Assault on the Electoral College: Unfair to Non-Urban Voters

Trump won the presidency, but it appears Clinton has won the popular vote. Angry and baffled Democrats are voicing increasingly shrill demands to end the Electoral College.

(Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now explore ways to nullify the Electoral College. They quote Trump condemning it in 2012, when he mistakenly thought Romney had won the popular vote.)

"Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent." - Thomas Jefferson

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine percent.” – Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father

Filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore complains that the only reason Trump is president “is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didnt want.” Lady Gaga is meanwhile promoting a petition: “Electoral College: Make Hillary Clinton president on December 19.” Over four million have signed it so far.

December 19 is when the electors meet, seperately in each state, to cast their votes for president. Electors have the final say. They are traditionally expected to vote for the candidate chosen by popular vote in their state, though some electors in Maine and Nebraska vote based on the results from congressional districts.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have passed the National Vote Interstate Compact (N.V.I.C.). All are solidly Democratic. Large urban centers dominate all but Vermont. Together, they control over 30 percent of the nation’s 538 electors. The Compact requires electors from the signatory states to vote for the candidate who wins

the national popular vote – regardless of the results in their state. It goes into effect only when signatory states control enough electors to determine the outcome of the presidency, currently 270.

Yet there are good reasons to oppose the plan.

America isn’t a Democracy. The Electoral College is a Safeguard. The Founders Despised Direct Democracy on a Large Scale.

"Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." - John Adams

“Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” – John Adams, Founding Father

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Founders thoroughly debated how to elect a president. They chose a system of electors, not a nationwide popular vote. They despised direct democracy as the “tyranny of the majority.” James Madison, considered Father of the Constitution, wrote: “In the federal republic of the United States…the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.” That’s why the Constitution balances the powers of the federal government and the individual states – a system known as federalism.

For example, each state elects two U.S. senators regardless of population. This puts sparsely populated Wyoming on equal footing with California – a state with over 60 times Wyoming’s population. This is balanced by California’s 53 seats in the House of Representatives compared to Wyoming’s single seat. Representation in the House is determined completely by a state’s population. Once again, the federalist balance between state and federal power.

This directly determines representation in the Electoral College. Every state is granted one elector for each of its U.S. senators and congressmen. That means Wyoming has three electors and California gets 55. In Wyoming, each elector represents 200,000 residents. California has just one elector for every 700,000. The Founders knew a system of direct democracy would allow states with larger populations to unduly dominate smaller, more rural states.

Hate the Electoral College? Then Hate the Constitution. So Slavery Makes the Electoral College Bad? Does the Trail of Tears Tarnish the Popular Vote?

"The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure, deformity" - Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father

“The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure, deformity” – Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father

Three quarters of the states must first ratify any amendment to the Constitution. Then it must pass by a two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Or a Constitutional convention must be convened. Yet the extra-Constitutional N.V.I.C. ingeniously circumvents these stringent Constitutional requirements. A minority of mostly large blue states could simply impose their will on the rest of the nation.

The Founders would have been appalled.

Progressive urbanites might even impose a Clinton presidency in 2016 if their petition can convince 37 Trump electors (just 21 if Michigan fails to certify a Trump win) to switch their votes. Such electors are known as “faithless.” They are rare. They have never changed the outcome of an election before. There have been only 157 faithless electors in over 200 years since the Electoral College was founded. 71 of those voted differently from their state simply due to a candidate’s death.

21 states don’t punish faithless electors. The remaining 29 states and Washington D.C., can, but rarely do, impose fines or misdemeanor charges. Even so, the petition to elect Hillary, like the N.V.I.C., shows contempt for both historical precedent and the spirit of the Constitution. Yes, the Electoral College is far from perfect. Yes, it was written by dead white males, some of whom owned slaves. If that discredits the Electoral College, it discredits the entire Constitution.

Andrew Jackson, founder of the Democratic Party.

Andrew Jackson, founder of the Democratic Party. He spearheaded the first popular movement to abolish the Electoral College.

Andrew Jackson, a bombastic populist similar in rhetoric to Trump, was the first president to promote and pass democratizing reforms to the election process. He even attempted to abolish the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote. He lost the election of 1824, yet won the popular vote. He blamed East Coast urban elites. Jackson was the murdering racist responsible for the infamous Trail of Tears in the 1830s and 1840s. It resulted in the displacement and death of thousands of Native Americans east of the Mississippi. He believed his Indian relocation program would let them “cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized and Christian community.”

“Established in the midst of another and a superior race…they must necessarily yield to the force of circumstances and ere long disappear.” – Andrew Jackson on his Indian removal program (a.k.a. the Trail of Tears)

Historically, it seems neither side is “clean.”

