was derided as one so uncouth that he drank “hard cider.” The Harrison campaign quickly adopted this, and foisted upon his opponent, Martin Van Buren, the title of dandy who was so out of touch with the common man that he couldn’t stand the taste of the drink they drank. (A side note, there was a man by the name of E.C. Booz, a ceramics maker and distiller from Philadelphia who made log cabin mugs and handed them out during the campaign filled with hard cider. Yes, he existed. No, the word “booze” didn’t enter our lexicon because of him. In fact, the word had been around years earlier).So, what happened to boozing up the electorate? One word: Prohibition.


Since the 1840s, saloons and polling places were often the same place. The ability to liquor up the voters to ply them for votes was rampant up to the 1920s. Prohibition ended this practice; two states (Kentucky and South Carolina) ban the sales of alcohol on election day today. Alaska and Massachusetts ban alcohol sales on election day, but local governments can provide exemptions. Sadly, we won’t be able to meander up to the polls on November 6th, find the party with the best booze, and vote. Maybe we should. More people might come out and participate.


Kissing Babies


American politicians weren’t the first, nor will they be the last, to utilize kisses for votes. The Romans, an incredibly affectionate people, were known to exchange kisses for votes. As the women of Georgian England began to push for a larger role in society, women like Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire were said to trade kisses for votes–she for Charles James Fox. It was said that the kisses were given to the very young and the very old. Records on American politicians are sketchy at best, but in an 1888 article in The Cosmopolitan by Frank G. Carpenter, we find one of the first presidential candidates kissing babies. Carpenter writes about a meeting between a “poor bareheaded woman and her little baby” who wanted to meet President Andrew Jackson. Though Jackson had already been elected and was on his “victory tour” he is still recorded as the first President to kiss a baby…. Well, almost.


The woman handed the dirty-faced infant to Old Hickory. Jackson took it and held it up before him.

“Ah! There is a fine specimen of American childhood. I think, madam, your boy will make a fine man some day.”

Then, with a quick gesture, he put the dirty face of the infant close to the face of Secretary [of War] Eaton, saying quickly and soberly, “Eaton, kiss him?”


You can read more at Mother Jones on the role of kissing in elections.




There was a time when American’s loved their war heroes. Until the Korean War, we’ve had a war every generation from the French/Indian War (1754) through World War II. One reason for this is that war was a chance for boys to prove their manhood. Once they’d proven themselves as leaders on the battle field, American’s were ready to accept them as leaders in government. Just look at some of the President’s that proved themselves:


  • George Washington (French/Indian War general, Revolutionary War general)
  • Andrew Jackson (Hero of the Battle of New Orleans)

    English: Lithograph of Gen. William Henry Harr...

    English: Lithograph of Gen. William Henry Harrison. Print shows a campaign banner with Harrison on horseback; surrounded by 12 vignettes of his home, military service, and political activity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • William Henry Harrison (victor at the Battle of Tippecanoe)
  • Zachary Taylor (Career soldier, War of 1812, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, and Mexican-American War)
  • Franklin Pierce (Colonel in the Mexican-American War)
  • U.S. Grant (Civil War general/Hero, career soldier)
  • Rutherford B. Hayes (Civil War)
  • James Garfield (Civil War)
  • Benjamin Harrison (Civil War)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (Spanish-American War/Hero of San Juan Hill)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (Supreme Allied Commander, World War II; career soldier)


Even John F. Kennedy had a mystique surrounding him and war–PT 109 anyone? However, we’ve lost our love of war heroes. John McCain tried to run as a Vietnam War soldier and a “maverick” but American wanted nothing to do with him. Vietnam is the very reason for this issue. Americans tired of war after the long quagmire in South East Asia. They also tired of politicians tied to war fearing their past might influence their future. With war now being conducted from small rooms where pilots remotely operate drone attacks on terrorists, or by elite SEAL teams who will forever remain in the shadows, the odds of America seeing another war hero as president are about as good as our government operating in the black again.


Flashback Friday: Together We Are Divided

This election might be considered the election of “The People Fed Up with the Last Four Years” and “The People Fed Up with America”.

We live in a very divisive society; we are pitted against one another at every turn. Either by the media or our churches. By our friends or our neighbors. Against our colleagues or our superiors. For little funding or to have our voice recognized.

Now, we hear that this election is one of the most divisive of our time. That President Obama is the “Great Divider.”

But really people. This is divisive?

Not quite. Remember that little thing we call the Civil War? How about Vietnam? The New Deal?

So, which elections might upstage our current “divisive” little war the media is playing into our homes each night?

Here’s my list:

5. 1948:  Truman/Dewey/Thurmond

When Harry Truman created the Committee on Civil Rights he assured himself the abandonment of one chunk of his party: The South. Splintering from the Democratic party were the Dixiecrats (Strom Thurmond as their candidate). Their platform included the following:

We call upon all Democrats and upon all other loyal Americans who are opposed to totalitarianism at home and abroad to unite with us in ignominiously defeating Harry S. Truman, Thomas E. Dewey and every other candidate for public office who would establish a Police Nation in the United States of America.

