President Obama visited upstate New York this week. While he was there, we all speculated about whether being in New York, a state that has legalized gay marriage, would prod the president to mention his "evolving" position on the subject.
The next day, without any notable prodding from New Yorkers, the president was back in the White House announcing his support for gay marriage. This apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the trip to New York, and also guaranteed that the visit here would be completely wiped out of the national memory banks, overtaken by the breaking news from D.C.
That's a shame because we deserve the chance to at least take note of a presidential trip to our state for something other than campaign fund-raising. It doesn't happen very often. We live with the Curse of the True Blue. Everybody knows how New York is going to vote in presidential elections, so nobody cares.
Obama's trip, by the way, was actually historic. He went to the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, praised it mightily, and said: "I want what's happening in Albany to happen all across the country."
It's been a long time since anybody said they wanted "what's happening in Albany" duplicated. Of course, Albany is usually a synonym for a terrible state legislature. So let's take a bow. Even the legislature isn't as bad as it used to be. Otherwise, we wouldn't have gay marriage.
But let's also take this opportunity to complain about the way the electoral college system disenfranchises us. We know it so well we hardly ever bother to think about it. But if you live in New York, your presidential preference counts for almost nothing -- maybe 1 percent as much as an Ohioan or Floridian, and I'm being generous.
New Yorkers talk about politics all the time, especially during presidential election seasons. But nothing they say matters -- unless they're saying it over the phone to a relative in a swing state like North Carolina or Virginia. If you want to help Barack Obama, you can send money, or sign up to go door-to-door in New Hampshire. If you're a Republican, your vote is precisely as meaningless because nobody thinks you're going to have the power to turn your home state. However, the sign-up sheet for New Hampshire still awaits.
Arizona has somehow turned into a swing state this year. The Democrats say they're going to spend money to try to win its 11 electoral votes. New York has 29 electoral votes, and the only presidential campaign ads we're going to see are the ones broadcast nationally. If the parties thought they could save a few bucks by blocking us out, they'd do it in a second.
You know the drill: Each state is allotted electoral votes, based mainly on its number of congressional districts (i.e., population) and it's winner take all. Under that system, any Democrat who has to worry about New York is already in such a hopeless situation that he (or she) might as well just take to his (or her) bed and give up the fight as hopeless. Any Republican who thinks he (or she) has a chance to win it is so far ahead of the game he (or she) could just devote available campaign hours to planning the victory parties.
The obvious answer is to go to a popular election. Imagine. Every single American's vote would count equally. The state you live in wouldn't matter. Well over 60 percent of New Yorkers voted for Obama over John McCain, but who cares? Getting New York up to 65 percent would be equally important as keeping Ohio at the same 51 percent as in 2008.
You may argue that this isn't going to happen. You would be arguing from an extremely strong place. But that doesn't keep a guy from dreaming.