The Gathering Threat to the Electoral College—and to the U.S. SenateThe left has a hot new cause: getting rid of the Electoral College. And if the left succeeds in doing away with that venerable institution, its next target, the U.S. Senate, will fall like a dried apple.
As is so often the case with leftist causes these days; the spearhead is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; being social-media-savvy and telegenic, she’s the star of the progressive A-Team.
Way back on October 6, 2018, AOC was tweeting:
It is well past time we eliminate the Electoral College, a shadow of slavery’s power on America today that undermines our nation as a democratic republic.
Just on August 20, she ripped into the Electoral College again, calling it a “scam… racial injustice,” which “effectively weighs white voters over voters of color.” What was needed instead, she continued, is a “one person, one vote system,” in which “all our votes are counted equally.” AOC was pointing to such possible “reforms” as a national popular vote, which would do away with, of course, the Electoral College.
Then, on August 23, she launched a further tweet-storm against the College:
If the GOP were the “silent majority” they claim, they wouldn’t be so scared of a popular vote. They *know* they aren’t the majority. They rely on establishing minority rule for power.
The Electoral College isn’t about fairness at all; it’s about empowering some voters over others. Every vote should be = in America, no matter who you are or where you come from. The right thing to do is establish a Popular Vote. & GOP will do everything they can to fight it.
In response, a few brave Republicans jumped into the social-media melee. On August 21, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa tweeted, “Actually @AOC, eliminating the Electoral College would silence our voices here in Iowa and in many other states across the country.” Ernst, who is up for re-election next year, then added a further dig: “This is just more evidence of how out of touch the Democrats have become.”
We might pause over Ernst’s words: The Hawkeye State lawmaker is shrewdly juxtaposing “our voices here in Iowa” with “out of touch” Democrats. So we can see: Ernst is seeking to rally the interests of her small state (six electoral votes) against the views of AOC’s big state (29 electoral votes).
Since Ernst is running in Iowa, it’s smart for her to stick up for Iowa. To be sure, New Yorkers see it differently—but that’s no surprise. What would be surprising is if anyone in Iowa thought it was in Iowa’s best interest to bow down to New York.
Two days later, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas also tweeted back at AOC:
Abolishing the Electoral College means that politicians will only campaign in (and listen to) urban areas. That is not a representative democracy. We live in a republic, which means 51% of the population doesn’t get to boss around the other 49%.
We can admire Crenshaw’s stipulation that the U.S. is a “republic.” He’s quite right, of course, insofar as James Madison’s Constitution explicitly lays out a formula for a mixed government, aimed at thwarting both tyranny and mob rule. (The nuances of such small “r” republicanism were once the staple of high-school civics classes—that is, the “old-fashioned” education that lamentably disappeared amidst the newfangled quest for relevance and political correctness.)
Yet in the meantime, unhindered by concerns about the Constitution, the anti-Electoral College juggernaut rolls on; other prominent Democrats have come out in support of its abolition, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Stacey Abrams, the woman who will never admit that she didn’t win last year’s Georgia gubernatorial election.
Also, speaking for our friends in Hollywood, here’s Barbra Streisand; she, or at least her ghost writer, adds her voice to the anti-Electoral College cause:
The 14th Amendment of our Constitution actualized what many of the Founders wanted, promoting equal protection under the law for all Americans. If I could, I would end the antiquated Electoral College. Twice in the last 20 years the popular vote winner was denied the presidency. This is an assault on our democratic principles, where the dictum should hold true: one person, one vote.
It is, indeed, true that in 2000 and 2016, the Democrat presidential candidate won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College, thus losing the White House. Indeed, leading MSM observers — writing recently for NBC News and the New York Times — have argued that it could happen again in 2020.
Yet if the Electoral College can sometimes go against the national-vote majority, what’s the argument in favor of it? Why should we support the 18th-century Constitution in light of 21st century popular passions?
Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute argues that the Electoral College is permanently valuable because it requires an actual majority to choose a president; it thus confers legitimacy on the victor. That’s because the College includes a mechanism for a kind of runoff within the Congress, such that the eventual winner must gain a majority of Electoral Votes. This runoff feature is vital, because it eliminates the possibility that a fringe candidate could sneak through to victory with a mere plurality of the popular ballots cast.
Perhaps even more importantly, it’s also worth emphasizing that the Electoral College was central to our constitutional founding; it was the brilliant political compromise that enabled the forming of a robust union in the first place. You see, back in 1787, the small states, such as Delaware and Vermont, insisted on the College as the price for ratifying the Constitution and joining the union. To put that another way, if it were not for the Electoral College, there might never have been a United States. (As an aside, today, both Delaware and Vermont are strongly Democrat.)
One group making a strong constitutional defense of the Electoral College is the American Legislative Exchange Council; ALEC, an assembly of state legislators from across the nation, argues:
The Electoral College respects and protects states within our constitutional republic. It has balanced the interests of rural and urban states, requiring serious presidential candidates and political parties to attract support from a genuine cross-section of the American public, for the past 58 presidential elections.
To put that another way, if we were to start revising the 230-year-old precedent of the Electoral College, we’d be at risk of revising everything—and not for the better.
Moreover, we can add an important additional point: If we got rid of the Electoral College, we’d also be getting rid of the U.S. Senate.