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Weekend Conversation – Defending the Electoral College

Image: Red/blue voting patterns by country in 2020. Courtesy of the New York Times.

In this installment of Weekend Conversation, PF Whalen and Parker Beauregard of The Blue State Conservative defend the uniquely American system of choosing their commander-in-chief. The Electoral College, like other sacred American institutions, is under attack and on the chopping block if Democrats gain control of the Senate.

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Parker: A New York Times piece, written by one of its editors for December 14th, laid out arguments against the Electoral College. The most disturbing aspect of this entire piece is not that an editor at the Times thinks this way, but that he was able to quote several constitutional professors and lawyers agreeing with him. Any human being claiming to be a font of knowledge for the U.S. Constitution that opposes the Electoral College is a fraud. Come to think of it, we have at least three of them on the U.S. Supreme Court right now. 

The Electoral College is eloquently summarized by this outstanding (and most ever viewed) PragerU video from around the 2016 election cycle. It is closing in on 70 million views. In short, the presenter outlines three basic premises. 1) Because pure democracies don’t work (“they’re like two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner”), it better protects the minority populations from a tyrannical. 2) Because candidates would only campaign in large cities in the largest states, it ensures a broad coalition across the country.  3) Because swing states often change (although not enough in 2020), it prevents against the fraud. 

Now, more than ever, each of these concepts is critically vital for the continuation of our republic. To the first point, California and New York, having run their own states into the ground, would have the power to harm the rest of the country. That’s not an enticing prospect. To the second point, we are more fractured ideologically than ever before; the benefit of a winning president, who has built the largest coalition of the greatest number of voters and states, should be obvious. To the third point, we just experienced the worst case of election fraud in American history. I don’t think this point needs explaining. If the Democrats can rig votes in a system where swing states change all the time, think how easy it would be to dump votes anywhere?

PF:  It seems clear that the strategy of the Left and their media regarding the Electoral College is two-pronged. The first approach is to delegitimize the Electoral College to garner enough support nationwide to ultimately repeal-and-replace the process as documented in Article 2 and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution; but achieving that goal seems highly unlikely. In order to amend the Constitution, they would need approval of two-thirds in both houses of Congress, and then three-fourths of the states to ratify it. It’s hard to decide which is more unlikely at this point, since both seem virtually impossible.

Their second approach is to circumvent the Electoral College through the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), which is potentially more viable but also seems unlikely. There are currently fifteen states who have signed on to the NPVIC controlling 196 electoral votes, and the agreement between these states is that they will all assign their electors based on the national popular vote. However, all fifteen of those states are blue or dark-blue states, and not a single red state is likely to sign on to the agreement. In other words, the NPVIC is currently irrelevant. And though I don’t have any formal training in Constitutional law, from what I’ve read the NPVIC is likely to be brought before the Supreme Court eventually, at which point it will almost certainly be tossed out.  

So, I think we can at least take comfort in knowing that the Electoral College is here to stay for the foreseeable future, in all likelihood. Therefore, we see an obvious question, with an even more obvious answer. Q: What is their motivation in bad-mouthing the Electoral College? A: To divide the country, as they do with every other issue. They view the Electoral College as an obstacle to their acquisition and consolidation of power, so if they can’t destroy it, they will instead settle for division.

Parker: Like you said, there is both a culture war against it and a political one. While the political front would hit roadblocks in the Supreme Court and/or in the demanding Constitutional requirements of amendment passage, the culture war is the easier (for them) and more frightening (for us) prospect.

Consider the timing of this conversation. We initiated our exchange last Sunday night and early Monday morning. As the electors met this past week to vote for the next presidential term, and especially given that the leftist discourse is one of loathing toward the uniquely American democratic safeguard (see my points above), it was timely and relevant to defend the quadrennially-bashed College. Lo and behold, not a few hours later after this conversation was being word-smithed than Hillary Clinton tweeted out this abomination:

I believe we should abolish the Electoral College and select our president by the winner of the popular vote, same as every other office.

But while it still exists, I was proud to cast my vote in New York for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 14, 2020

It is appalling and a complete disgrace that a former first lady, former U.S. Senator, and former presidential candidate that lived and breathed American politics and history, as well as pledged multiple times to defend and uphold the Constitution, would so readily abolish it. No matter how often the left tried to say that Donald Trump was stepping on the Constitution, time and again they project their disregard for it – Electoral College, free press, free speech, gun rights, etc. Does it end? In terms of the culture, influential voices like hers do lasting damage in the national perception of governmental features. Since culture is upstream of politics, it is then only a matter of time before the political landscape catches up. In my mind, that means changes. Bad changes.

This New York Times piece and the Clinton tweet capture the main argument against the Electoral College. Because it is not strictly a popular vote, they argue that is inherently unfair. That misses the point, though. We live in a federated republic of fifty states. We are unified by a national government in many ways, but the founders intended our states to capture the mood and culture of its own people. Is this not obvious when looking at the values of people in states like Oregon and Alabama? Oregon has a national voice and Alabama has its; the more people living there, the larger the voice. Of course, the left doesn’t like autonomy – of people or of states – that leaves the federal government on the outside. Therefore, dismantling republicanism vis-à-vis state sovereignty is one more pursuit towards unilateral authoritarianism.

