The left’s attacks on the Electoral College are all about political power

By Jarrett Stepman | The Daily Signal

It seems that there isn’t a prominent progressive left in America who hasn’t come out in favor of abolishing the Electoral College.

The latest is Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who called for an end to our 200-plus-year-old presidential election system on Twitter earlier this month.

Sanders didn’t explain why he wanted to ditch the Electoral College (it was a tweet after all), but it’s interesting that as a senator from a small state, he has benefited enormously from the supposedly “undemocratic” nature of the American political system.

So much for one man, one vote.


Many progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., advocate abolishing the Electoral College.

Suggesting that the Electoral College defeat for Hillary Clinton suddenly means that it is outdated or doesn’t work is without merit.

As a hypothetical, let’s say the shoe was on the other foot, and that Republicans currently had an Electoral College disadvantage. Would the mainstream media still be focused on abolishing the institution or running countless stories about how the GOP can’t win over voters and needs to abandon conservatism to win?

It doesn’t take long to answer that question.

As I’ve written before, the Framers of the Constitution created the Electoral College as a way to select presidents who could gather broad-based support around the country.

The system is somewhat skewed in favor of small states, as the total number of Electoral College votes of each state is dependent on the size of a state’s Senate and House delegation.

Since every state has two senators, small states have that edge, though not so much that the large states aren’t still far more important to win.

The implications of this are twofold. Small states collectively can check the power of large ones, and more importantly, presidential candidates mustappeal to states as states, not to the nation as a giant, undifferentiated mass.

Even some blue-leaning states have grasped this, as Maine and Nevada recently rejected proposals to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact movement.

As my colleague Hans von Spakovsky wrote: “Under the compact, smaller states like Maine and Nevada would suffer the most under the inevitable tyranny of the most populous states.”

In that sense, the Electoral College is “undemocratic,” as is much of our political system. The Bill of Rights, for instance, is highly democratic. Certain individual rights have been protected from majoritarian rule.

The Founders had differing views on democracy, but few saw it as an unalloyed good. The current system, where states rely on a popular vote to select electors provides that balance of both federalism and democracy.

It preserves federalism (and minorities’ rights), protects the system against election fraud, and has produced a remarkably stable system for selecting presidents in the world’s oldest constitutional republic.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, the Electoral College isn’t perfect, but it is “excellent.”

Why would we want to change now?

There have been countless distortions about the original intent of the Electoral College in this debate, as well as more serious criticisms, but the tenor of the movement to abolish it is veering toward naked partisanship.

Democrats won solidly in the Electoral College as recently as 2012, in which the so-called Rust Belt—comprising states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania—was considered a “Blue Wall” and impenetrable for Republicans.

It took a candidate like Donald Trump, with a very different message, to break through and win, as Clinton ignored the region to target other voters. That served to boost her popular vote totals—but cost her the election.

Far from an indictment of the Electoral College, the 2016 results showed how the system is supposed to work.

Again, presidential candidates have to appeal to states as states. While Pennsylvania, for instance, had been a reliably blue state in presidential elections since the 1990s, voters were trending in another direction. The right candidate—Trump—flipped the state into the red column.

Now, our national conversation has changed to focus more on the concerns of Rust Belt voters,  as that region becomes a political battleground.

That’s a healthy development for a vast, diverse republic.

An empire may ignore the opinions and interests of places far removed from the centers of power, but a representative republic cannot do that if it wishes to survive.

Many on the left can’t handle that dilemma, and now want to change the rules of the game so they don’t have to bother winning back voters who cast their ballots for Democrats less than a decade ago.

It absolutely follows the pattern of the modern left. From the Senate to the Supreme Court, the American left turns immediately and ruthlessly against any institution it doesn’t control.

That’s disturbingly shortsighted.

Not only are the small states that the Electoral College benefits fairly evenly divided between the parties, there is certainly no guarantee that the current urban/rural split will continue in the future.

It perhaps would be a more productive use of time for those on the left to assess why they are losing voters, rather than frantically trying to change the rules of the game to simply cut them out of the equation.

Fortunately, the Founding Fathers predicted human frailty and shortsightedness, and crafted a Constitution that was hard to change, except by the high bar of the amendment process—which the National Popular Vote Compact is intended to circumvent, albeit unconstitutionally.

Images courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr and Flickr/AFGE

15 thoughts on “The left’s attacks on the Electoral College are all about political power

  1. Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren To Decriminalize Illegal Border Crossings If Elected President

    As Democrat presidential candidates wrap up this week’s debates, two leading candidates are facing criticism for their positions regarding immigration.

    1) The more Bernie/Warren Socialism, the higher the trade deficits.

    Foreigners, especially China, would like to see Bernie and Warren become President, so the US would become more Socialist and more dysfunctional, and have higher trade deficits.

    2) Wake up people.

    Mexico is playing ball with Trump for the time being to prevent US duties on Mexico exports. It would kill their economy.
    But make no mistake, Socialist Mexico has allied itself with Socialist Democrats to erase the southern border, send over millions more marginal, illiterate, needy, unskilled Mexicans/Hispanics.

