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Iowa governor Chet Culver: State before country

by Rob Richie // Published March 4, 2009
Iowa governor Chet Culver has announced that he opposes the National Popular Vote plan for president despite growing support for it in his legislature. According to the Des Moines Register, Culver said this week that "If we require our Electoral College votes to be cast to the winner of the national popular vote, we lose our status as a battleground state."

Culver's reasoning would make Ben Franklin cringe. Franklin argued that "we all hang together, or we all hang separately." With a national popular vote governing presidential elections, every American would cast an equal vote. Every American would have an equal chance to hold their president accountable. And the candidate with more votes would defeat a candidate with fewer votes.

But that apparently is not the kind of democracy Culver wants. Even though Iowa already has the remarkable opportunity to lead the presidential nomination process with its caucuses drawing so much candidate attention, the state's current competitive status in the general election has in recent elections given it more attention in November than other states like Wyoming, Vermont, Delaware and Texas, where voters are absolutely ignored. For Culver, putting state well before country and parochial interests ahead of fundamental democratic principles, that is a good thing.

There are Iowans trying to reason with the governor.  Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs said it well: "It s mystifying to me why anyone would cling to an antiquated, winner-take-all Electoral College system that allows a person to be elected to the presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide." Indeed Culver's much-esteemed father John Culver was a leader in the U.S. Senate in promoting direct election of the president, while a February 2009 poll found that 75% of Iowans support a national popular vote for president.

But if Chet Culver sticks to his position, I say it's high time to kick Iowa out of its opening role in the presidential nomination process. A state with a governor with this attitude toward his fellow Americans doesn't deserve any special favors.