PF: Like so much of the rhetoric from the Left, they say one thing but mean another. There’s no doubt that their opposition to the Electoral College is about power and not democracy. The Electoral College is in place to eliminate mob rule, but mob rule is what they want; for now. They see the margins in the popular vote and interpret those margins as massive support for their positions. But I believe there’s about to be a dramatic shift in that support, and that shift will manifest itself over the next four years.

Also typical of the Left is their inability to provide evidence and facts to support their positions. An argument we hear from them when bashing the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote is that “we need to be like the other countries.” In writing a piece that was published by The Western Journal in August, I decided to research that assertion and find out just how true it was. 

If we consider the nations with the top ten economies in the world, only two of them – France and Brazil – elect their leaders with the popular vote. In addition, not only do Germany and India, who are also in the top ten, use the Electoral College system, it turns out that Germany’s choice in switching to the Electoral College has interesting origins. In a piece I cited from 2016 from the Washington Post, author Rick Noack explained that Germany abandoned the popular vote in favor an Electoral College system to prevent the rise of another Hitler. Post-war Germany recognized the evils of mob rule, but modern American leftists can’t. Or won’t. 

It’s also worth noting that the most common form of electoral process among economic powerhouses is the parliamentary system, which is used in countries like Canada, Japan and the U.K. Considering that such systems require elected officials to then form a government, including the election of their Prime Ministers, those countries use a system that’s even further from the popular vote than the Electoral College process. But the Left won’t let facts get in the way of their agenda.

Parker: If you didn’t get around to citing your piece, I was going to mention it. You provide some really compelling arguments, in addition to the outline I shared in the PragerU video. 

A few weeks back we conducted a postmortem of the media establishment and explored how truth and information might better be disseminated in conservative circles. I mention this because we have, in this article alone, cited some powerhouse alternatives – PragerU and Western Journal – and now I am going to include Humana Events.

You and I have both been published multiple times at Human Events. They’re a fantastic online magazine, with intelligent analysis and evidence-based claims. One of their more recent articles brought up an interesting point about disenfranchisement vis-à-vis the Electoral College system. However, it’s not the kind of hysterical and mendacious disenfranchisement envisioned by the Times and the Left. The author mentions how rural voters – i.e., conservative voters – lose out in a pure majority system because urban centers and mainstream culture already impose themselves on the less influential rural denizens. As he puts it, rural attitudes are already marginalized based on cultural attitudes, such as television mostly portraying urban settings, and even how city slickers have greater access to the arts, sports, and other hubs of reinforcing cultural norms. It isn’t a complaint of his, merely an observation.

It is another irony; the Left, the supposed defender of “the minority,” is disparaging a system that is inherently designed to protect the minority. In this case, it’s a cultural minority composed of vast numbers of rural dwellers and voters. An entire paragraph is worthy of a quote:

Without the Electoral College, rural interests would be considered even less important than they already are. Presidential candidates would have no compelling reason to campaign in states like New Hampshire (4 electoral votes), or Wyoming (3 electoral votes), or Idaho (4 electoral votes), or Mississippi (6 electoral votes). Upon winning the office, a President would have no motivation to address rural concerns outside of altruistic benevolence. Considering that urban interests are already privileged at the level of state politics, eliminating the Electoral College would add another layer to the political discrimination already heaped upon rural groups by their state governments—disenfranchisement at the national level.”

I had never considered this before, but it’s an interesting and logically-sound position. For me, it’s just one more way the Founders demonstrated their sheer intelligence and simultaneously one more way the political left has utter contempt for American systems and values.

PF:  It’s an excellent point, and next to their thirst for power it’s the main reason the Left wants to dismantle the Electoral College. Not only does the Left dismiss rural Americans, they despise them. They are, after all, the epitome of Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” and Barack Obama’s “bitter clingers.” The more irrelevant the Left can make them, the better. 

Of all of the aspects of President Trump’s handling of the COVID pandemic, in my opinion the most important was his commitment throughout to Federalism. Our federal government is important; it’s critical, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. Trump rightfully recognized the need to have local officials make critical decisions such as if/when to lock down, and how supplies should be prioritized. State, county and municipal authorities are much more in tune with local resources and challenges than Washington bureaucrats. States matter and the Electoral College is critical to states’ rights.

States matter because they reflect the values and culture of their citizens. They also provide those citizens with accountability, and the Left hates accountability. If state officials perform poorly, they are voted out of office. But with national elections that accountability becomes much more watered down, and if the Electoral College were to be scrapped there would be that much less accountability regarding the federal government. 

You mentioned the brilliance of our Founders, with the Electoral College being just one example of their foresight. Without the Electoral College it’s unlikely our country would have existed as long as it has, or that it would exist much longer were it to be abolished. Our friends on the Left may badmouth it, they may try to work around it with their NPVIC, and they may try their best negate aspects of it through the Judicial Branch, but it’s here to stay and America is better because of it.