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How little today’s presidential election process resembles the framers’ intent

photo of a single voting booth
REUTERS/Darren Hauck
Those who need a little extra motivation to vote would naturally be more inclined to turn out if they think their vote might make a difference than if they know in advance which ticket is going to carry the state.
A fact, from a recent New York Times piece headlined: “How Trump Is Running to Snatch Victory From the Jaws of Defeat, Again” caught my eye.

That fact: “turnout in the close swing states that draw the vast bulk of campaigning is about 16 percent higher than elsewhere.”

There are two obvious explanatory reasons for this.

Fact 1: The campaigns devote dramatically disproportionate shares of their effort to turning out every possible vote in their favor in the swing states that will decide the outcome of the election.


Fact 2: Even without that effort by the campaigns, voters know whether they live in a swing state. Those who need a little extra motivation to vote would naturally be more inclined to turn out if they think their vote might make a difference than if they know in advance which ticket is going to carry the state.

As regular readers of this space know, I am not the biggest admirer of the U.S. system of politics and government, nor of the oft-claimed perfection of the U.S. Constitution. I’ve railed against the Electoral College system often. Here’s an overview in an old piece of mine, titled “10 reasons why the Electoral College is a problem” from a MinnPost series published way back in 2012.

But, to tell you the truth, although I have often noted that, by the standards of developed democracies around the world, U.S. turnout rates totally suck, I had never focused on the degree of the E-College’s impact on turnout between swing states and flyover states.

Reading the Times piece, it immediately made sense. Just as it also made sense that, if Donald Trump can make a glitch in our system work to his advantage, it’s not hard to imagine him getting re-elected in 2020 while losing the popular vote by an even larger margin than he did in 2016. In his own adorable way, he often brags about this way of winning while losing, as if it makes him especially clever, while not acknowledging that it’s at least a tad awkward to claim a mandate when you have won neither a majority nor a plurality of the votes.

Because I am also a history nerd and have paid a lot of attention to the framers of the Constitution, I’ll just offer a couple of more paragraphs to make the argument that the distortions above have nothing to do with anything the framers “intended” when they invented the Electoral College.

The E-College was a late-breaking idea at the Constitutional Convention, designed to solve several problems you wouldn’t normally think about. The framers wanted a reasonably strong executive (although nowhere near as strong as what the presidency has turned into). But they were stumped on how such a person would be chosen.

A straight-up election was unimaginable to them, based on the existing society. There were no national parties to nominate candidates, no national media to inform the national electorate, no tradition of (or desire for) candidates to race around the country promising things and begging for votes.

For the first hundred years of the republic, presidential candidates were expected to stay home, say nothing specific about what they would do if elected, and modestly and demurely do nothing by way of gauche self-promotion. Seriously.

(Nothing that we would call actual campaigning was done until the 1890s. William Jennings Bryan was the breakthrough figure in that regard in 1896, but he lost to William McKinley, who followed the older tradition of staying home and addressing small delegations who came to his home and he would receive them in the tradition known as the “front porch” campaign, but say nothing much of substance.)


It’s also likely that the framers did not mean the Electoral College to actually choose the president. If you read the unamended Constitution that was written and ratified in the late 1780s, some surprising things jump out at you.

The framers didn’t mandate, nor really expect, that states would hold popular elections in connection with the presidential selection process. (In the absence of national parties or a national media, it’s a little hard to see how that would even work.)

So the process required each state legislature to choose a few trusted state leaders to serve as “electors.” These would be the kind of respected members of the elite (white men, one might add), who would be more likely to know about some of the outstanding potential presidents from around the country.

The framers assumed that most of those electors would vote for men they knew, likely from their own states. So the original Constitution required that each elector, voting at a meeting in the state capital, to write down the name of two men they thought would be good presidents with the important requirement that one of them not be from their own state. Without such a requirement, in that highly localized society, most electors would vote only for men they knew from their own state, and leaders of the big states would always get the most electoral votes, but it was unlikely that, with the likely exception of George Washington, no one would ever get a majority of even the electoral vote.

But the framers probably didn’t believe that, after Washington, the winner of that “electoral” vote would become president. The Constitution required (and still requires) that the president be named on an absolute majority of the electoral ballots.

Everyone understood that George Washington would win the first election. (And, in fact, he was named on every ballot, although each elector had to vote for two men for president (not one for president and one for vice president. That was later changed by amendment).