If urban progressives won’t respect the Constitutional process, should they be shocked when rural conservatives and the working class don’t passively accept their self-serving schemes?

Want Another Civil War? Keep on Pushing. This Isn’t About “Deplorable” Trump Voters Threatening Democracy. It’s About an Already Dominant Urban America Clamping Down Further on a Struggling and Discontent American Heartland.

(Many protesters want to secede now that Trump is in power. Yet they believe in pure democratic control over an unconstrained centralized government. Not a federalist republic, as the Founders intended, that protects the rights of states and individuals no matter who holds the presidency.)

Under a popular vote-based system, presidential candidates would focus entirely on winning large population centers. Why waste valuable time to campaign in sparsely populated rural areas and smaller communities? Over half the U.S. population is concentrated into 144 counties out of a total of 3,000. Los Angeles County alone equals the population of the eleven smallest states. The 2010 Census shows only 15 percent of the U.S. population is rural. Does it count for nothing that they occupy 72 percent of the nation’s land mass? Is it fair or reasonable to disenfranchise them completely?

And that’s not even counting the smaller cities and larger towns. Their interests are far more aligned with the rural voter. The most recent presidential election reveals a stark gulf between two very different Americas – mostly rural red versus mostly urban blue. The election has spawned riots from upset Clinton voters across the nation’s cities. They dismiss Trump supporters as misogynistic, homophobic, anti-immigrant, dangerous, ignorant and racist. Yet the mostly white working-class “racists” who swung the election to Trump voted overwhelmingly to elect Obama as the first black president in 2008.

(In a candid moment, President Obama admits his climate change agenda would cause Americans’ power bills to skyrocket.)

He promised them “hope and change.” They instead got an environmental agenda that has raised their power bills and waged war against good jobs in coal and other blue collar industries. Obama disregarded their concerns over international trade agreements such as the T.P.P. They footed the bill for his endless overseas wars of “humanitarian intervention.” Meanwhile, bridges collapsed, roads deteriorated, trains derailed, fracking polluted drinking water supplies, and Obamacare pushed the high cost of health insurance higher still. I could go on.

Clinton represents more of the same. She even served in the Obama administration. Is it any wonder she lost once Democratic, or Democrat-leaning states such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, and seems to have lost Michigan? Did it help that she referred to these Trump supporters as “deplorables?”

(Hillary Clinton calls half of Trump’s supporters “deplorables“. “The racists, sexists, homophobic, xenophobic. You name it.”)

Washington D.C. is booming with cushy government jobs. Staunchly Democratic and affluent, mostly-millennial tech workers are flooding into cities such as San Francisco, Boston and Seattle, raising the costs of living and displacing hordes of the working and middle classes. So, of course, Washington D.C. voted 93 percent for Clinton and only 4 percent for Trump. Of course, Manhattan voted 86 percent for Clinton versus less than 10 percent for Trump. Of course, San Francisco voted 84 percent for Clinton and less than 10 percent for Trump. Similar lopsided Clinton wins can be found in most major U.S. cities.

That’s the reason why Clinton won the popular vote. Not a widespread popular groundswell.

And, of course, most people living in such urban bubbles know few or no people who voted for Trump. Though most would likely keep silent about that choice from fear of ostracism and even violent reprisal.

(Anti-Trump protests erupted in cities and on college campuses across the U.S. as soon as it became clear Trump had won. They continued for days and sometimes turned violent. They Young Turks defend the protests, with some reservations.)

The big cities control Wall Street, the news media and Hollywood. Of course, they support Clinton and the status quo. That’s why Trump’s victory has been such a shock to progressives. That’s why they view Trump supporters as ignorant, bad people, not just other Americans who happen to disagree.

“The DNC emails, published by Wikileaks, reveal a stunning level of collaboration between important media outlets and the Democrats.” “(Media coverage linking Trump to Putin) smacks of the sort of McCarthyism that we haven’t seen in this country since the most frigid years of the Cold War.” – Justin Raimondo, editor of, from a Los Angeles Times editorial

Clinton supporters blame everything but themselves and their candidate for her loss. From third party candidates to “fake news” to the Electoral College. Despite all the angst and hyperbole, the Electoral College has conflicted with the popular vote only on five ocassions, including 2016. It has provided remarkable stability in return.

If the presidential election had been determined by popular vote there is still no guarantee that Clinton would have won. Both she and Trump would have employed very different campaign strategies.

Instead of casting blame and insults, urban progressives might do better to reach out to their Trump-voting neighbors and find common ground.

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  1. Deb Jones

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