After almost two and a half years, the post-Trump debate about how we as a country pick presidents has gotten incredibly tedious, probably because it’s not focused on the root problems behind it.
This week, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., reignited the debate about whether or not America should keep the Electoral College. Fellow candidates Robert Francis O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Mass., have since also expressed interest in getting rid of the constitutional process.
There are, of course, very good reasons why the framers opted against picking a president by national popular vote. Political thinkers from Aristotle to the Founding Fathers warned against the dangers of mob rule that go hand-in-hand with direct democracy. That’s why this country was founded as a republic and why electors choose the president, rather than the popular vote.
The Electoral College gives people throughout a voice that they wouldn’t otherwise have if the president were chosen by popular vote. It ensures that this country’s chief executive has to actually represent the entire country, rather than just the prevailing interests of its most populated areas. It also has ended up serving as a restraint on political party power.
In short, the Electoral College system is designed so that the president is chosen by groups of electors from every state. A state’s electoral votes are equal to its number of House members plus its two Senators. In that respect, it balances the concerns of more populous states that get more House members with less populous states whose interests are better represented in the Senate, where representation is fixed.
Without it, the president would be chosen more by the California coast and the megalopolis between Washington, D.C. and Boston and less by the whole of the republic. After all, why pay lip service to the concerns of farmers in rural states when you can reach millions in coastal cities without ever having to tweak your talking points?
But its opponents argue that it’s an outdated system designed for a Constitution that included slavery and didn’t give women the vote, one that unfairly disenfranchises people in more populous states.
The real challenge for defenders of the Electoral College isn’t explaining why it still exists and has merit. It’s convincing angry people in a deeply divided country that fellow citizens who don’t share their experience, culture, or worldview still deserve a say in how things are run.
And therein lies the real argument: Some people want only the urban liberal enclaves to decide the future of the executive branch.
In a country that has become as politically balkanized as ours has in the Trump era, it’s one thing to explain that the Electoral College gives a voice to people who don’t live in a densely populated urban center; it’s quite another to make the case for a system that put Donald Trump in the Oval Office when so many people’s politics seem to be so driven by anger, anxiety, and in some cases derangement about the current president.
The focused animosity toward Trump makes it easier for Electoral College attackers to make the case that voters in America’s deep-blue metropolitan areas should be able to run roughshod over the rest of the country, which is what would happen if the EC were abolished.
And since the ultimate leftist goal is “progress” through government action, saying the EC is “outdated” and handing urban leftist bastions the power to pick the president is a great way to accomplish that. If one truly believes that progressive and socialist policies are good for everyone, then running roughshod over the concerns of your fellow citizens elsewhere in the country is really for their own good, right?
Fortunately, the framers saw this sort of tyrannical temptation as a possibility, which is why they created an Electoral College in the first place.