Every four years, the bizarre, undemocratic institution at the heart of American democracy, the Electoral College, gets more vocal detractors. That is particularly the case in years like this one, when the mechanism awards the presidency to the runner-up in the national popular vote, Donald Trump.
“The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump,” Michael Moore wrote on Facebook post Wednesday. “The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College.”
Urged on by Lady Gaga, more than a million people signed a petition on Thursday calling on the electors, when they meet next month, to ignore the current rules, which bind them to voting for the winner of their state and cast their ballots instead for the winner of the popular vote, Hillary Clinton.
While Clinton is ahead in the popular vote, and has a lead that is expected to grow, there is no reason to think any of the party loyalists appointed to those positions would even consider such a move. Still, it is remarkable that it would take just 38 electors from states that voted for Trump, or just the Texas delegation, to cast their votes the other way to make Clinton president.
The situation is mirrored to an extent by the fact that far more votes were cast on Tuesday for Democratic Senate candidates than Republicans — 45.3 million to 39.5 million at last count — yet the Democrats gained just two seats.
The widespread carping with the system is not new. As Five Thirty Eight reports, “there have been more proposed constitutional amendments to change the Electoral College than any other topic (700 proposals in Congress in the last 200 years!).” Gallup found in 2011 that 62 percent of Americans favor eliminating the institution.
To avoid the need for a Constitutional amendment, reformers have been working to get states to adopt the National Popular Vote bill, in which they promise to award their electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationally. So far, it has been enacted into law in 11 states, with a total of 165 electoral votes, and will take effect when adopted by states with 105 more, guaranteeing 270 electoral votes, a winning margin, to the popular vote winner.
In perhaps the supreme demonstration that Trump’s passionately stated views on politics are transactional, just four years ago, on the night that President Obama was declared the electoral-vote winner before all the ballots had been counted, the developer called for people take to the streets in “a revolution” to end the Electoral College.
Trump’s Twitter tirade that night was sparked by his mistaken belief that Mitt Romney had won the popular vote.
Minutes after the polls had closed on the West Coast that night, at 11 p.m Eastern Time, the broadcast networks called the election for Obama on the safe, and accurate, assumption that he would win overwhelmingly in California, Oregon and Washington. Clearly not understanding that these states would ensure that Obama would go on to win the popular vote, even though he was trailing in that count as the projection was made, Trump launched into a Twitter tirade.
Trump subsequently deleted some of those tweets, but screenshots were saved by several readers, including a New York magazine writer.
His final word on the subject from that night, calling the system “a disaster,” remains on the social network.
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012