2016 Election, Donald Trump, Elections, Hillary Clinton

In defense of the electoral college

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For the second time this century, a Republican president will be sworn in to office having won the electoral college majority needed to win but having lost the national popular vote.

Naturally, this is once again leading to calls among Democrat activists to abolish the electoral college in the Constitution. Or even, for the electoral college to break the law and vote against their own states, handing the election to Hillary Clinton.

Image Credit: Gage CC by 4.0

Image Credit: Gage CC by 4.0

All ignoring that the reason the electoral college was implemented was to prevent big cities and big states from having a lock on the presidency, and from dominating our republic.

Currently, Hillary Clinton has a commanding, but meaningless 1.7 million vote lead in the electoral college, owed almost entirely to her 3.5 million vote margin of victory in California, according to the Atlas of American Elections.

Neither candidate nor party competed for votes in California, because California is practically a state with one-party rule. In fact, Republicans were not even allowed to have a Senate candidate on the ballot because of state rules allowing the two top vote getters in the primaries to compete, who were both Democrats, giving Republicans in-state even less incentive to come out and vote.

Similarly, Hillary Clinton did not spend time campaigning in Republican strongholds like Texas, Indiana or Mississippi that Trump won handily, which combined from an electoral college standpoint have the same 55 electoral votes that California does.

Hypothetically, if you removed all of these uncompetitive states from the mix — California, Texas, Indiana and Mississippi — you would find that Donald Trump actually had a 260,000 vote lead in the popular vote in remaining states. A tortured, meaningless analysis, to be certain. But as it turns out, Clinton did slightly better in certain Republican areas than Trump did in California. But it never mattered, because none of those states were ever considered to be up for grabs, so nobody campaigned there.

The point is, if the popular vote winner was to be the president, the campaigns would have been conducted wholly differently.

The primary process would be different. There wouldn’t be this focus on Iowa and New Hampshire.

Everyone would have spent the year campaigning in the cities. There would be a greater incentive for Republicans to vote in Democratic strongholds, and Democrats to vote in Republican strongholds since everyone would know that their vote counts even more so.

There are no guarantees how that would have played out, but the key is, that is not the system candidates competed in this year or any year in our republic. We have an electoral college, it’s in the Constitution. You need to win states if you want to be president, and Donald Trump won more of the states’ electoral college votes where it counted than Clinton.

Do we object to the two senators per state system, too?

What about state ratification of constitutional amendments?

These are all checks against direct democracy.

State representation is a vital feature of our federal republic. If the framers had wanted a straight up popularly elected government, they might have constructed a parliamentary system instead of a bicameral legislative system plus federalism. Third parties might be more viable under such a system. There might be more coalition governments. Turnout might be higher in presidential elections.

But the framers did not do that, fearing a tyranny of the majority. So, let’s stop pretending.

To overturn the election result — which was based on the assumption that whoever wins the majority of the electoral college wins the election — would be to illegally change the rules of the game after the game was over. In fact, electors in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin — all swing states Trump won giving him the electoral college majority — are legally bound to vote for their state’s winner in the electoral college.

If electoral college electors in these key states were to break the law to change the outcome, it would have to be considered illegitimate, and in fact would encompass a dangerous destruction of our constitutional system. Then, you wouldn’t have a president, but something else entirely. It would be a new system — without any rule of law — with a leader who was never legally selected in the first place. Guess what happens next. How would that be good?

This is a guest post by Robert Romano senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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