How Abolishing the Electoral College would Undermine the Union
It always seems that fervency for democracy exists only when it works in one’s favour. Though, I guess it is ever so easy to support a system when it reinforces your ideals—especially if you never determined these for yourself, and instead had them dictated to you by agenda-driven professors determined to choke discourse throughout colleges nationally. For eight years, chiefly the last five, the millennial progressives, most of whom have voted twice without loss, have sat enthralled as they watched an insidious policing of language erode our freedom of speech. They smirked whilst PC culture entrenched within the foundations of the republic a perverse intellectual relativism that determines what we can and can’t say. And they lapped it up as they instructed the majority on how to construct meaning to prevent offending anyone deemed ‘marginalised’.
Uncomfortable truths were just that: uncomfortable; and the youngsters have a human right to be comfortable—even if we must distort reality to achieve this. What glee it must have brought them as gender became a construction, as truth became fiction, as opinion became fact. How great democracy was when it allowed us to pick and choose who was allowed to speak and how they were to do so; the straight, white, middle-aged man consigned to the scrap heap as the benevolent youth endeavoured to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, age, and gender—the irony not lost on them simply because they likely don’t understand the very concept to begin with. When it came to considering divergent views on campuses across America, closing doors seemingly opened minds. How pitiful.
But with last week’s results revealing the very existence of an alternate America, an America opposed to the Orwellian—or if you prefer Huxleyesque—course their country at present straddles, the millennials, faced with the prospect of an opposing view, revealed that their love of democracy, liberty, and freedom of expression is just like the flags they tossed limp on city streets throughout the country: it’s all gone up in flames.
Of course, these riotous scenes have come about because Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election despite almost certainly winning the popular vote. As each precinct finalises its reporting, it is becoming increasingly likely that, barring some hidden Republican surge, Secretary Clinton stands to receive 48.3% (65.8m) of the vote, and President Elect Trump 46.2% (63m)—and most analysts expect Secretary Clinton will end up close to three percentage points ahead when all is said and done. In other words, this apparently means Ms. Clinton should be President. And because she won’t be, it must mean the current system is arcane and antiquated.
Democracy, as a system, embodies the notion of majority rule, and it is not only fair, but constitutional, they say, to ensure that the demands of the majority are met (how funny it is that a group who crusade for minorities cease to do so when the minority suddenly wear red hats). And the young scoundrels think they’re on to something here. After all, they wouldn’t protest simply because they haven’t anything better to do, would they?
However, had they taken the time to delve into the rich history of the nation they profess to love so dearly, the callow ideologues would realise that their demands elucidate nothing more than their ignorance of republicanism, federalism, the United States Constitution, the purpose of the Electoral College, the at times tenuous and oft heated tensions between States at the Constitutional Convention, the fruition of these tensions in the form of a Civil War eighty-seven years later, as well as their ignorance of the arguments contained in the Federalist Papers—particularly numbers 39, 68, and to a lesser extent 10 and 6 (I choose to list the numbers only because I hope it means they may by chance be read—for they are quite edifying). If their behaviour wasn’t already embarrassing enough, their cognitive dissonance is utterly humiliating. For ignorance in and of itself is, as they would declare, shameful; willful ignorance, however, borders on the obscene.
Thankfully, the protesters are now withdrawing back into their gluten-free dens. Perhaps their weekly free money ran out and the myrmidons felt hypocritical protesting the very government that provides them the welfare which funds their tasteless frivolity. Though, the placard-wielding narcissists were never truly in it for the long haul to begin with. They likely expected things to go their way much sooner, and abandoned their activism when they realised effort is required to achieve outcomes, instead moving on when whatever transient issue of the day distracted them. Remind me to keep a shiny red ball handy if I’m ever invited to guest lecture at Cal. State.
But this infantile clamouring over the result has, unfortunately, culminated in calls to abolish the Electoral College and replace the election of the executive branch with a singular popular vote. No surprises that outgoing Californian Senator, Barbara Boxer, and filmmaker Michael Moore—who makes a living off the ignorance of Californian liberals—are leading this charge: almost twice as many people voted for Clinton than Trump in the golden state, and Californians are better than, say, Nebraskans or Wyomingers.
