Yesterday, Dan Yorke had Providence College Political Science Professor Joseph Cammarano on his 630AM/99.7FM WPRO show, discussing a variety of topics. When I first tuned in, a caller was growing angry that the professor wouldn’t say for whom he intended to vote, and over the next hour or so of sporadic listening, I came to see how Cammarano might have inspired that response. His bias came through, most notably in his drive for equivalence with Republicans whenever a caller brought up Democrats’ malfeasance.
One question that came out of nowhere was the professor’s opinion of the electoral college, and he clearly supports the efforts of states, including Rhode Island, to work around the Constitution with the national-popular vote movement. In not so many words, he that it makes no sense — given our increasingly national culture — to have a system in which we think of states as states, regardless of their population. That is, he thinks it’s obvious that states don’t have an equal standing of themselves, as political entities, necessitating that the votes of people in low-population states are weighted to give them greater balance against the national votes of people in high-population states.
When this topic came up a few years ago, I mainly thought of it in terms of politics and the calculation for Rhode Island. After all, Democrats tend to do better in urban areas, so the General Assembly’s signing on to the national popular vote compact was a partisan act, not a representative one (as in advocating for the people whom one actually represents). The reason Rhode Island gets no attention in national politics isn’t that we’re small; it’s that we’re one-sided. Republicans have no chance, and Democrats don’t have to work for our electoral votes. But the reality is that the national popular vote scheme would cut Rhode Islanders’ electoral sway in half. Why would our representatives agree to do that?
Cammarano’s short statement was the first time I’ve considered this question since stumbling upon the idea of the “company state.” I’ve been noting that certain cities and the whole state of Rhode Island are moving toward a civic business model in which government becomes the major industry, with incentive to import or create new clients for its services as justification for taking money away from other people in order to finance them. As Rhode Island has long been learning, the flaw in this model is that the payers can simply leave, and the state is under constant risk that, due to recession or otherwise, people in other states will push back on the federal government’s subsidization of the scheme.
The electoral college, in other words, is one protection against having this “company state” model become truly national, such that municipal and state governments that rely on the compulsory transfer of wealth will be able to reach any wealth from sea to shining sea.