And it seemed likely that, after Washington, no one might be named on a majority of the ballots. Remember: No two-party system yet. No national party nominating conventions. No national media.

So the Constitution said, and still does, that if no one was named on a majority of the Electoral College ballots (as seemed likely to them would occur, after Washington) the names of the top five finishers would be forwarded to the U.S. House, which would choose the president on (this is pretty amazing) a one-state one-vote basis. (The rule of five would be amended to the top three.)

OK, although I find this history endlessly interesting, I fear I may have worn out my welcome for one day among those less obsessed with constitutional history than I am. But I hope I have at least made the case that roughly zero percent of how we now choose our presidents (including the “swing states” analysis with which I started) resembles anything in the original plan.

Comments (63)

  1. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/19/2020 - 10:07 am.

    Two points: both parties and all the candidates know what the rules are, so it is not as if one party has an advantage over another in that regard.

    Point two: economic policy, particularly the get-big-or-go-home ethos of industrial agriculture, has hollowed out rural areas and made many there destitute. If we go to a strict winner of the popular vote takes all, then the concerns of rural people will be ignored, rural areas will be further hollowed out, and the majority of land will then be controlled by the wealthy and corporations to do with it what they will.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/19/2020 - 10:52 am.

      The fact that both parties know that rules doesn’t change the fact that the rules significantly favor one party. What an absurd argument.

      Even if you believe that some people’s votes should count far more than others, the idea that the current system protects rural people and not corporations is nonsense.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/19/2020 - 01:09 pm.

        It doesn’t actually favor any party. However if you want to argue that then let’s talk about how almost every news outlet likes to proclaim that Democrats have a lock on nearly the 270 EVs needed to win. Seems to me that if one party is favored in the EC, it’s the Democrats.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/19/2020 - 05:05 pm.

          The Democratic candidate has received more votes than the Republican candidate in 6 of the last 7 elections, but has only won 4 of them because Hillary Clinton and Al Gore lost the electoral college vote (and the presidency) despite winning the popular vote. We have a system that makes some votes count more than others, and with the current alignment of the parties over the last few decades, the Republicans have an advantage.

          The issue isn’t being favored, or who the media thinks is favored, but that getting more votes alone isn’t enough for the Democrats.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/19/2020 - 03:12 pm.

        Calling my argument absurd nonsense is not a legitimate response.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/19/2020 - 06:57 pm.

        1. Maybe if Dems protected rural communities from corporate and private equity money, and monopolies, then maybe the “rules significantly favor one party” would be the opposite what you think.

        2. I did not say that I think some people’s votes should count more than others, I’m saying if you are going to change the rules and give the cities the advantage then don’t let rural areas be taken over by corporations and the wealthy. And, the current system does not protect rural people from corporations, but at least they have a say about picking someone who would, even if the only one running is Bernie.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/20/2020 - 02:23 pm.

          Cities don’t vote — people do.
          And the vote of a person in a large city counts for less than that of a person in a small rural community.

          • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/20/2020 - 03:38 pm.

            Again, quit supporting monopolistic corporate agricultural policies and not only would more people live in rural communities, they would even vote for Dems!

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/21/2020 - 10:13 am.

              Fantasy.
              People leave farms because there are more and better jobs in the cities,
              Economics favor large corporate farms. We no longer need most of the poopulation farming to feed the country.
              Historically, family farms were supported by free labor by large families; those days are gone.

              • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/21/2020 - 04:09 pm.

                Clearly you have never lived in farm country, or known many farmers. There are millions of Americans who would return to the land but can’t because of capital constraints.

                You are advocating without understanding for the polluting of the land and waters and the exterminating of pollinators, and making the cities like gilded prisons.

                • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/22/2020 - 07:20 pm.

                  I’ve lived in Mankato (farm and agribusiness country) for the past 50 years.

                • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 02/26/2020 - 03:12 pm.

                  1. The Democrats didn’t decimate the family farm, the banks did. See, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/1985/02/10/weekinreview/to-the-banks-the-family-farm-is-a-poor-relation.html

                  2. Referring to point 1, it was intentional. Corporate farms were about tax advantages for rich people. And it wasn’t the Democrats that supported it. See, e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/1971/12/05/archives/rise-of-corporate-farming-a-worry-to-rural-america-rise-of-the.html

                  3. Sec. of Agriculture Dr. Earl Butz favored corporate farms over family farms, and pushed for their creation (and destruction of the New Deal) during the terms of Nixon and Ford (ahem, both Republicans). Not surprisingly, he had ties to some of the corporations running those farms. Ironically, he served under Ford, who was the first and only person to serve as both President and Vice President without ever having been elected to the position by the Electoral College.