The real question, however, is this: are Moore, Boxer, and waning celebrities like Lady Gaga more concerned with the Union’s posterity than founding fathers James Madison and Alexander Hamilton?
The implementation of the Electoral College system to elect the executive branch best ameliorates James Madison’s view in Federalist 39 that a combination of state-based and population-based governance is imperative to upholding both republican and constitutional values whilst firmly rooting these in the democratic process. This is why two senators and two Electoral College votes represent every State irrespective of population: so members of the union are seen as “political and co-equal societies.”
At the same time, to reflect the wishes of the majority and to instill into citizens faith in the electoral process, constituent numbers had to be addressed so that larger states didn’t feel they were pandering to smaller state factions. This is why states are divided into congressional districts and allocated Electoral College votes based on population numbers, to fairly weight the voice of each state and maintain their suffrage. Most would agree that giving Wyoming, whose population is approximately 590,000, the same number of electoral votes as California, approximately 39,000,000 citizens, would be unfair.
However, if one begins to break down this year’s popular vote numbers by state, it should surprise few that an overwhelming majority of Clinton votes were cast in California and New York: 11.5m of 65.8m—or just shy of 18%. Whilst these are not the only densely populated States, when compared with other populous states like Florida, Texas, and Michigan, Clinton unequivocally trounced her opponent in the two aforementioned coastal states.
Which brings us to the point of the Electoral College: the Electoral College was established, and ratified by smaller states, so larger states didn’t single-handedly decide presidential elections. Increasing the scope of the republic best obviates the possibility of ‘factious tempers’ from organising nationally and threatening the stability of the union and betraying ‘the interests of the people’. Federalist 10, and 6 to some degree, argues that by legitimizing factions and providing them a platform to galvanise against the majority, the smouldering conflict between the states could become a roaring conflagration if there didn’t exist a system that could effectively extinguish this heat.
Proportionate influence nullifies this threat to an extent.
Though Clinton may have won the popular vote overall this year, when the collective vote is disintegrated by state, Ms Clinton only won 20 states and D.C., whilst Trump won 30 states (21 out of 51 is 41%). Clinton did typically win more populated states, which is why her total Electoral College votes contravene the state ratio mentioned above; if every state (including D.C.) was given the same number of votes, Clinton would have won 221 Electoral College votes. At present she has amassed 232 (or 43% of 538).
And the reason for the Electoral College is simple. Centralised power concentrated in the hands of a few contravenes the America the founding fathers hoped to create: a United States where the representative role of government must be inclusive of all American’s, not just the elite, nor the most populated states. It had just fought a revolutionary war with a power that was the very manifestation of such “tyranny of the head”, and the founding fathers had prescience enough to understand that balancing power between the government and its constituents was essential to the preservation of liberty, self-determination, and prosperity. America would work better if opportunity was disseminated equally for all Americans, not for but a few. Translated to today, that means an Okie is just as American as a New Yorker and the electoral process must mirror this.
The Electoral College, however, is not without its flaws. And perhaps one of the most voiced concerns by those opposing the system is that safe states can be taken for granted by the major parties. Criticism of the system often promulgates that parties can be seduced into believing they don’t have to tailor policy for traditionally predictable states because, with exception to an insidious transgression, they understand citizens of that state will almost certainly forgive the party maligning them and still vote as expected due to their abhorrence of the alternative. The destruction of the blue wall on November 9 dilutes the strength of this theory to an extent. For a good ground game can pull the mat out from an opponent’s feet in a presupposed safe state, and if we are to say nothing else about Trump, one must concede his ground game was unsuspectingly strong in places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
A reductionist think-piece published, this author hopes mistakenly, by Vox (whose staff once encouraged readers ‘If Trump comes to your town, start a riot’ ) argued that swing states like Ohio and Florida have “the privilege of choosing the president”. Therefore the Electoral College must be dismantled. This is utterly ridiculous. Safe states fundamentally make it more difficult for parties to swing elections because of the modern interpretation of the Electoral College; an interpretation Madison deemed unconstitutional and “pregnant also with a mischievous tendency”. For the ‘general ticket’, or winner takes all approach, disregards the intention Madison, and indeed Hamilton, had of the system. One of the few things they agreed on.
