Friday, November 17, 2017
#321 / Learning To Love The Electoral College?
As most are aware, and painfully so, the person who got the most votes in last year's presidential election did not get the job. The election was won, as the Constitution provides, by the person who obtained the most votes in the Electoral College. That was Donald J. Trump, and since Donald J. Trump may well be the most unsuitable and unworthy person ever to hold that office, there is a natural temptation to blame the Constitution, and the role of the Electoral College, for what has come to pass.
Surely we should abolish the Electoral College, don't you think, so the candidate who wins the most votes, on a nationwide basis, is declared the winner? In an article titled, "The Unloved Electoral College," Amanda Foreman discusses this question, and outlines some arguments on both sides.
There are, of course, arguments in favor of the Electoral College system. I tend to think they are pretty good arguments, too.
If you believe Joe Simitian, for instance, the Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election because voters in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, who had previously voted for President Obama, "flipped." The main reason they flipped, Simitian says, is because the federal government wasn't paying attention to their very real economic problems. If a nationwide vote were held, and that was all that counted, political parties wouldn't have to pay attention to smaller states. Obviously, the government should pay attention to voters who live in the smaller states, and the Electoral College system rewards the candidates who understand that. That's a pretty good argument for keeping the system as is.
In addition, if you believe Hannah Arendt, the key to the success of our democratic system comes from the many different power centers it establishes, which will often oppose one another, preventing the development of a centralized, totalitarian regime. Once again, the Electoral College system fosters that kind of independent source of political power. A system that counts votes only on a national basis undermines the federal system that our Constitution has relied upon since 1789.
Maybe, upon reflection, and despite the person who won the prize the last time around, we could learn to love our political system once again - and that would mean falling back into love with the Electoral College.