                  4, Continued destruction of family farms follow different patterns, often over-leveraging of finances and/or poor decisions about continuing to produce commodities (e.g., dairy) without having the supporting demand for it. The Farm Bill, sadly, often encourages such poor financial policy by propping up commodities that other industries want cheaply (e.g., corn and soybeans), thus setting up a negative feedback loop that family farms can’t escape, but that corporate farms can take advantage of. See, e.g., https://www.fb.org/market-intel/farm-bankruptcies-rise-again

                  Please consider revisiting your assumptions with some facts.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 02/19/2020 - 12:01 pm.

      1. The first point is irrelevant when one is discussing system reform.

      2. I’m sure you have observed that the very problems you abhor for rural people are occurring under the current electoral system that gives them unfair clout. Leave aside the fact that the minority faction they are supporting is the author of much of their troubles.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/19/2020 - 03:15 pm.

        1. Why is that argument irrelevant?

        2. Elabortate please. Are you saying Trump is responsible for the past 40+ years of economic policy?

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/19/2020 - 05:10 pm.

          1. The point you are making is that the unfairness doesn’t matter because both sides know its unfair. That’s not just irrelevant not only to a discussion of system reform, but also to every issue that has been debated over the history of mankind.

          2. He’s saying (as I said) that the current system hasn’t fixed things. It hasn’t prevented corporate dominance, and has actually helped enable it.

          • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/20/2020 - 08:13 am.

            1. If you change the vote to be just about who gets the most popular votes, then the cities will decide who wins, which will be unfair to rural people, so it is not legitimate to change an unfair system to be unfair in a different way.

            2. For forty years, it hasn’t mattered who Americans vote for, corporations, banks and billionaires win. And it won’t matter in this election either unless Bernie wins, or maybe Warren.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/20/2020 - 11:16 am.

              “If you change the vote to be just about who gets the most popular votes, then the cities will decide who wins, which will be unfair to rural people . . .”

              No. The people will decide. If most of those people live in cities (and all vote as a bloc), that is reflective of nothing more than the fact that more people choose to live in the cities.

              • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/20/2020 - 03:34 pm.

                Many more people would live in rural America if big corporate industrial agriculture, private equity money and bipartisan government policy hadn’t driven tens of millions of Americans from the land. That destroyed the economy of rural America, FORCING people to move to the city to find work. In fact, that is happening as we speak, which Dems will blame on Trump, otherwise offering nothing in response to such pathetic, anti-human economics.

                • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/20/2020 - 03:50 pm.

                  You know WHD, that looks like the boogie man conspiracy argument, entertaining as hell, Your suggestion is that this conspiracy is global in nature, been going on for couple hundred years, suppose its pushing the Eskimos off the outer banks in Alaska as well! My guess is that If I would have stayed in rural eastern Wisconsin, where I grew up, my bank account would be 1/1000 of what it is today, and I would have a nice comfy mobile trailer in the trailer park to live in, It didn’t take a corporate boogie man for me to figure out what the better proposition for my was!

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/21/2020 - 09:23 am.

                  You can’t hang this one entirely on “big corporate industrial agriculture, private equity money and bipartisan government policy.” Every census since 1800 has shown an increase in the urban population. The first census to record that we were a majority urban country was in 1920.

                  • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/21/2020 - 04:29 pm.

                    That is supporting authortarians, in thrawl to monopoly controls. You are saying people should not have the option to live in rural country. You are saying the wealthy should own it and control it.

                    Just because you left it willingly does not mean everybody does. Just because you are wealthier than you would be had you stayed in rural country, it does not follow necessarily that everybody is richer than they would be, and happier.

                    So what do you say to the millions of people who would return to the land if they could, but can’t because big money is out of reach? Too bad, that is bad for you anyway? That is condescending, and it is authoritarian.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/21/2020 - 04:52 pm.

                      Umm, except for a couple of years in my salad days, I’ve always lived in the city. I think you meant to reply to Mr. Wagner.

                      I would nonetheless like to ask why rural life is inherently better than city life.

