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democracy and its discontents
Reminder: The Electoral College Isn’t Going Away

That Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election despite winning the popular vote has predictably produced a crusade against the Electoral College system among Democratic pundits and partisans. But the outcome of the election actually made the public more supportive of America’s idiosyncratic election system overall. Gallup:

Americans’ support for keeping the Electoral College system for electing presidents has increased sharply. Weeks after the 2016 election, 47% of Americans say they want to keep the Electoral College, while 49% say they want to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president. In the past, a clear majority favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.

The reason for the shift is simple: The 2016 election caused GOP support for a popular vote system to collapse. In 2012, the last time Gallup asked the question, more than two-thirds of Democrats wanted to scrap the Electoral College, compared to just over half of Republicans. The 2016 outcome caused Democratic support for a constitutional amendment to increase to over 80 percent, while Republican support plummeted to just 19 percent. The parties are now more divided on this issue than they are on hot-button culture war questions like abortion.

Because amending the Constitution requires the support of 38 states, it is virtually impossible to do on narrow partisan lines. As Jason Willick noted last month, “between swing states that relish the attention presidential elections bestow on them, small states looking to maintain their outsize influence, and states that feel the current Electoral College map favors their dominant party, it’s hard to see how there will be ever be fewer than 13 states with an interest in maintaining the existing system.” And the irony is that continued Electoral College-popular vote splits probably make it even more difficult to build the kind of supermajority needed to amend the Constitution, because such splits will increase support for the system among members of the party that benefits from it.

Since the election, liberals have continued to point to and take solace in Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin as votes from deep-blue California trickle in. But every minute spent fixating on this is a distraction from the Democrats’ real task: Building a political coalition with which their party can win power under the rules as they are. And that means building a coalition that has a critical mass of support outside of cosmopolitan coastal enclaves.

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  • solstice

    The Democrats weren’t complaining about the electoral college when they thought that the “blue wall” granted Hillary an overwhelming electoral advantage. Only now when the electoral college looks less advantageous to them do they call for scrapping it. And even if the outcome had been based on the popular vote, it’s not clear that the Democrats would have won. Trump would have campaigned more in the biggest states and Republicans in those states would have turned up to vote in much higher numbers.

    • ——————————

      I too have always said that if the object was to win the popular vote all campaigns would use completely different strategies to win.
      No one can say Hillary won the popular vote because no one was trying to win it, so it was just chance. When I lived in California I never voted because it always goes blue, for example. There are many who don’t bother to vote because their state always goes the opposite way of what they would vote.
      So the whole argument about who won the popular vote is a hollow argument.

      Those who whine about Hillary winning the popular vote is like the guy who catches the most fish in a contest where you win by catching the biggest fish and then complains about it….

    • Hugh Everett

      If the U.S. ever implemented a national popular vote election for president, the Democrat Party would never again lose the White House. Blue States could simply manufacture tens of millions of new votes out of thin air by instituting internet voting, and making everybody eligible to vote.

      None of the Blue States will ever have Voter ID. They don’t care who votes. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated!

      With the Electoral Vote, it doesn’t matter how much blue states cheat, because they can only win their electoral votes. New York now only has 29 electoral votes, and that number is dropping steadily..

  • Anthony

    The Electoral College; it has attracted criticism but the system was designed to hold the country together: https://geopoliticalfutures.com/the-electoral-college/

  • KremlinKryptonite

    The EC functioned perfectly as designed. President Trump won 30 states, and even a plurality of the popular vote, save CA. HRC only won 20 states and owes her popular plurality solely to a CA super-majority.

    • Anthony

      You can’t parse and quantify as convenient (save California, plurality, etc.); the rules in U.S. (for national elections) are what we have. President-Elect Donald J. Trump won. Come January 20, 2017, Trump becomes the United States’ 45th President – here’s to success of country by way of Trump’s presidency.

      • KremlinKryptonite

        Yeah, I simply find it fascinating that he even won a plurality of the popular vote outside CA. Of course, President Trump won because he won more states, and a greater variety of states at that.

        • Anthony

          Terms and precision (as someone informed me) matter. Check meaning of plurality – adjusting an interpretation to fit a point of view does not change relevant facts (we can all have our set of opinions but reality precludes having different sets of facts).

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Is it not funny that CA itself is a perfect example of the need for the EC? Three cities turn a state blue when it is half red. So sad.

          • Anthony

            The country has an electoral history (nationally); rules apply to all states uniformly as well as territories and district.

          • KremlinKryptonite

            Exactly. Just a shame that so many millennials in these handful or so of large cities don’t know that. And to think, they’re supposedly the most educated generation. Yikes

          • ——————————

            “the most educated generation.”

            Just more proof how much education clouds, clutters, and rots the brain.

          • Anthony

            Maturation, eventually, comes!

          • f1b0nacc1

            No, they are credentialed, not educated. The difference is important….

    • Fat_Man

      Indeed it is almost paradigmatic of what the Founding Fathers were concerned about when they crafted the charter.

  • Frank Natoli

    A little perspective, please.
    California has 55 electoral votes. Itty bitty states like Rhode Island, Delaware and [population wise] Wyoming each have 3 electoral votes.
    The Electoral College is heavily population weighted, not quite a totally as the House of Representatives, but overwhelmingly compared to the Senate, where all states, regardless of population, get two Senators [yet nobody is advocating the dissolution of the Senate].
    In 1787, it was considered undesirable to have the populations of Boston, New York and Philadelphia dictate national policy.
    In 2016, it is considered equally undesirable to have the populations of California and New York dictate national policy.
    And no, rural states do not dictate national policy. Democrats, in their urban population centers, do that.

    • Jim__L

      Democrats, with their chokehold on the universities that train the Congressional aides who write the laws, dictate national policy.

      The hand that rocks the cradle, and all that.

      • Frank Natoli

        That ends January 20th, 2017. New marshal in town.

        • Jim__L

          I really hope the universities get cleaned out and the aides get replaced, but I don’t think that will happen overnight.

          Do you think that we’ll see non-Ivy-Leaguers dominate all the aide and clerk jobs on Capitol Hill anytime soon?

  • Andrew Allison

    Of course the American public is more supportive of the EC — they don’t want California to pick their President.

  • vepxistqaosani

    The Electoral College system can be scrapped whenever there are five Supreme Court votes to rule that the Equal Protection Clause (“one man, one vote”) of the 14th Amendment overrules Article II.

    This will happen, assuming that California stays blue, the next time there’s a majority of Democrat-appointed Justices.

    • Frank Natoli

      Ah. And the Senate will be dissolved along with the Electoral College? For the same reason? Not one man, one vote?

      • vepxistqaosani

        Why not? The whole point of amendments is to revise and replace the original, yes?

        Of course, I’m probably not being imaginative enough for the current post-modernist age. I’m sure a Critical Legal Theory person could come up with many more ideas.

        • Frank Natoli

          Amendments? You wrote of nine unelected, lifetime appointment men and women in medieval robes deciding what is the law, regardless of what is written.
          And now you start writing about amendments. Classic Democrat strategy. I address your point, you change the subject.

          • vepxistqaosani

            I started off with the 14th Amendment, which has already been passed. Well, a slight reinterpretation of same, but still .. it’s what the court has been doing for years.

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