Thursday, December 29, 2005

One of the things I dislike about the post-Christmas period is that I can never get anything useful done. The advertising business, while due to pick up in January, is still semi-comatose until after New Year's Day. I have plenty of time to finish designs right now, but unfortunately, not much of a backlog to occupy me, and no classes until about the same point. So, how can I best kill time? Inane statistical analysis based on impractical fantasy, of course! Here's John Ibbitson in a Q&A session on the Globe & Mail's site, in a semi-humourous aside on the matter of Canadian-American relations: It has been said that the greatest gift Canada could bestow on humankind would be to voluntarily accept annexation by the United States, thus ensuring Democrat administrations in perpetuity. That said, I do believe this goes beyond simply a clash of administrations. Both countries need to openly assess shared and differing values, working to accentuate the former and minimize the consequences of the latter. (Really? Who's said that, exactly?) On his point, though...well, you'd think so, wouldn't you? I mean, of course a Greater United States including Canada would produce an overwhelming and perpetual liberal majority that would ensure Republicans to be unelectable for all time, right? But that got me thinking, and after doing some calculations*, in fact, the central premise of the joke turns out to be considerably less accurate than one might imagine. After 2000 and 2004 I'm sure everyone understands the Electoral College, and its indirect relationship to population weight. Each state receives a number of electoral votes equal to the sum of its representatives in the House, plus two Senators. However, the size of the House is currently fixed at 435**, and has been since 1913, after reapportionment conducted on the basis of the 1910 census. So, let's say for the sake of argument that Canadians were to suddenly rise as one tomorrow, and demand annexation by the United States. The size of the House might well be changed entirely, but let's say the proportionate weight of representation remained the same, with something like one representative per 645,000 people. (This is a slightly fudged average, as reapportionment is manually tweaked by Congress, but it's close enough.) If the size of the House were to remain the same in the enlarged United States, that ratio would drop to 1:725,000 or thereabouts. Remember, too, that this isn't a constant; each state, no matter the population, receives at least one representative in the House, as does DC. All of this means that existing states would see their share of the Electoral College's votes decrease, whether in absolute numbers or merely in proportion to the whole. Let's also assume that, of the former provinces, most would mimic voting patterns of their nearby counterparts, with Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes falling neatly into the Northeastern Democratic voting bloc, and the prairies and territories into the Midwestern Democrat-leaning group that includes Wisconsin and Minnesota. (Assuming Quebec to be still a part of the former Canada-slash-greater US at this point, something of a counterfactual quandary.) Only Alberta might be considered a conservative stronghold to the effect that presidential elections would semi-reliably trend Republican. BC is a remote possibility, I think, but would probably be safely Democratic. So, what do we have, then? This projection of electoral votes and probable affiliations: (The number of electoral votes I've allocated are based on, again, a slightly fudged formula for representation in the House, which means that this is necessarily even more of a blue-sky projection than the premise necessitates.) If we assume 2004-like voting patterns - probably the best conceivable showing for Republicans in the present context - this adds up to a 294-270 Democratic victory. That's a healthy margin, but not quite an Electoral College landslide à la 486-52 for LBJ in 1964, 520-17 for Nixon in 1972, or 489-49 for Reagan in 1980. In fact, it looks like nothing so much as a slightly skewed version of the status quo. If BC flipped, it'd be only 286-278. If the territories weren't given full representation as states, but only a single token representative (and possibly Senators) between the three of them, something akin to DC or Puerto Rico's oddball arrangements, that edges the math even further towards a complete tossup. Moreso, if Quebec is taken out of the equation. In short, Ibbitson's glib rejoinder falls prey to that all-too-Canadian delusion of significance that confuses geography with population; true, the State of Ontario would be ranked fifth in size behind California, Texas, New York, and Florida, but most of Canada would be in the bottom twenty. So, who's up for annexation now, then, after the myth of a permanently enshrined Democratic Party turns out to be only a statistically minor boost? A two or three-state gap wouldn't be so wide it couldn't be swung, y'know... * All population numbers from Wikipedia, because I'm too lazy to delve through the godawful layouts of StatsCan and the Census Bureau's respective sites. I did enough of that last term, thank you very much. ** There's a minor exception, I know, on the admission of Hawaii and Alaska. But only a minor one, designed to maintain the ~435 standard, which I think supports my point.


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