Sound familiar? Thought it might.

Though the Dixiecrats never amounted to much of a political party, they did remind America that the issues surrounding Civil Rights had not healed since the Civil War. No longer was it assured that a Democratic Presidential candidate would win the “Solid South.”

4. 1868: Grant/Seymour

Known as the first “Bloody-Shirt” Campaign, this was the first election post-Civil War. Both parties raised the banner of the “bloodied shirt” of either the Civil War martyr or hero, and continued a sectional divide. In the case of Horatio Seymour (Democratic candidate) he got hung with the shirt because of an address given to NYC draft rioters in 1863 where he addressed them as “My Friends.” Beyond that, Seymour’s family was called into question; his father had committed suicide and Republicans called Seymour mentally unstable. Grant wasn’t spared the “shirt”, either. He was labelled “Grant the Butcher.” Northerner and Southerner were kept fighting, and the spirit of the Civil War lingered with the “Bloody Shirts.”

3. 1828: Jackson/J.Q. Adams

The animosity during this election was born of the 1824 election which the Jackson campaign called the “Corrupt Bargain.” America was quickly being torn in three: East vs. South vs. The New West.

Today, we have personal attacks on President Obama and Mitt Romney (including everything from their religious views to their origin of birth), however, this pales in comparison to the attacks on Jackson and Adams.

Jackson was labelled as a murderer (his handling of military deserters coming out via the Coffin Handbills), an Indian killer, and unstable (his love of dueling).

The Adams camp learned that Jackson was dating and married his wife Rachel before she was legally divorced from her first husband. The Jackson campaign uncovered the fact that while Adams was serving as Minister to Russia, he’d allowed the Czar to have his way with an American servant girl.

Ultimately, the campaign came down to the question of: Do you want the husband of a whore or a pimp in office?

2. 1796/1800: Adams/Jefferson

Ignoring Washington’s advice to not have political parties, America quickly divided itself into two camps with the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans as the standard bearers.

The elections of 1796 and 1800 pitted two friends against one another. While not the coffin in their friendship, the election would sour it. [The election of 1801 destroyed their friendship, and it wouldn’t be rekindled until 1811 and they would remain friends until their deaths on 4 July 1826… within hours of each other]

These elections began the sectional issues that wouldn’t be resolved until 1865. At play were pro-British/pro-French feelings, Agrarian vs. industrial societal issues, and the power of the Federal Government.

Via pamphlet written by James T. Callender (secretly paid for by Jefferson), Adams was accused of building an army during the Quasi-War with France that would become a tool to oppress the nation. Also in question were the new taxes that Adams had put in place to fund the new army and navy, and deficit spending to fund federal projects.

The biggest complaint against Adams were his Alien and Sedition Acts. The last act, titled “An Act in Addition to the Act Entitled “An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes against the United States” made it illegal to publish anything false or scandalous about Congress or the President. Nothing like a handy tool to suppress political campaigning. John Callender was prosecuted under this act and spent the remainder of Adams’ presidency in jail.

Jefferson was labeled a deist with pro-French Revolution sympathies who would undermine everything American. Ironically, after Jefferson assumed the Presidency, Callender felt slighted by Jefferson and published information about Jefferson’s illegitimate children with his slave Sally Hemings.

1. 1860: Lincoln/Breckenridge

Civil War. Not much else needs to be said.

There are plenty of other times when America was pulled asunder by politics (1980, 1968, 1936, 1912), but these five elections stand out to me as not only showing how this election is but a blip on the radar of divisiveness, but also how the issues at hand today had been fought over since our nation’s inception.

When the television talking heads try to work you up into a lather over some little issue, try to read beyond this and realize that despite out current political chasm, we’ve weathered worse.

Flashback Friday: Garret Who?


Of all the political posts available, none have brought upon themselves more derision than that of the Vice President. In 1977, Joel Goldstein wrote:

From John Adams on, Vice-Presidents have thought their responsibilities far inferior to their talents and have devoted substantial time to other pursuits. Richard M. Johnson spent time presiding over the affairs of his tavern rather than those of the Senate; Henry Wilson wrote more history than he made. Theodore Roosevelt planned to finish law school. Thomas Marshall told jokes. 

So, when did this all change?

We owe a more active Vice President to Garret Hobart.

English: Garret Augustus Hobart.

English: Garret Augustus Hobart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “Assistant President”

Despite a critique from the Chicago Daily News that “… Hobart will not be seen or heard until, after four years, he emerges from the impenetrable vacuum of the Vice Presidency” VP Hobart became President McKinley’s confidant and aide.  Though he was not included in Cabinet meetings, both McKinley and the various Cabinet Secretaries consulted him on issues surrounding such topics as the impending Spanish-American War, Philippine independence, and economics.


Vice President Biden owes his active role in Obama’s White House to VP Hobart. Biden regularly participates in Cabinet meetings, Presidential morning briefings, and has become an even more important component of Obama’s Administration in working with Republicans after the 2010 elections. We now await Romney’s choice to see who our options are for the person who will be, as John Adams said, “[I am] nothing, but [I]may be everything.”