Before the 2018 midterm elections, Colorado was thought to be a purple state, with divided party control of the governorship and the two branches of the Legislature.
After, it became one of 14 states, up from eight, where Democrats control all three. As the new legislative session got under way, however, we heard some state Democrats vow to work in the interests of all Coloradans, even Republicans, and we were contented.
Two weeks ago, the state Senate approved a bill on a party-line vote that would award all nine of Colorado’s Electoral College votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. Senate Bill 42 was titled the “National Popular Vote” act, but it might just as well have been called “Hillary Clinton Won In 2016 And You Know It.”
In practice, this bill would mean that when Coloradans cast votes for president in 2020, only votes for the national winner will count.
If 90 percent voted to re-elect Trump and 10 percent voted for Kamala Harris, and Harris won the popular vote nationwide, Colorado’s Trump votes would be moot. Now, flip the script and assume a Republican wins the national popular vote. Does this worry Democrats?
Apparently not, because they believe a Republican will never win the popular vote again, just as no one expected the Spanish Inquisition.
Fittingly, SB 42 is part of a compact between states to give their electoral votes away. Populous blue states have approved it, such as California, New York and Illinois, along with 10 more, plus D.C., for a total of 172 electoral votes. Colorado would make it 181. If or when that number reaches 270, the Electoral College will cease to bear on presidential elections.
The nation will become more directly democratic for its highest office. Then perhaps we will abolish the U.S. Senate, which certainly is not democratic because it gives small states such as Colorado as much say in the nation’s affairs as New York gets.
This is the real problem with that Senate vote. It puts party before state.
One Republican after another alarms and was ignored.
One offered an amendment that would have spelled out that this could result in Coloradans voting for one candidate and the state giving its votes to another. It failed.
Another proposed a sarcastic amendment saying Colorado would give its electoral votes to whomever California chooses. (That, too, did not pass.)
Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican from Colorado Springs, said Colorado might just as well abolish state boundaries and let the president appoint the governor.
Sen. Mike Foote, a Democrat from Centennial and the bill’s sponsor, saw no problem. “What this stands for is one person, one vote,” he said, according to Colorado Politics.
It may sound American, but the Founders did not think so.
They despised parties. They called them factions and thought they were akin to leprosy. They probably were not wrong, but they went ahead and divided into them anyway, as humans are wont to do.
There was something else they thought was on a par with measles: direct national elections. They posed the danger of a leveling spirit, they believed – which is why they built a republic that could be weighted against it.
“The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy,” said Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, looking to the early experience of direct election of state legislators.
“The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.”