Dreaming of Democracy: High Time to Nullify the Electoral College
A national direct elections compact concluded by the major states is the only way to ensure that future U.S. Presidents will have been elected by a plurality of Americans.
- Trump appears to have lost to Clinton by well over two million votes, a result he describes as a “mandate.”
- Under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, by the 2020 elections, winner of the popular vote will automatically become President.
- The Electoral College system gives more representation to empty space in some states than to people living in others.
Five American Presidents have moved into the White House despite their losing the popular vote. Three of them were — or in the case of Donald Trump, promise to be — disasters.
Disaster No. 1: He Who Gave Us “Jim Crow”
In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes was beaten by Sam Tilden of New York by well over a quarter million votes. Undeterred, Hayes and his cronies cut a deal. (Yes, there were “dealmakers” long before Donald Trump…).
In exchange for ending the enforcement of Reconstruction laws that protected newly freed slaves in the defeated American South, Hayes and his cronies miraculously received all of 20 “disputed” electoral votes. That gave him a one vote electoral college “victory.”
The United States is still living down not only the shame of the “Jim Crow” era, but also the devastating effect that its still all-too-pervasive spirit has on millions of our fellow citizens.
Disaster No. 2: He Who Gave Us the Iraq War and the Great Recession
George W. Bush lost to Al Gore in 2000 by more than 540,000 votes. Bush’s “victory” gave us the Cheney Presidency.
This White House occupant admittedly ignored clear warnings of imminent attack by Bin-Laden’s Al-Quaeda, launched the disasterous Iraq war and presided over the unfolding of the greatest economic crisis since the great depression.
Not to worry though: The U.S.’s real financial elites were not only held harmless, but came up even bigger winners after the crisis than they were before. From Cheney’s vantage point, that was the real “mission accomplished.”
Disaster No. 3: And Then There was Donald
Donald Trump appears to have lost to Hillary Clinton by well over two million votes, a result he describes as a “mandate.”
So far, Trump has promised us a Breitbart White House. And that may turn out to be the good news. With a few rare exceptions, Trump has assembled a singularly inauspicious (and uninspiring) gaggle of cabinet, department head and advisor nominees.
Most of them appear to be, like the President-elect, unprepared for their office, inexperienced, inappropriate, tainted by conflicts of interest or worse. The whole process has an undeniable late 19th Vienna fin-de siècle spirit hanging over it.
Worse, these individuals almost universally stand for ideas most Americans hold in contempt, as they did their President elect before they gave him his back-handed access to the Oval Office.
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s apparent nominee for U.S. Secretary of State, for example, has spent his entire professional life as an oil company executive.
His company, Exxon Mobil, is noted for, among many other sketchy behaviors, cutting deals with Vladimir Putin and his corrupt pals, as well as for the secret funding of fake science for profit.
Treasury? Slated for control by Steven Mnuchin, a tax-cuts-for-the-rich advocate with a reputation for foreclosure on debts that should never have been contracted in the first place. A man who made a fortune profiting off the misery of others.
Justice? Jeff Sessions is a Selma-born Alabama-brand “law and order” Senator. He was previously turned down for a judgeship for racist remarks, but (surprise) is extremely popular in the state that gave us George Wallace.
Labor? We get fries with that order, from Andrew Puzder, the CEO of a fast food restaurant chain noted for not only bad food but low wages and what appear to be widespread and chronic violations of the laws. Which says it all about the country’s future top official charged with enforcing U.S. labor laws..
Health and Human Services? A Georgia Republican and vocal opponent of a woman’s right to chose, personally and totally devoted to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Environmental Protection? An Oklahoma oil-country lawyer who thinks himself qualified to deny climate change and seek the end of “burdensome” regulations on polluters and their pals.
Nullify Electoral College
Given the Trump nominating record to date, few traditional Republicans (like myself) and centrist voters would have ever thought that, by comparison, quite a few of George W. Bush’s nominess were actually quite enlightened.
With this past as pologue, we as a countrycan do better than this. One big step forward would be to nullify the “Electoral College” and make sure the President was supported by more voters than his or her opponent.
The American “Electoral College” is itself is rooted in some of the worst of our founding father’s anti-democratic biases. It reeks of:
- Disdain for the very notion of one-man-one-vote,
- disdain for political parties in general
- a firm conviction that the President should be elected without true national campaigns ever taking place.
Slavishly beholden to the founding “fathers”?
The same founders, you will remember, allowed neither women nor slaves to vote. However, in their infinite wisdom, they allowed states that did allow slavery to count slaves as 60% of a “person” (for purposes of determining how much representation said state would receive in Congress).
This helped determine how much “electoral college clout” each state was to receive.
The system they came up with, to this day, gives a Wyoming resident well over three times the “Electoral College Clout” than a Pennsylvania resident.
In essence, the system gives more representation to empty space in some states than to people living in others.
Any way out?
What can be done about this anti-democratic anomaly?
Don’t even think about amending the Constitution. An amendment requires approval by three-fourths of the states, most of them are currently over-represented (and thus have no interested whatsoever to change the current system).
The only alternative, shocking as it may seem, depends on “nullification” and “states’ rights.”
A compact for a democratic future
If enough states agree to something called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (the NPVIC) by the 2020 elections, the winner of the popular vote will automatically become President.
States who are part of this compact agree to award ALL their electoral votes to whichever candidate for President wins the popular vote nationwide, even if that candidate did NOT win in all the states who are part of the compact.
Ten states and the District, together representing 165 Electoral votes of the 270 needed to elect a President, 31% of the entire Electoral College, and 61% of the votes necessary to make the compact binding, have already signed up.
Given our constitution and our history, the NPVIC seems the ONLY way we will ever be able to avoid another Trump trap.