On Monday the Electoral College certified that Donal Trump will be our next president. We also seem to have some closure on the margin by which Donald Trump lost the popular vote. Mrs. Clinton won that vote by nearly three million votes, which represents a little more than a 2% margin to her advantage.
There’s no complaining about the methodology for this election – the Electoral College is the system we had going in, and everyone knew it. That does not mean it is the best system. The real question to ask is, should the people elect the president, or should states elect the president? I don’t see a strong argument for the necessity of the choice being up to states as opposed to the people. States get equal representation irrespective of population in the Senate, which is arguably the more powerful body of the two houses of Congress,especially with respect to specific checks on Executive power. Concerns over cabinet appointments and Supreme Court appointments are addressed specifically by the Senate, as they are empowered to”advise and consent” on these very significant positions. The notion of states needing to mitigate the choice for president is without merit.
Some express concern that a president could be selected with less than a majority under a straight popular vote system. This is technically true, but highly unlikely based on the way our party systems functions. In any case, the Electoral College only provides a facade of a clear majority by providing (in all but two states) 100% of the electoral votes to the winner in the state, meaning that in a race with three strong candidates the winner could be someone with only 34% of the overall popular vote and still win in an electoral landslide. Or, like this year and 2000 (and several occasions in the 19th century) the electoral winner could have less than the majority of popular votes. This argument of concern over a winner with only a plurality seems positively silly in the face of these events.
Other arguments center on the fact that this country is not a direct democracy. That is correct; it is a representative democracy. Ina direct democracy every citizen would vote on every issue and piece of legislation, which would be ridiculous given our vastness in both physical size and population. But we have a direct popular vote for every other representative in the country, local, state, and federal. There is no strong argument for an exception in presidential elections, save for the historical reasons involving giving more power to slave-states, where vast majorities of the population couldn’t vote. (Not at all a historical remnant worth preserving, in my opinion.)
Still others point out that it would be hard to change the current system. This is also true. The electoral college is part of the original constitution and is further elaborated and slightly modified by the 12th Amendment. A constitutional amendment is required to modify the system, and that would require the buy-in from a large number of sparsely populated states that currently perceive a benefit from the current system. Modification would be a VERY tough sell. But the fact that the endeavor would be difficult does not mean that the endeavor is not worth undertaking.
For what it’s worth, I will continue advocate for a system where the population – as opposed to vast expanses of uninhabited land – chooses the president. States draw ample protection for their respective interests via the Senate, the House of Representatives, and their respective governors and state legislatures. They do not need to undermine the decisions of the people, regardless where the people live.