Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Two Votes For Every Boy!

Guest-blogging at The VC, Steven Landsburg argues for a change in the way we vote for Congress:
So if I could make just one change in the American political system, it would be to give each voter two votes in every congressional election. You'd get one vote to cast in your own district and another to cast in the district of your choice. When a congressman from West Virginia funnels taxpayers' money from fifty states to his home district, I want him to face the prospect that taxpayers from fifty states will share their feelings with him on election day.

He has others, but this is his numero uno, so let's unpack it a little.

I'm currently reading Lani Guinier's Lift Every Voice, so I'm less skeptical of proposals that deviate from the strict "one-man-one-vote" principle than normal. But Professor Landsburg, I feel, severely overestimates the intelligence of the American voter. First, I have trouble believing that if voters were going to express their distaste against a Congressperson from another district, they'd choose pork as their point of ire. And even if they did, they'd have to all concentrate their votes on only a few targets to have any effect. In a polity where less than a quarter of voters know who the Senate Majority Leader is, you can color me skeptical that they'll be able to know the difference between the Jeff Flake's and the Don Young's of the House.

No, what's likely to happen is that each election, the highest profile Democrat and Republican in the House (likely the Speaker and the Minority Leader) will lose. Why? Because voters will almost definitely cast their votes against the incumbents in the "second district" they choose. And the only politicians likely to have a high enough profile to be known and disliked by enough voters outside their districts to make a meaningful impact on the election are the ones who are the public face of their party. So Republicans around the country will band together to cast out Nancy Pelosi because she symbolizes the Democratic Congress that they hate. And Democrats will unite to beat John Boehner, for the opposite reason. Then we'll elect another round of leaders, and the cycle will begin anew.


Stentor said...

Sharp analysis.

PG said...

No, there are Republicans whom I loathe far more than whichever putz is chosen for Minority Leader (e.g., I disliked DeLay well before he was Majority Leader). And I'm sure this is true on the other side -- some Republicans would be faster to cast out Barney Frank than Pelosi.