Friday, September 17, 2004

The Man in the Moon

I was on "On Point" last night, on NPR, talking Electoral College. (again).

Two other guests:
John Harwood, WSJ reporter and Duke alum
Alan Natapoff, CRS Research Scientist at MIT.

Harwood was great; funny and well-informed. I don't just mean he knew more than I do; that's easy. He knows more than almost anyone. Excerpt from his Sept. 13 piece in the WSJ:

The Electoral College was designed by the Founding Fathers to place a buffer between popular sentiment and the selection of a chief executive. It awards each state the number of electoral votes that corresponds to its number of seats in the House of Representatives plus two more, the latter an effort to augment the power of small states the way the composition of the U.S. Senate does.

By requiring presidential aspirants to achieve a majority of electoral votes awarded by states, the founders believed, they would force candidates to amass a broad coalition and thus stitch together the young nation.

The 2000 election, which gave George W. Bush an electoral majority even as Americans cast more ballots for Al Gore, revived the off-and- on drive to scrap the Electoral College as antiquated in favor of direct election by the popular vote.

Even before the Bush-Gore battle, polls had repeatedly shown that a majority of Americans favor scrapping the Electoral College in favor of popular-vote elections. But because that would require a federal constitutional amendment, a dauntingly difficult prospect, calls to do so from the likes of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton so far have gone nowhere.

Natapoff...well, at one point I used the old Tom Schwartz line about elections, saying that believing votes matter more under the Electoral College system was like saying that a tall man is more likely than a short man to bump his noggin on the moon.

Natapoff's response? He reminded us all that he worked on outer space, and then claimed that this made him arbiter of metaphors using the moon. And my use was outlawed by MIT's Moon Man. A truly surreal moment.