Eliminating the Electoral College is the next goal of the left in its never-ending quest for political domination, although at the moment it’s still reeling from the shock of losing the presidency and just about everything else. Attacking the Electoral College seems to make perfect sense for the left. However, as with the use of the nuclear option in the Senate, it could end up backfiring on them.
The NY Times is leading the way in the fight (as it often does) with Monday’s editorial entitled, “Time to End the Electoral College”:
By overwhelming majorities, Americans would prefer to elect the president by direct popular vote, not filtered through the antiquated mechanism of the Electoral College. They understand, on a gut level, the basic fairness of awarding the nation’s highest office on the same basis as every other elected office — to the person who gets the most votes.
The Electoral College, which is written into the Constitution, is more than just a vestige of the founding era; it is a living symbol of America’s original sin. When slavery was the law of the land, a direct popular vote would have disadvantaged the Southern states, with their large disenfranchised populations. Counting those men and women as three-fifths of a white person, as the Constitution originally did, gave the slave states more electoral votes.
That’s not a new position for the Times, but it’s the current party line the left is pushing, and I’ve read it over and over again recently in other articles too. That narrative purposely leaves just about everything out—but hey, what’s a few distorted facts or omissions among friends?
The Electoral College is actually a reflection of the reality—a reality known to the Times editors but perhaps not to so very many of its readers (the Times editors hope, anyway)—that the US is a republic and not a democracy. The reason for its design as a republic was not race—race, the original sin that leftists use to explain nearly everything—but a distrust of democracies and their possible (even probable) excesses and vulnerabilities to tyranny.
So the Constitution set up an each-state-is-equal Senate that is even less democratic (small “d”) than the House. And it used to be so very undemocratic that its members weren’t even elected, although I doubt the majority of people are even aware of that history any more:
The framers of the Constitution created the United States Senate to protect the rights of individual states and safeguard minority opinion in a system of government designed to give greater power to the national government. They modeled the Senate on governors’ councils of the colonial era and on the state senates that had evolved since independence. The framers intended the Senate to be an independent body of responsible citizens who would share power with the president and the House of Representatives. James Madison, paraphrasing Edmund Randolph, explained in his notes that the Senate’s role was “first to protect the people against their rulers [and] secondly to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led.”
To balance power between the large and small states, the Constitution’s framers agreed that states would be represented equally in the Senate and in proportion to their populations in the House. Further preserving the authority of individual states, they provided that state legislatures would elect senators. To guarantee senators’ independence from short-term political pressures, the framers designed a six-year Senate term, three times as long as that of popularly elected members of the House of Representatives. Madison reasoned that longer terms would provide stability. “If it not be a firm body,” he concluded, “the other branch being more numerous, and coming immediately from the people, will overwhelm it.” Responding to fears that a six-year Senate term would produce an unreachable aristocracy in the Senate, the framers specified that one-third of the members’ terms would expire every two years, leaving two-thirds of the members in office. This combined the principles of continuity and rotation in office.
Both the Times and all the other articles I’ve read from the left calling for the end of the Electoral College (and I’ve read many) say that the EC is a legacy of slavery and the 3/5 compromise. But that compromise at the original drawing up of the Constitution was about representation in Congress, and it was a way to reduce the power of slave states (and minimize their population advantage) rather than increase it:
The Convention had unanimously accepted the principle that representation in the House of Representatives would be in proportion to the relative state populations. However, since slaves could not vote, white leaders in slave states would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College. Delegates opposed to slavery proposed that only free inhabitants of each state be counted for apportionment purposes, while delegates supportive of slavery, on the other hand, opposed the proposal, wanting slaves to count in their actual numbers. The compromise that was finally agreed upon—of counting “all other persons” as only three-fifths of their actual numbers—reduced the representation of the slave states relative to the original proposals, but improved it over the Northern position.
The history of the Electoral College is long and complex and had little to do with slavery. It involves an evolution from a situation in which electors were autonomous, although elected by voters to represent them, to electors being more of less bound by the popular vote on a state-by-state basis. If the Democrats wish to go back to the original structure of the Electoral College, they would be moving further and further away from the democracy they profess to champion, and towards a system in which a small number of elite representatives would hold all the power to choose a president.
But that’s not what Democrats want. What they want is for the extremely blue states of California and New York to decide the election, because that’s the way it would probably be if the Electoral College were to be eliminated. Before the 2016 election, you didn’t hear all that many calls from Democrats for the end of the EC, in part because the EC arrangement was seen to favor Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Remember all the cries that Trump had no Electoral College “path” to victory? I certainly do.
But since Trump somehow managed to blaze such a path, much to their intense astonishment (and somewhat to mine, I must say), they want the Electoral College gone. And because there is little chance of a constitutional amendment to that purpose passing (probably not enough states would support it), they’ve found a way around that little impediment:
There is an elegant solution: The Constitution establishes the existence of electors, but leaves it up to states to tell them how to vote. Eleven states and the District of Columbia, representing 165 electoral votes, have already passed legislation to have their electors vote for the winner of the national popular vote. The agreement, known as the National Popular Vote interstate compact, would take effect once states representing a majority of electoral votes, currently 270, signed on. This would ensure that the national popular-vote winner would become president.
I guess “elegant” is in the eye of the beholder.
However, I think the Times editors should be careful what they wish for; you know, unintended consequences and all that. If the Electoral College were to be eliminated, candidates will adjust by campaigning differently—concentrating all their resources on a couple of very populous states—and these are states the Democrats already almost totally dominate. I wonder if it has ever occurred to the left that perhaps the Democrats won’t dominate those areas so much any more when the Republicans start focusing on them, because in those states the Republicans pretty much have nowhere to go but up?
But there’s always cheating. If the popular vote becomes the only game in town, the Democrats—who control the apparatus in cities like New York—will have even more motivation to cheat than they did before. National recounts will become commonplace, extremely complex, and bitter. But the left probably figures that would be a small price to pay for the Democratic hegemony they believe will result.
[NOTE: See also this, on the same subject.]