                    • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 02/22/2020 - 09:23 am.

                      I was replying to both of you, and anyone else paying attention. I’m not assuming rural life is inherently better. That entirely depends on the person. What I keep repeating is, many more people want to live in rural country than do, people who would prefer the hard work outdoors, the contemplation and the quiet, who are prevented from farming because government policy and big bank and private equity money has put the land out of reach. Saying that isn’t true is just making excuses for gross income inequality, and all the pathologies that arise out of that.

                      As example, NAFTA flooded Mexico with cheap, commodity GMO corn. That industrial commodity corn farming in America creates monopolies, it pollutes the land and waters and exterminates pollinators, and destroyers rural economies. In Mexico, it put millions of small farmers out of business, forcing them into the city, and in that rural power vacuum flowed the cartels. Those cartels then manufacturing meth and fentanyl to send to rural America where the economy has been devastated by big money consolidation and Monopoly. A nice neat vicious circle, and who benefits? Follow the money.

                      That is not a conspiracy theory, it is a fact. What would I do to change it? A new Homestead Act, basically, for the twenty first century. Except this time in instead of taking it away from Indigenous, we take it away from consolidators, monopolists, rentiers, absent distant land barons and return it to the people.

                • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/29/2020 - 01:48 pm.

                  The real answer is mechanization and economics.
                  At the time of the revolution most workers were farmers.
                  I would guess that in the ’60’s that was down to less than 10%.
                  Now it’s 1.3%.
                  So, whether or not more people would want to farm, the jobs just aren’t there.
                  You could enlarge the analysis to include agribusiness, but even then mechanization has reduced the number of workers necessary to support farmers.

            • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 02/21/2020 - 07:37 pm.

              The Electoral College creates the FICTION of red states and blue states, monolithic Republican rural areas and monolithic Democratic urban areas. It promotes a lie that says that almost all states are either solidly red or solidly blue.

              If you promote that lie, it is easy to scare less informed rural residents into believing that those wicked city people are just itching to impose Communism or Shariah or something equally unlikely and scary on them.

              In fact, every single state in the Union has red and blue sections. Far from enfranchising rural people and forcing candidates to pay attention to them, the Electoral College does the opposite. If the Republicans know that Nebraska and South Dakota will go Republican no matter what, they will just make some pronouncements about guns or abortion and then join the Democrats in endlessly criss-crossing Ohio and Florida.

              Remember: in a direct presidential election, states would be irrelevant. Only individual humans would count. The vote of a rancher in Wyoming would count exactly as much as that of a clerical worker in Boston. No more, no less. The vote of a Republican in Minneapolis (20% of the population) would count exactly as much as the vote of a Democrat in Salt Lake City (41% of the population) in the otherwise red state of Utah, but under the current system, these two will be tempted to stay home, since their state’s electoral votes will go in the opposite direction from their beliefs, no matter what.

              We don’t elect governors by assigning electoral votes to counties, and we don’t elect mayors by assigning electoral votes to city blocks. The very idea sounds silly, just as silly as treating an 18th century document created for a very different society and frequently amended since then, like “the law of the Medes and the Persians, which altereth not.”

              • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/29/2020 - 01:50 pm.

                And note that political parties were unknown when the Constitution was written.
                The whole idea of ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states would have seemed weird to the Founders.

        • Submitted by BK Anderson on 02/21/2020 - 09:55 am.

          What Pat said!

    • Submitted by Tom Crain on 02/24/2020 - 07:53 pm.

      “ . If we go to a strict winner of the popular vote takes all, then the concerns of rural people will be ignored, rural areas will be further hollowed out, and the majority of land will then be controlled by the wealthy and corporations to do with it what they will.”

      I don’t subscribe to your argument, but I would note the irony that these same rural voters then vote for the party that supports the wealthy corporations that seek to control the majority of their land.

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 02/19/2020 - 10:25 am.

    This history suggests that at least parts of the Constitution of 1787 was designed as an interim idea with the thought that additional constitutional Conventions or the other methods of amending the Constitution could be more easily be resorted to to work out the kinks. Things rapidly got out of hand shortly afterwards to prevent such methods. Perhaps this accounts for Justice John Marshall’s assertion of judicial power in Marbury v. Madison to fill the power vacuum.

