Don’t Forget About the Electoral College
America’s future depends on it
By now, our yards are signless, our protests have subsided, and our petitions have been discarded. The fresh wounds we felt on the morning of November 9th have scarred over, and we have forgotten them in favor of more pressing, current issues.
But remember that outrage we felt? Remember how furious we were when we saw the popular vote results roll in? It hurt when our opponent won, yes, but it hurt even more to be cheated out of what was rightfully ours.
For many Americans, the acute post-election rage they harbored for America’s Electoral College has now subsided, only to be replaced with the dull irritation that the Trump Presidency provides daily. Our attention span for presidential election reform lasted all of two months. Now, Democrats have shifted into full anti-Trump mode, challenging the President on immigration, healthcare, the environment, and whatever else the Tweet-of-the-day serves up.
This is all fine. I’m not denying the gallantry that Democrats have shown in their war of prevention. I just want to remind us how we got to where we are.
If we entirely forget about presidential election reform for years at a time, it will never be addressed. We can’t afford to let this happen. The only way Trump has any real chance for re-election is if we continue operating under the archaic Electoral College. Why? Because in the version of the Electoral College that we use today, all that matters is the opinions of swing states — and Trump wins swing states.
Money spent by candidates per state is a useful metric for discovering which states truly matter in elections. As shown by NPR, in the 2012 election, the money spent per voter in swing states far exceeds the similar statistic for solid states. And for good reason. Candidates know that these states — and only these states — decide the next President.
This means that if the President employs a swing-state-centric brand of politicking throughout the next 4 years, he will be competitive for re-election regardless of how low his approval rating plummets.
This is exactly his plan.
The Administration recognizes swing state Virginia as being highly dependent on military funds, and so President Trump is sure to promote his expansion of the government’s military budget there. The White House also notes the swing state of Ohio’s fondness for the aviation industry, so they have promoted both the privatization of air traffic control, and have elicited praise from Boeing and other manufacturers.
We’re just 6 months in. As re-election nears, the pandering will only escalate.
Let me take a step back to remind you how the Electoral College is affecting you right now. Remember the recent celebrations of Senator John McCain’s no-vote on the ACA repeal? If we had a reasonable presidential election system, that vote wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest. Remember the aches you felt as our nation’s environmental protections were stripped from our country? That’s the Electoral College again.
Or remember the Muslim ban, the sharing of Israeli intelligence with Russia, the rollback of recession-preventing banking regulations, the appointment of Justice Gorsuch, the firing of Director Comey, the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, and the ban on transgender individuals in the military? You may ascribe these atrocities to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or just plain idiocy. And you may be right.
But also remember that every single one of these incidents was directly result of America’s use of the Electoral College. Every single one of them.
If we forget this fact and allow the issue to disappear from the public eye for years at a time, we will never have hope for a cure. Demagoguery will continue to reign, campaign financiers will prosper, corruption will flourish, and the Executive Branch of our government will remain unmoored from anything resembling even the debris of a citizen-selected-government.
The Electoral College — as we are currently using it — is a virus in the heart of our Executive Branch. If we don’t dispel the affliction from our political system before it comes time for the 2020 election, it won’t matter how far the President’s approval has plummeted, and it won’t matter how hated he is by progressives and liberals.
All that will matter is that he has the swing states.
-Ben Chapman, August 2017
Position of the author: I support a Proportional Electoral College, which preserves the ideas the College was founded on and removes many weaknesses it has developed over the years.