- - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The fondest dream of the modern Democrat is to neutralize the votes of the yokels in Peoria and put important decisions in the hands of sophisticates in places like San Francisco and Manhattan. The modern Democrats took a step closer to realizing their ambition last week when New York joined nine other liberal states with laws to undermine the Electoral College.

Blue states have been rushing to sign up for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. So far, the list includes — in addition to New York — California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. All have agreed to allocate electoral votes according to the popular vote.

By persuading states with a combined 270 electoral votes to approve the compact, the winner of the national popular vote would be guaranteed enough electoral votes to win the presidency. If, for example, Hillary Clinton runs for president and wins a majority of votes in New York, but her opponent — let’s say Ted Cruz, just for fun — wins the popular vote nationwide, New York would award its electoral votes to Mr. Cruz, anyway, because he would have won the national popular vote.

Getting to 270 might not be far-fetched, considering that there’s more than half enough already allotted. Some red state legislators are suckered already by the scheme’s phony populist facade. In the Republican-dominated Oklahoma state Senate, 16 Republicans joined with all 12 Democrats to pass the bill by a 28-18 margin. What on earth were they thinking?

The Electoral College is as relevant today as it was in 1789. The Founders realized the danger of subjecting fundamental rights to the whim of the majority, so they devised a system that protects smaller rural states (like Oklahoma). Each state is apportioned a number of electors based on population, as expressed in the number of its members in Congress, and the political parties nominate electors who are expected, but not required, to cast their votes for that party’s presidential candidate.

In the modern era, this system ensures political candidates can’t ignore smaller states in their quest for the magic 270 electoral votes. The alternative now promoted would encourage presidential candidates to focus exclusively on the big cities in the big states: California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Florida and Illinois. No candidate would ever waste his time in New Hampshire, or in Kansas or Montana (or Oklahoma). Residents of the flyover states could read about it in the newspapers.

The popular-vote movement was revived in 2000 after Al Gore won 500,000 more votes for president than George W. Bush, but Mr. Bush put together 271 electoral votes, just enough to win. A group of sore losers formed the National Popular Vote, funded by several wealthy and liberal businessmen, to shutter the Electoral College. They were joined by left-wing groups such as Common Cause, which seeks to eliminate procedural safeguards to citizens’ rights, such as the Senate filibuster.

It’s foolish to change the rules of the game to gain a short-term partisan advantage. California has gone blue in the past six presidential elections, but before that it produced Ronald Reagan, and was reliably red until 1988. Even New York went for the Gipper in 1980 and 1984. Political winds are fickle, and can change the landscape quickly.

It’s more important to uphold the Founders’ vision, of restraining the impulse toward pure democracy. Upon leaving Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman what form of government had the Founders bequeathed, “a republic or a monarchy?” The wise old Ben Franklin replied, “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

This effort is being undertaken to destroy the last vestiges of republican governance, ensuring there is no longer a republic to keep.