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  • Electoral College
    Forget it, Democrats. The Electoral College will never be repealed
    Jake Novak | @jakejakeny
    5 Hours
    Protestors demonstrate against President-elect Donald Trump outside Independence Hall November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Getty Images
    Protestors demonstrate against President-elect Donald Trump outside Independence Hall November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    Now that it looks like Hillary Clinton did indeed win the popular vote over Donald Trump, Democrats and Left Wing activists are loudly calling to repeal the Electoral College. Former Attorney General Eric Holder even appeared on national TV Friday night promising to work to get rid of it. It just doesn't seem fair to so many Americans that the candidate who got the most overall votes isn't the winner. But let's make something really clear: We're never getting rid of the Electoral College. There isn't even the remotest chance.

    First, let's look at the sheer logistics. Abolishing the Electoral College would require a Constitutional Amendment. To do that, an amendment must first be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. Because Representatives and Senators from the smaller states make up more than a third of the Congress, that's really already a dead letter.

    But let's check our math: Two-thirds of the full 435-member House of Representatives is 290 votes. And even if every Representative in every large Democratic Party-controlled state voted for the amendment, it wouldn't be anywhere near the 290 votes needed. And that's in the House, where the larger states are more heavily represented.

    In the Senate, where every state gets two seats no matter the size, you'd need to find at least nine of the 42 Senators who represent states with six or fewer electoral votes to vote against their own interests and join 100 percent of the 58 Senators who come from those bigger states to vote to abolish the Electoral College. That's not going to happen.

    "The Electoral College was just one of the many safeguards the Framers of the Constitution installed to make sure essential individual rights could never be voted away by the tyranny of a simple majority."

    The convention of the states is an even bigger stretch, as you'd need to have 33 states, 12 of which have fewer than 10 electoral votes, to go along. Dream on. Simply from a procedural point of view, you can really argue that there is no safer section of our Constitution than the Electoral College. It's continued existence is simply too important to too many states. Someone like former AG Holder should really know better and focus his efforts on a fight he can win.

    But it goes beyond that. Because a lot of Americans, no matter where they live, aren't too keen on the idea of the concerns of the big city-dwellers drowning out the issues important to the farmers and coal miners and autoworkers of this country. Just look at the interesting nature of just about every one of the eleven or so swing states.

    From Arizona to Colorado to Ohio to Wisconsin to Michigan, they each have an delicate population balance coming from large urban areas, medium sized cities, and rural areas. The battleground state of Ohio is an especially exquisite composite of the entire country with elements of the farm belt, rust belt, military bases, and upper middle class urban yuppie life all in one.

    Thus, you can't even win those swing states without addressing the issues that affect many of the smaller states the candidates from both parties usually never bother to visit. The Electoral College actually keeps our presidential candidates more in tune with more diverse parts of our population than the popular vote ever could. Without it, the candidates would just spend their time visiting and catering to the concerns of people in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, etc.

    And finally, the Electoral College was just one of the many safeguards the Framers of the Constitution installed to make sure essential individual rights could never be voted away by the tyranny of a simple majority. In case you haven't noticed, the political preferences of a large majority of voters in most of the major cities are the same.

    The concerns of even millions of different people tend to conform into near group-think when they're jammed into the same relatively small geographic area. Each of the top five cities in the U.S. all voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton by at least 72 percent last Tuesday. So much for diversity. To really get voices heard, candidates need to be forced to spread out over the country. The Electoral College ensures just that.

    America's news media, entertainment media, Corporate America, and academia already ensure that the urban and white collar elite in this country are well represented and protected economically and culturally. But the entire country needs political tools like the Electoral College to make sure all of the people are heard. Luckily, the very people the anti-Electoral College forces need to destroy it are the people who just so happen to need the Electoral College the most. And that's why it's here to stay.