Both intended electors be informed politically, but beholden to no party. Electors were to cast their ballot based on the perceived aptitude of a candidate in relation to the will of the congressional district they represented. As Madison wrote to George Hay in 1823, this generally meant an elector would vote based on who won the popular vote in their district, not the overall state, so ‘differing sentiments’ within states were provided agency. Currently, only electors in Nebraska and Maine follow the congressional district approach: this is why Trump received 1 Electoral College vote in Maine and Clinton 3. If a national uniformity was achieved, this would mean that clinch states like Michigan this year would have allocated their votes to both parties proportionately (11 Republican, 5 Democrat), and a state like California wouldn’t give all 55 votes to the Democrats, as Republicans won 14 districts there.
Whilst Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have bared the brunt of the spotlight with last Tuesday’s result, Virginia is perhaps the most curious state when one considers the idea of electorates representing specific voter demographics. Indeed, any state that was incredibly close deserves to be scrutinised, as they have been; liberals note that Michigan is an almost 50-50 split, yet decry it absurd that all 16 electoral votes will end up in Trump’s pocket. But millennials don’t exhume Virginia from the post-election dust because in this instance they benefitted from a flaw in the process. Democrats won 4 districts in Virginia, plus the overall popular vote which allows them 2 additional votes for a total of 6. Trump won 7 districts. All 13 of Virginia’s electoral votes went to Clinton, despite the fact Trump fairly won more than half.
This is why Democrats have previously rejected the congressional district approach, because their safe states like California, New York, and Massachusetts have significantly more Electoral College votes than Republican safe states like Texas, Montana, and Mississippi; and even when the majority of districts vote Republican, Democrat states can rely almost exclusively on their capital cities to sway the popular vote blue. It’s only now that they’ve lost do the petulant children demand change. A change they denied in 2012 when Republicans advocated for it. How strange it is that those who dedicate their lives to fairness fail to do so when it isn’t their interest.
With that rambling invocation reminiscent of an elementary schoolchild, perhaps Trump said it best when asked about his popular vote loss: “If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y. Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily.” And there exists some plausibility to this claim. After all, compared with the battleground states, Trump did effectively ignore those saturated blue.
However, if calls to amend the Electoral College succeed, and if they succeed so that they are congruent with Madison’s constitutional vision, even if an amendment were retroactively applied to this year’s election results, Trump would still have won. Projections currently have Trump at 306 electoral votes and Clinton at 232. But when one dissects the numbers, Trump won 240 congressional districts and the popular vote in 30 states. Clinton won 195 districts, 20 states, and the 3 available electoral votes from D.C. By adjusting the tally, this indicates a 300-238 Trump victory. It may edge Clinton closer (44% of electoral votes instead of her current 43%), but Trump is still a resounding winner.
Which is why, if for some reason I found myself in one of the safe spaces popping up throughout American college campuses, and if it were possible to speak without being drowned out by a cacophony of mocha-scented white-noise, I would say this to the protestors: whilst the election may not have gone your way, the result provided a voice for all and you must respect it if you believe in the right of all Americans to exercise their franchise. No states problems are universal, nor are any individual’s. It is tremendously disheartening to witness millions of urbanised trendies vociferate about which bathroom we should use when millions of Americans are watching their factories close down, their farms dry up, and their fellow countrymen and women move on without them.
And because of how chiefly American the election is, it is for this reason I have been reticent to reveal myself as an Australian until now. But perhaps it takes an outsider to remind you of how great the system you have really is; perhaps it takes an outsider to remind you of the vision your founding fathers had when they united your great nation 229 years ago; and perhaps it takes an outsider to remind you that your president takes an oath to represent every American in every state, not just those that reside in the most populated ones.
Because when it comes to the appointment of the president, Alexander Hamilton said it best: “if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”