    It seems to me that we really have two constitutions, or maybe three: one from 1787 (the one that sets up the three branches of government), one from 1792 (the one that adopted the first Ten Amendments or the “Bill of Rights”) and maybe another adopted between 1865 and 1868 adopting the XIII, XIV and XV Amendments after the Civil War. If the Constitution of 1787 allows demagogues to steal power by manipulating the public in “swing states” through the Electoral College, it’s time to scrap it as an archaic but dangerous relic.

    • Submitted by Chas Dalseide on 02/20/2020 - 01:42 pm.

      Under the previous system, the King or Queen would ask a prominent
      person to form a government. It was usually the party leader of the most
      populous party in the House. What made this unacceptable to the early Republic? Why not should the House of Representatives vote in a President every 2 years? Would that be too unstable?

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/21/2020 - 09:20 am.

        The idea was to diffuse power among three branches, so that no one person or entity would become too powerful. It was also thought that the separation of powers would act as a check against corruption.

        Some years ago (i.e. in the 80s), a columnist for The New Republic whose name eludes me at the moment was a strong advocate for a parliamentary system, in which the chief executive is chosen by the legislature. His opinion was based on what he regarded as the shameful failure of the US to enter the League of Nations. He made some compelling arguments.

  3. Submitted by richard owens on 02/19/2020 - 10:30 am.

    Why is politics so friendly to amateurs who don’t even know the basics of budgets and fund accounting, branches of government, thr roloes of committees and of investigation?

    Why do we attract people who do not understand the relationship between taxation and the overall economy? Why do we entertain so many myths about governance, pensions, retirement and healthcare when there is ample science to give us “best practices” in nearly every human endeavor without so much un-substantiated noise from pols who know nothing of the problem at hand?

    Couldn’t we formalize the training necessary to run for, say, school board? Legislature? Congress or President?

    Some kind of intellectual accomplishment could be measured if we were to approach the electoral process as having some basic requirements.

    We seem to be perpetually teaching by mistake, voting by popularity and destroying our institutional memory so fast we can’t improve.

    If politicians are going to be doing it professionally (for the money), shouldn’t we have a professional standard for these public service jobs?

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/19/2020 - 11:41 am.

      If we’re really serious about self-governance and “democracy,” participation by “amateurs” is something we ought to encourage, making it easier for non-professional politicians to get involved and serve the public in political office. Considering that women couldn’t even vote in this country until a century ago, the fact that there are now numerous female political office-holders is pretty much a testament to persistence (“Nonetheless, she persisted,” said Moscow Mitch) on the part of women in prying at least partway open the doors to political power and political office. It’s certainly not because men went out of their way to encourage women to take part.

      Indeed, trial-and-error seems to be the default mode, and it’s nothing if not inefficient and wasteful. I’d grant that we could formalize some sort of training program for office-holders at just about every level and for every job, but who’s going to be in control of that program, if such a program were to be adopted? I don’t see a lot of possibilities for a genuinely citizen-run government if we start with those criteria.

      Yes, it makes for some astoundingly ignorant, even dangerous office-holders (see the Oval Office at present), but the alternative is that you’d have to graduate from a sort of “prep school” to run for office, and that strikes me as something the Founders might think is a good idea (As Eric has repeatedly pointed out, genuine democracy, including women, people of color, and assorted others who were neither property owners or male was not something they were enthused about.), but that most of us would bristle against if it were actually put into place.

      In truth, having worked around the fringes of municipal, county and state government, the proposal in your final sentence is tempting, but it’s also not what I think of as “self-governance.” Someone or some group would be holding the strings / controls to determine who meets the qualifications and who doesn’t. Who would that be?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/19/2020 - 05:12 pm.

      Did you see that Dick Cheney movie? He had a lot of education and government experience. He knew how things worked.

      As terrible as Trump has been, he hasn’t yet gotten us involved in wars we are still dealing with decades later.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/20/2020 - 11:14 am.

        Give him a cookie. Or a hamberder.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/20/2020 - 02:29 pm.

        Yet.
        He has certainly increased the seriousness of the Iranian conflict, and made it more likely that we will be dealing very soon with nuclear threats from non state operators such as Hamas.
        Not to mention exacerbating the nuclear threat from North Korea.
        It’s hardly a safer world than it was four years ago.
        Assassinating replaceable individuals has little effect on our safety.

    • Submitted by Chas Dalseide on 02/20/2020 - 01:48 pm.