    Commentary by Jake Novak, senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  • #2
    In defense of the Electoral College

    Mark MakelaGetty Images

    Protestors demonstrate against President-elect Donald Trump, Nov.13, in Philadelphia. The Republican candidate lost the popular vote by more than a million votes, but won the Electoral College.
    By Jeff Jacoby Globe Columnist November 15, 2016

    For at least the fourth time in US history, the incoming president isn’t the candidate who attracted the most votes on Election Day. Although Donald Trump is assured of a sizeable majority in the Electoral College, more individual Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. When all the ballots are finally tallied, Clinton’s popular-vote margin will likely surpass 1 million.

    Does that taint the legitimacy of Trump’s victory? Not a bit. But that won’t stop many Democratic loyalists from lamenting the “undemocratic” outcome of an election that Clinton would have won if presidents were chosen by majority vote instead of the Electoral College. In a Facebook rant after the election, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore admonished his followers: “You must say this sentence to everyone you meet today: ‘HILLARY CLINTON WON THE POPULAR VOTE!’”

    It’s an empty claim. In America there is no unitary popular vote for president, just as there is no unitary popular vote for the House of Representatives. “Republicans captured the majority of the ‘popular vote’ for the House on Election Day, collecting about 56.3 million votes while Democrats got about 53.2 million,” USA Today reported last week. Despite the GOP’s 3-million-vote advantage, however, Democrats will control 44 percent of House seats when the 115th Congress convenes.

    Unfair? Not in the least: Power in the House is determined in 435 separate district-level elections, not one mass nationwide vote. Similarly, control of the presidency is determined not in a single grand plebiscite, but in 51 state-level elections (including the District of Columbia). Trump won 60 percent of those elections: a decisive majority in the only tally that counted.
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    It’s easy to score rhetorical points by claiming smugly that “the people chose Hillary Clinton,” but the American method of choosing a president has been in place for two centuries. The Constitution is indifferent to national popular voting trends. This is a nation made up of states, not the undifferentiated population as a whole. Those states have different political, economic, and cultural interests — Massachusetts and Arkansas are not interchangeable — and the Founders designed a federal system that respects each state’s identity and autonomy. The Electoral College, as part of that system, ensures that voters in a handful of densely populated urban regions cannot hand the presidency to a candidate that a significant majority of the states oppose.

    Remember, it was the states that created the national government. That’s why it takes a consensus of the states, not merely a popular majority, to elect a president or amend the Constitution. That’s why we have a Senate, in which states, not voters, are equal — and why that undemocratic Senate is empowered to ratify treaties, confirm judges, and try cases of impeachment.

    Clinton’s popular-vote bonanza may ease her followers’ disappointment, but neither she nor Trump campaigned to win the most popular ballots. Their campaigns were explicitly focused on winning 270 electoral votes. As David French astutely pointed out in National Review the other day, “We don’t know who would have won the 2016 (or 2000) presidential races if the president was elected by popular vote because the race would have been run completely differently. . . . Democrats declaring Hillary’s superiority aren’t unlike sports fans who stubbornly cling to the notion that their team would win if only the rules were just a little bit different.” If the World Series were decided by total runs scored, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians would be sharing the 2016 trophy (each had 27 runs over the course of the seven games). But baseball doesn’t work that way.

    The American presidency isn’t won by amassing raw votes. The Constitution was crafted to thwart pure majoritarianism, which the Founders knew was apt to lead to a tyranny of the masses. In the immediate aftermath of a bitter campaign, the losing side can be forgiven for not rushing to extol the virtues of the Electoral College. But its virtues are considerable. No one becomes president without commanding the support of many states. It’s no guarantee of presidential wisdom, courage, or honesty. But it does confer constitutional and political legitimacy. In a nation as polarized and diverse as ours, that’s no small thing.

    Jeff Jacoby can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby.

    Blame the British Empire for the Electoral College
    Nov 15, 2016 9:42 AM EST
    a | A
    Noah Feldman

    There are two truths about the Electoral College: It ought to be abolished, and it never will be. Calls for changing the constitutional election system abound now that Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote and lost the electoral vote, as Al Gore did in 2000. But it turns out that the same Constitution that enshrines the Electoral College effectively protects the small states from an amendment they don’t want. The problem goes back to the nation's founding -- and short of abolishing the states as effective sovereigns, it basically can’t be fixed.

