The rumblings are building in the national press about changes in, or outright abolishment of, the Electoral College. Deflection may be the goal in Senator Diane Feinstein’s( Dem-CA) call to abolish it. A refresher: Senator Feinstein recently resigned as chair of a powerful military construction committee after reports that for years she abused her position to award her husband’s companies billions of dollars in government contracts. Yeah, you probably didn’t hear a whole lot about that, that’s no accident, but if you were her, wouldn’t you want to “change the subject“?
But let’s look into this option, a direct popular vote. First off, we’d go from ” battleground states” to a few ” battleground cities“, mostly large metropolises. Do I like how Iowa and New Hampshire have a disproportional impact on who makes it to the convention, and who’s sent packing? Not really, but at least in the early part of a campaign people can get up close and personal with the next president of the United States. Do you think that will happen in L.A.? No way. So say goodbye to grassroots activists in those early states.
In some editorials it’s been written that the winning candidate will have to win a majority (more than 50%) of the popular vote, not a plurality (more votes, but less than 50%). So what happens if it’s only a plurality? Run-offs? Comon, even though some people think our elections are on par with third world countries, this would guarantee it. What are the odds of an election not having a majority winner? It’s happened in three of the last four elections. Bill Clinton never won a majority in ’92 ( 43%) or ’96 ( 49.2%), and although Al Gore had more popular votes in 2000, he only had 48.2% of the vote. The fourth would be 2004 with George W. Bush getting 51.7% of the vote.
Before committing to this idea, we need to ask how we feel about someone becoming president with the majority of the country voting against him/her. Yes, this is still possible with the Electoral College as shown above, and has happened 17 times, most recently with Clinton, Nixon, Kennedy, and Truman. By comparison, the winner getting more EC votes while losing the popular vote has only happened 4 times in our history, most recently in 2000 as we all know. It’s that one election that is really driving this, and still driving some people nuts, as if it was some cataclysm that’s never happened before, please.
When looking at these types of calls for changes, motive and intent must be considered. Sometimes it shifts and consistency matters, well, to some people. In 2000, it was the rarity of the popular vote not deciding the outcome of the election, “the Electoral College must go!” But in 2004, it was a need to find 80,000 votes or something in Ohio to tip the Electoral College balance, and never mind the three million vote difference in the popular vote. Starting to get the picture or does it have to be spelled out? ” However it benefits us“, fairness and consistency be damned.
One final point coming back to Senator Feinstein. Using her logic, the U.S. Senate should be abolished. Why? It’s not a very representative bunch, those Senators. In the most populous state there are 2 Senators. In the least populous state there are… 2 senators. That could range from 1 senator per 250,000 residents to 1 senator per 17 million residents! She falls into that latter group, boy, what a bargain. Here’s an idea, how about she puts her unethically earned money where her mouth is. Nah, not likely.