      Every member has a staff made up of people who’ve been in the system for years. They know the ropes. The individual membership usually only has to follow the party leadership when it comes to votes..

      In business, top managers come and go, but quite often, the executive assistant stays on. Judges may come and go, but Clerks of Court stay on.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/20/2020 - 02:31 pm.

        Said with sarcasm, I assume.
        Trump has stocked his pond with people of little background or experience, and fired or driven out those who had.
        The fact that there are still competent civil servants at lower levels is a limited compensation since they don’t set policy.

  4. Submitted by BK Anderson on 02/19/2020 - 10:38 am.

    It’s a wonderful piece, containing information I did not know. But it only makes even more painfully clear the preposterous aspect of the entire “system”, which basically failed of its purpose from the very beginning and has now gone so far as to force upon the nation the very sort of a lying, popular demagogue that the system was supposed to guard against!

    It’s simply appalling that a “conservative” political movement has entrenched the (revised) electoral college feature of the Constitution as an unassailable partisan position (the “Framers’ Greatest Achievement!”), and done so solely because this anti-democratic feature will (always!) favor their political faction.

    That its elimination would further popular democracy, encourage turnout nationwide, and spread campaign “resources” and “capital” to many more states is irrelevant because democratic “policy” isn’t the issue–retention of power by the minority faction is the issue, and all that matters,

  5. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/19/2020 - 04:57 pm.

    Since we are hypothetical. Per chance the Electoral College was a way of providing a measure of insurance (ability to influence) such that, folks with experience (or allegiance), were the ones whose names were put forward and perhaps to also, lets call it regulate, that men of stature were elected to maintain the integrity of the system. As the early days prove out, there were no strangers in the white house! It was a method to maintain a certain lets call it minority rule of the majority, which exists today, only I suspect not in the way the framers would have approved. How else would they have chosen to insure they had some leverage in how the country grew up, they couldn’t throw it wide open to the will of the people. And here we are today, the majority typically being governed by a minority afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger effect. ,

  6. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/20/2020 - 02:13 am.

    Humbly submit a compromise between keeping the EC and discarding it and going full-popular.
    Start with a weakness in the popular vote solution, the possibility of an extremely close race, with legitimately contested ballots scattered throughout the country outnumbering the margin between the top two candidates. See Kennedy/Nixon about 100,000 votes. Contested results in one or two states is bad enough, nationwide could be disaster. See Bush/Gore.
    Solution? Keep the EC for elections where the victory margin is less than one percent, or maybe half a percent, wherever there is a comfort zone in which the popular winner is legit.

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/20/2020 - 07:58 am.

    Those constitutional framers were always attacking our democracy……or….we are attacking the democratic republic they envisioned.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/21/2020 - 10:14 am.

      They probably would not have allowed you the vote.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/21/2020 - 11:45 am.

      That’s the hilarious part of it all, conservatives LOVE to elevate the Framers as some illustrious paragons of freedom, when in reality they were simply upstart minor nobility in the grander scheme of the British Empire, looking to keep the spoils of colonization for themselves, no more. Their first impulse was to name Washington king, after all.

  8. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 02/20/2020 - 08:47 am.

    This is just another swipe at an attack of the republic envisioned. Mr. Black continually shows his disdain with another article that basically says, “The Constitution doesn’t fit modern America.” The added nonsense that Trump won because of a ‘glitch,’ the unnecessary blurb that early electors were all white men, and that he thinks the ‘framers meant for the EC to elect the President’ just is another hack at what is good for the country in his eyes.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/21/2020 - 11:46 am.

      So where do you envision yourself in the hierarchy of the feudal society you evidently prefer? I expect it’s a fair bit higher than where you’d likely end up.

  9. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/20/2020 - 09:37 am.

    The article implicitly underscores the fundamental problem with the US Constitution; namely, that it was written to govern a largely agrarian society clustered in semi-autonomous settlements along the Eastern Seaboard. The impact on American society and, by extension, political life of inventions like the telegraph and the railroad made the original constitutional vision more and more difficult to support. The country became more unified, and the old models morphed into anachronisms.

    Once upon a time, institutions like the electoral college made some sense. There was a big chasm between the interests of the New England Puritans and the louche cavalier-wannabes in the south. Now, the chasm is not so great. Americans may cling to the agrarian myth, and may like to think they are the sturdy yeomen envisioned by the Founders, but the reality is very different.