    The small states, which benefit from candidates’ attention, would never consent to being marginalized through a proportional system that favors the interests of densely populated states. But replacing the Electoral College would take a constitutional amendment approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the state legislatures. Even if the first bar could be cleared -- which is wildly unlikely -- overcoming the second is unimaginable.

    The Catch-22 is no accident. It goes back to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention and the summer of 1787. The most enlightened Founders, including James Madison, pressed hard for a proportional Senate alongside the proportional House. The small states blocked it. And along the way, the small states also entrenched an amendment process that makes it essentially impossible to overcome their will.

    The story of the small states' stand is fascinating and deeply consequential, but let me clarify that the Electoral College itself was not primarily a concession to the small states. Rather, the Electoral College was a compromise between selection of the president by state legislatures or election by popular vote.

    Madison and other centralizers, such as James Wilson of Pennsylvania, didn’t want the state legislatures to have too much power. They feared the states would pull the country apart, as seemed to be happening under the Articles of Confederation. But direct election, which Wilson strongly favored, had its own risks, including a splintered election if the populace hadn’t heard of the candidates -- or the election of an (ahem) unsuitable candidate by the untutored people.

    The Electoral College is, however, almost proportional to population -- unlike the Senate, which was the small states’ main accomplishment.

    Madison went into the convention calling for proportional representation in both legislative chambers. His so-called Virginia plan was partly an effect of his republican ideology, which required majority rule. It was also convenient for Virginia, which had the largest population at the time. Majoritarianism would, then as now, favor the regional interests of concentrated population centers.

    Of course, Madison knew that small states wouldn’t like his proposal. But he privately told his allies that the small states would have no choice but to go along with the big states. If the union fell apart, he figured, the large states would swallow the small states, so the small states had more to lose. Madison actually said as much on the floor of the convention: “What would be the consequence to the small states of the dissolution of the union?” he asked rhetorically. Would the small ones be more secure "when all control of a general government was withdrawn”?

    Unfortunately for Madison, his prediction was spectacularly wrong. As the summer progressed, the small states flatly refused to give up equal representation in the Senate. They introduced the New Jersey plan, which all knew was a stalking horse to force compromise on the Senate. Eventually (and famously), the big states folded and the Great Compromise prevailed. As an effect of that compromise, Article V made amendments depend on the agreement of the states, too. It also made equal representation in the Senate unamendable except with a state’s consent.

    How did the small states get away with it? Here’s the kicker: The small states prevailed on equal Senate representation because they had equal votes in the Constitutional Convention itself -- and would have an equal say in ratification. Madison had failed to realize that, given this equality, the small states could hold the large states hostage, gambling correctly that the big states would fold on the Senate.

    It didn’t escape notice that the reason for the small states’ power was the voting system of the convention. Madison and others were horrified at the illogic that the convention was itself following voting rules that made no sense as a matter of republican theory. But the big states couldn’t change the convention's voting rules, which themselves followed the model of the Articles of Confederation, without getting the small states to agree.

    So why did the Articles of Confederation give all states an equal say in Congress? Because on July 4, 1776, the United States came together in part as a union of 13 states that had been British colonies until that day. Acting as separate states, the new states gave each other equal weight -- like nations in the general assembly of the United Nations.

    In other words, the accident of British colonial charters gave rise to the system we now have -- and the great difficulty of amending it. This made no sense in 1787, and it makes no sense now. But short of abolishing the states as sovereign entities -- which plenty of reasonable people (from big states) preferred at the founding -- there was no choice but to let the small states get away with it.

    The upshot? When it comes to the difficulty of amending the Constitution to get rid of the Electoral College, you can blame it on the British Empire.
    Last edited by troung; 16 Nov 16,, 00:13.
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway