With all the talk about a constitutional amendment to change presidential elections to a popular vote, one opinion stands out among liberals and conservatives. It would be impossible for a constitutional amendment to pass two thirds of both houses and three fourths of the state legislatures.
What drives this belief?
- The math problem. Two thirds of both legislatures and three fourths of the states feels like an impossible climb
- Opposition from small states due to the loss of perceived power
- It only benefits democratic candidates
If we (Republicans and Democrats) stick to the typical political strategies of attacking, scolding and intimidating anyone who opposes our beliefs then they’re right. However, with the right strategy and pulling the appropriate persuasion levers, a window of opportunity exists.
The task seems ominous, getting two thirds of the legislatures and three quarters of the states to agree on a constitutional amendment. We can’t even get them to agree on the color of the sky, let alone a constitutional amendment. How do we compel them to get behind the same cause?
Let’s pull out our persuasion toolkit and pick out the right angle to attack this. How do we break the ice on constitutional amendments? The foot in the door technique seems like the ideal fit. Using this strategy, we start with a small commitment and then move onto a bigger one. We get the public and elected officials comfortable with a less divisive constitutional amendment.
This accomplishes two things. First, it provides real proof we can do it. The hurdle feels a lot smaller after we shatter the belief that it’s impossible. Second, it creates a shared victory, something all Americans can rally behind and facilitate an “in-group” dynamic (we’re all Americans instead of Democrats and Republicans).
Our initial constitutional amendment would have to be a no-brainer. It must not threaten either party or the puppet masters who fund campaigns. Here’s the perfect solution.
The Samoan Secret
We raise a constitutional amendment to give American Samoa one seat in the house of representatives and one electoral college vote in presidential elections.
Before you laugh, consider this:
- American Samoa rates the highest participation rate of military service in the country.
- American Samoa has around thirty NFL players, making an American Samoan male about fifty times more likely to become an NFL player than a mainland state
Military service and Professional Football. What could be more American than that? Yet, they have no representation in Washington. The marketing campaign almost writes itself.
With a population of only 55,000 making them a state and giving them two Senate seats won’t fly. A single representative in the house and one electoral college vote might be non threatening enough for both parties.
Democrats will vote for it because they typically vote for minority interests. Republicans will vote for it because it provides them an opportunity to show that they too support minority interests without offending any of their core supporters. Both parties desire the perception of supporting the military. Given their astounding record of volunteer military service, it serves as a perfect opportunity. The insignificance of one house seat and one electoral vote should make it easy for both parties to swallow.
American Samoa becomes our foot in the door play to open a path for the tougher constitutional amendment. Plus, it brings democratic representation to an Island that gives a lot to this country.
What about the next challenge? How do we convince small states to give up their power?
Small State Opposition
Market research saves the day here. Admittedly, I haven’t done it but I’m sure someone could. I don’t buy the small state argument. Did Clinton or Trump visit Wyoming or Montana? Did any candidate in the last twenty years? The small states aren’t the ones who lose power in a popular vote format. The battleground states lose.
If we convince all the non-battleground states to get on board we have a shot at getting thirty-eight states to approve. If I could design a campaign, I would look at how much funding these battleground states get from winning presidents due to their status.
I would also target small states and how campaigning could change. Maybe a presidential candidate will now visit Cheyenne, Wyoming or Helena, Montana or Boise, Idaho. Maybe Rhode Island gets their visit from a Republican candidate now that he needs the popular votes. Or, maybe a Democrat goes to Nebraska or Alabama.
Do it right and you create the us versus them dynamic where them refers to the handful of battleground states. The non-battleground states rally behind fairness. This crosses party lines and changes the dynamic of the challenge. Why should battleground states get all the goodies just because they happen to produce close votes in presidential elections?
It Only Benefits Democratic Candidates
Ah, the easiest of the three to attack. Yes, two of the last five would have benefited the Democratic party. In 2012, however, Mitt Romney nearly took the popular vote. Plenty of Republicans criticized the Electoral College while it appeared Romney would take the popular vote tally.
You can easily imagine how Republicans would pull in a higher overall vote if their candidates campaigned in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.
That’s (the start of) my plan. Let’s do it!