What follows is what happens when oil prices are down and I have time at work to read the internet and play with spreadsheets:
So this is a nice hairy spread sheet with a bunch of data that means nothing to most folks but let's see what I did with it in the graphs below.
Notice that the trend lines are ever so steadily moving towards 50%? I did. I expected to see a more divided USA becoming more 50/50 and this seems to support my beliefs.
But then the electoral vote shows us a couple crazy things. #1 it s almost a mirror image (except for when Reagan switched parties and the south didn't know what to do about voting) Seriously, cover up '72-'88 and it's like a Greek vase. Despite third party candidates the electorate is a mirror image of winners and losers. I did not expect to see that. I expected to see losers chasing winners. The popular vote might be 60/40 but the electorate is 90/10. The libertarian in me screams out that a well informed, moral society would be rioting in the streets for reformation based on this single fact. The rational middle aged white guy in me says "well what did you expect from a well fed populace?" 40% of the people get 10% of the vote but get to keep 100% of their suppers. Smarter men than me will be thinking about this long after I am gone.
This is the bread & butter of this exercise. I wanted to know how much a popular vote was actually worth. I expected to see rampant voter inflation. As it turns out Michael Crichton was right "Things were not always thus". They were much, much worse. A highlight of my life was the fact that Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the election. I HATE Al Gore and his politics but he won the damned election. I can't tell 50+% of my fellow citizens their votes don't count. But in November of 2000 they did not. The whole of the US citizenry was cheated when our laws failed us and not one change was made to correct it. I'm blathering on. I'll get back to work.
Just for fun the bottom graph shows the actual number of people who could vote that did. It is meant to exaggerate the value of the people who show up to vote. It does not take into account the value of gerrymandering which hit a new record in that 2000-2004 era. Get-out-the-vote worked more efficiently than anything since the cold war. Also there was some sort of period of peace right there where we weren;t at war with anyone. Seriously, people vacationed in Beirut.
I then break down the winners and losers by votes, popular and electoral, with trend lines. Why? Because I 'm a thorough mother f&^ker, that's why.
In summation: I am slightly ashamed to say it but things are getting better. (On paper anyway) I expected to see things worse than ever. A larger disparity between the value of an individual vote and the actual weight of the electorate, but that's just not true. Despite the rampant gerrymandering and the growing polarization of the populace things are actually more equal than ever. I want to argue with these numbers but I can't. I must instead look at the fact that the last 20 years have opened us up to greater shared information than ever before. Knowing more seems to mean being less biased and less segregated. I still thin there are much better systems of voter representation, but I can't argue with the numbers. At least not yet.