  10. Submitted by Donald Larsson on 02/20/2020 - 11:59 am.

    I don’t have time just now to puzzle out the math or find sufficient data to speculate about hard numbers, but I wonder what would happen if all states allowed a split in their Electoral College votes–something that is possible now only in Maine and Nebraska.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/20/2020 - 02:37 pm.

      Non-mathematically, one effect would be that proportional selection of electors would return electoral relevance to large states like NY and California. Their citizens would gain the vote, while elections would no longer be determined by a few narrowly divided swing states. E.g., if Republicans gained 1/4 of California electors, that would be equivalent to carrying a small state (say Montana) under the present system.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 02/21/2020 - 10:27 am.

      That would merely make the (almost exclusively Repub) tactic of gerrymandering districts even more critical to the outcome. As a bonus, the (democratically illegitimate) 5 man Trump majority on the Supreme Court just ruled that the Constitution does not prohibit gerrymandering, a conclusion contrary to that reached by every other lower federal court to address the matter.

      There is no way to make the electoral college into a democratically legitimate mechanism. The only thing a serious modern (democratic) nation would do is scrap the ridiculous thing entirely. But of course, we are not a serious nation, and cannot be as long as the “conservative” movement hold power.

  11. Submitted by joe smith on 02/20/2020 - 03:55 pm.

    Typical in America 2020, can’t win the game blame the rules. “It’s not fair” is the calling card of 2020, everyone needs to get a trophy. The saddest part of Mr. Black’s article is the pathetic voter turnout by Americans, must ask why? When folks don’t engage it is because they feel no ownership or feel hopeless to change the situation. No matter the nostalgia of Mr. Black’s article (candidates today need to stay home and somehow folks will be motivated and vote for you), we need to stimulate our population to get involved in the 2020 process. Reaching the shrinking middle class was the key to President Trump’s landslide Electoral victory. President Trump’s keeping of his promises to help them will energize those folks in November. Saying those same folks votes don’t count, as Democrats have done for 25 years, is the Left’s demise.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 02/21/2020 - 10:07 am.

      Somewhat hilariously, you don’t seem to understand that one of the principal indictments against the electoral college is that it suppresses voter interest (and turnout) in non-swing states. Nor do you understand that the problem is not that “those [angry Trump] folks votes don’t count”, it’s that they count too much!

      The very concept of a “swing state” is disgusting and anti-democratic.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 02/21/2020 - 10:53 am.

        BK, completely false. If there wasn’t an Electoral college the 10 major metropolitan areas would elect every President and middle America would have no say. Voter turnout would be worse.

        • Submitted by BK Anderson on 02/21/2020 - 11:14 am.

          Yep, absolutely no members of “middle America” living in those cities! (which almost certainly includes suburbs as well.)

          You need to work on your euphemisms…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/21/2020 - 11:15 am.

          The people living in those areas, representing the majority of the population.

          Why are the opinions/interests of the people in rural areas somehow superior to those of the people in urban areas?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/21/2020 - 10:16 am.

      Nice case for an oligarchy.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/21/2020 - 10:18 am.

      Ok, Still waiting for that check from Mexico for the wall, rather than robbing our military families of places to live………….. keep up the dunning Kruger effect, you wear it nicely.

  12. Submitted by Connor OKeefe on 02/25/2020 - 08:53 am.

    I’ve got a bit of cold water for lefty’s counting on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to skirt the Electoral College.

    The framers were, once again, smarter than you folks give them credit for being. Article 1, section 10 of the US Constitution says:

    “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State…”

    There is zero chance Congress will approve this jaded attempt to usurp the power of people living in smaller states to shape the country which they are a part of.

    You’ll just have to convince the grounded, common sense people in the American heartland that California is a great blueprint for everyone.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/25/2020 - 10:46 am.

      The real reason the EC reform is unlikely to happen is that too many members of the current Congress owe their seats to the current system. Some small state Senators would be voting themselves out of office,

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/25/2020 - 03:55 pm.

      First, the compact is not necessarily an agreement. Its purposes could be accomplished by individual states legislating that their electors must abide by the national popular vote.

      Second, you’re saying Congress would protect small states (because they are so important in the scheme of things) by not giving effect to something their own elected representatives want.

      “You’ll just have to convince the grounded, common sense people in the American heartland that California is a great blueprint for everyone.”

      Since California is the most populous state in the nation I would say the people have made that decision.

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