Why Elizabeth Warren Is Wrong About The Electoral College
Elizabeth Warren, the pointy end of the spear of Democratic radicalism, has called for the end of the Electoral College.
“My view,” she said at a CNN town hall, “is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College.”
Her statement elicited the support of other 2020 candidates. The same people who complain daily about Donald Trump violating norms are now openly advocating eliminating the Electoral College and packing the Supreme Court.
Democrats obviously want to beat Trump and win the presidency going forward. There are simpler, less far-reaching expedients than trying to dump the Electoral College, beginning with nominating a more appealing candidate than Hillary Clinton.
If Democrats could manage that, and win both the popular vote and an Electoral College majority, their concerns about the current system would suddenly evaporate.
The case against the Electoral College is, first, as Elizabeth Warren said, that it supposedly ensures that some votes don’t matter: In heavily blue or red states, voters on the other side are effectively disenfranchised.
This isn’t true, though. All votes are counted toward the outcome in every state. Voters from Republican, rural areas in California, for instance, aren’t disregarded; they are simply outnumbered.
If it is the considered progressive view that this is tantamount to disenfranchisement, California could immediately mitigate the problem by splitting its electoral votes by congressional district the way Nebraska and Maine do.
Another argument is that the Electoral College bears the moral stain of slavery. But the debate over how to select the president that took place at the Constitutional Convention was between the large and small states. Slavery wasn’t mentioned, except in an ambiguous remark by James Madison.
The Electoral College was indirectly touched by the notorious slavery compromise only because states were allocated electors based on their senators and congressional districts, and slaves were counted as 3/5ths of a person for purposes of congressional representation. When the 3/5ths clause was abolished 150 years ago, the Electoral College continued to operate as usual.
Then there’s the question of proportionality. The way the Electoral College distributes electors isn’t strictly proportional to the population of the states, yet the big states still are hugely important. The 84 electoral votes of automatically blue California and New York are an enormous step toward Electoral College victory.
It’s understandable, of course, that Democrats feel aggrieved by how Hillary Clinton lost. But 2016 wasn’t a true test of the popular vote, given her opponent wasn’t contesting the campaign on those grounds. Trump’s team was, rightly, trying to eke out an Electoral College victory rather than run up the score in Republican states.
Yes, Clinton walloped Trump by nearly 2-1 margins in California and New York, but that didn’t get her anything except greater permission to act the sore loser. What Democrats want is effectively to make California and New York the kingmakers in presidential politics, and not have to bother with the middle of the country and smaller, more rural states. This is exactly the approach that the Electoral College is meant to foreclose.
Opponents of the Electoral College have made some progress in getting blue states to agree to award their electors to the popular-vote winner, a deal that would go into effect when states equaling 270 electors join the compact. This arrangement would surely lose its allure as soon as it meant awarding the electoral votes of these states to Donald Trump, or any other Republican.
In the Trump era, Democrats are in a perpetual state of panic. They should remember that the electoral map is always changing. Before 2016, it was thought the Electoral College favored Democrats. It shouldn’t be beyond their conceiving that they can win again under the long-established rules of America’s foundational governing document.
If it’s true that they can’t, they have only themselves to blame.
© 2019 by King Features Syndicate