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States' rights vs. voting rights

Now that theres a pair of secession movements afoot in Vermont one of them is tiny and involves the Town of Killington and perhaps two or three more, such as on-the-fence Dorset, while the Charlotte-based other is larger and holds real-live conferences on its noble goal of creating a big box store-free Peoples Republic of Vermont.

Its worth remembering how the notion of states rights (to secede from the Union, for example) is seen differently depending on when the seeing is being done and whos doing it.

In the 1950s and 60s, for example, states rights as a concept became a 12-letter pair of dirty words to the political left, which opined long and loud that anyone who espoused states rights (as opposed to an all-powerful central government) was an unreconstructed and incorrigible racist.

And so it remained until the left suddenly found the concept to be useful, and in 2001 invoked the 12 letters (without actually speaking the two words) in demanding that each date have the right to use its own tests, not only the federal ones, in measuring students achievement in public schools, under the then-new No Child Left Behind legislation adopted that year.

They got what they wanted: Vermont for example, has been using such special-purchase proprietary tests as VtDRA, NSRE, and NECAP to post results (from the same universe of students) remarkably higher than those coming from the Federal NAEP tests, which are still being used, but of course with the results not publicized. Now states rightsthe argument which dares not speak its nameis emerging in a new context: make every vote count.

This seemingly noble slogan is shorthand for a proposed dismantling of the Electoral College, to enable voting for POTUS and VPOTUS by popular ballot totals alone. The present winner-take-all set-up, whereby a small majority vote in a given state, commands all that states electors, would disappear. There have been innumerable trees killed over the last seven years to make the newsprint on which brilliant commentators have explained how the 2000 election would have come out different (and better) if popular totals, not Electoral ones, had been used. The subject was discussed at length in a recent C-SPAN presentation on Aug. 5: liberals and conservatives debated the future of the Electoral College at the Boston Convention Center.

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