    Mexico would effectively be reconquering the southern US states that used to belong to Mexico.
    As part of this devils bargain, Democrats get more Democrat votes to permanently control/dominate federal and state governments.
    It is all about power.

  2. Anyone who wants to end the Electoral College doesn’t understand the framework of our country and should be ignored. How can one describe Bernie Sanders other than a simpleton? His greatest claim to fame is he got a Post Office renamed. It is truly amazing how someone who has accomplished practically nothing (except conning the unthinking into electing him) has convinced himself he knows absolutely everything. And to think he called Trump a narcissist.

  3. What’s going to happen when all these leftarded legislatures states end up having to vote for Trump and their state voted what ever imbecile the demontards anointed??? Will they scurry to amend their electoral votes back the way they were? I don’t want the country run by the idots the city dwellers elect as they’ve shown to choose the worst possible leaders..

  4. Certainly our babbling socialist wants to abolish the electoral college. That will assure the liberals/progressive/socialists and any other liberals to take control forever.
    It was established to protect all states and all the people. I think that we should move to an electoral college in this state so the bigger cities and towns don’t control every election like they do now.

  5. It’s a tribute to the founding father’s foresight that they created the electoral college. How in their wildest dreams could they have imagined the likes of California or Illinois for example? Further, if you deduct the New York, Illinois and Californis pluralities from the 2016 election, my guess is that Her Royal Highness would not faired as well in the popular vote as she did. The numbers are there, but it appears that they haven’t been published. Wonder why.

    • Had only New York City gone Republican, will never again happen, the numbers would have been in favour of the Republicans.

    • The Founders clearly did foresee factions (see Federalist #10 below). Pure democracies and commonwealths have been considered for millennia. Plato’s conceit. If not in CA, the prospect of overwhelming factions (i.e. the tyranny of the majority) has been a storied disaster. We also have a Senate based on equal representation despite population. We have due process and habeas corpus requiring unanimous jury verdicts (unless, of course, your name is Trump). We have The Bill of Rights!

      Bernie Sanders is just another example of the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    • The founders also gave us SENATORS APPOINTED by the legislatures of the respective states, and subject to serving at their pleasure subject to immediate recall and replacement. Since the states’ legislatures were subject to the voters the amount of power lost by the citizenry should be readily apparent. More detail below in another reply.

      • None the less, whether appointed by an elected State legislature or by direct vote of each State’s voters, each State has had two Senators regardless of its population from the beginning:

        …as passed by Congress May 13, 1912, and ratified April 8, 1913, the 17th amendment modified Article I, section 3, of the Constitution by allowing voters to cast direct votes for U.S. Senators. Prior to its passage, Senators were chosen by state legislatures….

        The point is that the Founders understood the perils of a ‘direct democracy’, explaining why the U.S. is a Constitutional Republic focused on checks and balances protecting individual rights.

  6. “From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” James Madison, Federalist #10

    • Thanking God at every opportunity for having been born into a democratic republic, and NOT a democracy ruled by mob mentality similar to what we’re beginning to sniff in the wind.

      Perhaps we might one day also manage to repeal the abominable Article XVII that moved us from a complex Republic to a simple republic much in the style of the Soviet Union, where States rights were lost and we were plunged into the democracy of which our forefathers warned is the vilest form of government because it always ends in oppression.

      Something to bear uppermost in mind if ever a Convention is called to amend the Constitution.

      Article XVII, to refresh anyone’s recall of high school Civics, instituted ELECTION of senators replacing senators being APPOINTED by the respective states’ legislatures. Those were also subject to RECALL BY THOSE SAME LEGISLATURES whose members were directly answerable to the citizenry. Perhaps this might emphasize how much power we have lost as voters.

      • I forgot an important point:
        Does anyone find it to be the least coincidental that the date of Article XVII was 1913. the same year that we got the Income tax and the beginnings of the Federal Reserve under Article XVI, which possibly was ratified by only FOUR states?
        “The Creature From Jekyll Island” –G. Edward Griffin–tells the whole story. Anyone read it? Anyone give a rat’s patootie?
        This Electoral College stuff is important although such a small piece in the big puzzle. But it does generate discussion.

  7. Eliminating the electoral college would result nation-wide in what we see in Vermont where the liberals control Burlington, and Burlington controls the state legislature. — that’s why Mr. BS wants to change it.

    • Ed, great analogy. The population centers like Burlington control all of Vt. What is good for Burlington isn’t necessarily what’s best for the northeast kingdom, yet Burlington and Montpelier are constantly shoving taxes, regulations and policy down our throats. Many of the things coming out of Montpelier have one main purpose….to help liberals feel smart and morally superior.

      • You make an important point, Matt. Vermont’s State Senate districting divides the 30 members into three single-member districts, six two-member districts, three three-member districts, and one six-member district.

        The one six-member district is Chittenden.

        NH, on the other hand, has one State Senator from each district. Franconia, for example, has the same representation as Manchester.

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