Wednesday, June 09, 2004

My brush with the Gipper 

• November 2, 1980 -- Visit just days before Election Day highlights Cincinnati's importance to the race. Reagan is flanked by Gerald Ford, Bob Hope, Charlton Heston and Hugh O'Brian. Gov. James A. Rhodes told the 5,000 well-wishers, "As Ohio goes, so goes the nation." He was right.

I was fourteen. My dad, a hardcore Republican, got us tickets to this event at the Cincinnati Convention Center. We drove over from Indiana to see Ron Reagan speak. It was one nutty excited crowd. These folks were excited. Heck, I was excited. This was the closest I had come to a rock concert, until the next year when I saw Men at Work with my sisters a couple of years later. And this rock concert had no rock.

Just Charleton Heston and Bob Hope. And a screaming crowd of older pre-baby boomers who thought these guys rocked. Especially Reagan. He rocked the most. He had these people in a frenzy. I got shoved up front where the featured guests walked onto the stage. Surrounded by several big screaming senior citizen women, I joined in trying to shake hands with Hope, Heston, Jerry Ford and Ron Reagan as they walked to the podium.'

With air horns blasting in my ears, I got several hard jabs at the guests along with the women that were jumping up and down like Beatles fans. It was fun. I didn't know what these people stood for. Well at least they said they were for America. And who could argue with Bob Hope and Moses?

Of course, if they were for America, did that mean Jimmy Carter was against America.
Cincinnati has always been the most solid Republican strong holds. The rest of Ohio was a bit more blue-collar Democrat.


This week as we remember President Reagan we will get to hear about his accomplishments, and some of his failures. We also get to hear about how overwhelming the support was for Reagan when he got elected. But if we look back at the actual numbers, we see it wasn't as overwhelming as it appeared. Of course, Reagan got a whopping majority of the electoral vote. 489 out of 538. That is a lot of electoral college votes.

But if you look at the popular vote, it is more interesting. Reagan got just 50.8% of the vote. Carter still got 41.1% of the popular vote, but that aint to good for an incumbent. Also of note is that John Anderson, the Independent candidate grabbed 6.6% of the vote.


In 1984, I am not a Reagan fan at all. But the nation sure is. That year Reagan grabbed a massive 58.8% of the popular vote, and 525 of the 538 electoral college votes. Mondale got 40.5 of the popular vote. But less 1% of voters chose an independent or other candidate.

I don't know where I am going with this. One thing I do believe is that the electoral college should be scrapped. In 1980 68% of citizens eligible to vote were registered. If you look at voter turnout in the 1980 presidential election, it was just 52%. 48% did not vote. I would not call that a mandate. Voter turnout for presidential elections are still low compared to the 1960s.


Currently with the electoral college, if you live in a state that votes with a majority in one direction (mostly Democrat or mostly Republican) and you don't vote with the majority, your vote is worth absolutely nothing on a national scale. In Indiana which has voted Republican in presidential elections for ages, my vote for Kerry in the fall will have no effect on the national total. I might as well not vote. It is a vote cast to the ground. The same would hold true if I would vote for Nader.

I will still vote. But many people will not vote. With the electoral college if you get the majority of votes, you basically get all the votes of that state, including those of the people who did not vote for you, or vote at all. That clearly gives a mandate where no mandate is due.

Many people bashed the electoral college in the 2000 election, because while Gore won the popular vote, he still lost the election. One good arguement for canning the electoral college is that it counts some peoples votes more important than others. "One person, one vote" is a nice model. But my biggest problem with the electoral college doesn't have to do with the 2000 election specifically. It has to do with the fact that this 'winner take all' electoral college system devalues the votes of all of the minority voters in each state. People who believe their vote is worthless on a national level do not vote. It is a national election. We should have a national vote not dependent on what state you live in. This is one important way to get more citizens to vote.

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