I used to be a believer in the wisdom of the Electoral College. I thought the intent of the Constitution’s framers was a good one, specifically Alexander Hamilton’s intent to build a procedural roadblock in the path of would-be villains.
Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68 that the Electoral College was intended to obstruct presidential candidates with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity,” a pair of traits that should sound familiar to anyone who has followed Donald Trump’s rise to power.
However, the Electoral College utterly failed to live up to this mandate in 2016, allowing Trump to ooze through the cracks despite his obvious lies and criminality, not to mention the fact that he lost the national popular vote by nearly three million votes.
Consequently, I’ve changed my mind. It’s time for the Electoral College to go, and a growing list of states are busily trying to kill it.
The latest state to join the process of killing the Electoral College is Delaware, where the “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” passed the state legislature and is on its way to the governor’s desk.
This legislation would create an end-around that won’t require amending the Constitution. It would assign each state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, diminishing the existing role of the Electoral College without officially disbanding it. Electors will still pick the president, but electoral votes will be distributed based on the national popular vote rather than each individual state’s popular vote.
The compact will also scramble the way candidates campaign. Contrary to what supporters of the Electoral College might claim, the existing process does not serve to drag the candidates into every state. For example, in 2012, Mitt Romney only campaigned in 10 states.
By granting electoral votes based on the national popular vote, candidates would have to reconsider states that have been otherwise ignored in recent decades. Candidates will be encouraged to campaign in more populated areas that also happen to feature greater demographic variety, encouraging more diversity.
At this point, 13 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the compact, adding up to a total of 181 electoral votes. Once enough additional states pass the compact to get past the 270 threshold, it will go into effect in all the states where it was passed.
At present, another 16 states worth another 155 electoral votes are considering the compact in committee, or have passed it through at least one chamber of their state legislatures. It’s worth noting though, that none of the states that have fully passed the compact are “red states,” likely because Republican presidential candidates have only won the popular vote once since 1988.
That said, nine states that Trump carried in 2016 are among those where the compact is making its way through the legislative process: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina.
It’s unlikely Trump knows about the popular vote compact, or is even capable of understanding it. If he did, he’d undoubtedly explode in a series of tweets, rants, and maybe even some white supremacist propaganda, lashing out at Democrats who he would insist are rigging the election against him. You know, by winning more votes.
Trump might even use the compact as a pretext to try to invalidate the election if he loses in 2020. That would almost certainly fail, but if Michael Cohen is correct, and I suspect he is, Trump will not allow a peaceful transfer of power if he loses. I don’t think Trump will win in 2020 anyway, his popular support hasn’t been above 45 percent since January of 2017 and his disapproval hovers in the mid-50s. Likely he would us the compact as one of his many justifications for an “unfair” loss in 2020 and he’ll have to be forcefully removed by the Secret Service, or the FBI, or the Sargent at Arms, or whoever it is that would have to do that.
Should be a fun show at least.
Anyway, he’s going to claim that the 2020 election is rigged no matter how the actual electoral votes are allocated. But these reforms aren’t only about him. They’re about sealing the breach before the next Trump (probably Ivanka) steps through it and we start spraying our crops with Brawndo.