Charles Lane, opined the following points in his op ed in the Washington Post, December 14…
Griping about the popular vote? Get over it.
Griping about the popular vote? Get over it.
CL: What an outrage: On Sunday, the National Football League awarded the Tennessee Titans a win over the Denver Broncos because they scored more points, even though the Broncos got more total yards than the Titans.
Of course, this is a ridiculous complaint — but not much more ridiculous than the gripes we’re hearing about the fact that Donald Trump is president-elect even though Hillary Clinton got 48.2 percent of the total votes cast vs. 46.1 percent for Trump.
RAD: Comparing an NFL game to the election of a president is a ridiculous comparison. NFL games are decided on how many points one scores – the game decided by the team who scores the most points in regular or in overtime.
But in a presidential election we are faced with the absurd reality that there are two scores, one the EC vote, the other the popular vote. So the comparison to an NFL game is based on a false equivalence since we have to scores which normally align with each other but not in 2000 or 20016.
CL: [Clinton’s] 2.8 million popular-vote margin is one of the largest for the electoral-college loser in American history, or will be, once the electoral votes are officially cast on Monday.
RAD: One of the largest – the largest… Gore beat Bush by 500,000 votes but lost thanks to hanging chads and the Supreme Court’s pre-empting the Florida Supreme Court’s intent to count all ballots.
CL: Still, it is fallacious to invoke this statistical byproduct of Nov. 8 to question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory — as opposed to that victory’s desirability, which is questionable indeed.
RAD: This inverse logic leaves several “facts” out that are well established:
- The Russians hacked the election – hell they hijacked it on purpose to help Trump win! And now we know the Kremlin also hacked Congressional Ds… and the R’s used that info.
- A vote recount in 3 key battleground states has been stopped stripping away thousands of votes from urban areas more likely to have voted for Clinton.
- The GOP voter suppression tactics have targeted minority voters, Black and Hispanic voters. This de facto voting segregation helped Trump game the system.
- The GOP for decades has treated the Democratic party not as the “loyal opposition” but as a “Fifth Column” to be destroyed.
So no it’s not about “desirability” it is about “legitimacy”. When Donald Trump takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017 he will be the most illegitimate president-elect ever. And that “fact” will haunt him from day 1.
CL: As all concerned knew going in, the object of the presidential election game is to win the most electoral votes in what are essentially 51 state-level contests (the District included), just as the object of football is to score the most points.
RAD: Yes this is the way the game is played. But let’s look under the EC hood a bit more carefully:
This system was put in place by the Founders to preserve a morally problematic Union of free and slave states where slaves did not have the vote but for purposes of enumeration were considered 3/5s a person to help balance northern and south EC votes.
The usual canard is that this was to give small states even status with big states. But back in 1789 most Americans lived in rural communities north or south of the Mason Dixon line. American society stayed that way until well into the 20th century.
That in th 21st century we are still using this racist and archaic system to elect our president is morally reprehensible and sanctions a de facto "white supremacy" at a time when the USA is one of the most diverse nations on earth.
CL: Gridiron teams would play differently under instructions to maximize yardage; candidates would campaign differently if maximizing national popular votes were the prime directive.
Aiming for 270 electoral votes out of 538, both Clinton and Trump focused on 13 swing states; Trump won that contest-within-a-contest by 816,000 votes.
RAD: The assertion that Trump won by 816,000 votes in the 13 swing states is now a dubious proposition given the Kremlin’s vote hacking, media manipulation and voting irregularities.
Lane also ignores the “winner take all” EC game that disenfranchises voters who didn’t vote for the winner of each state. This legalized voter suppression in the 21st century is not defensible.
CL: Voters, too, behaved as they did based on the known rules. The popular vote reflects not only true preferences but also strategic voting (or abstention) by people in non-swing states, such as deep-blue California and deep-red Louisiana, who might have done something else in a direct-election scenario.
RAD: Given the high level of voter illiteracy about the EC this assumption that voters vote rationally simply doesn’t fly. Most voters have no idea what the Electoral College is – I’ve had college students ask me “where do I go to college to be in the EC?”
If we elected the president by direct popular vote that would incentivize more voters to vote because they know their vote would count for real. It might encourage the 43 million who didn’t vote to get their feet wet.
This latter point is crucial both in terms of the winner’s legitimacy as well as to prevent an election system mobilization of bias that privileges white upper income voters over minority and lower income voters.
CL: Take Texas, a red state Trump won by roughly 800,000 votes. [Trump’s] share in heavily Republican suburban counties lagged Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance by an average of eight percentage points; Clinton’s beat Obama’s by four, according to a data analysis by Sean Trende, senior election analyst for RealClearPolitics. Meanwhile, exit polling showed Trump beating Clinton by 13 points in a hypothetical two-way race, as opposed to the nine he won by in real life.
RAD: So why not the let the “real” winner of the popular vote win? Lane is splitting hairs counting angels on pinheads. And again this discounts the impact of voter suppression laws in Texas.
CL: To Trende, this implies a lot of abstention or third-party voting by Republicans who were uncomfortable with Trump but might have swallowed their doubts if Clinton had a better chance to get the state’s 38 electoral votes — or win in a direct national election.
RAD: Contrary to Mr. Trende from RCL elections are not decided on implications but on who actually does vote. And historical analysis has shown that in a high turnout election (which 2016 was not) Democrats have the edge.
Besides we know that Republican voters “came home” despite their doubts about Trump, it was Democratic leaning women, millennials and minority voters who did not vote as much as normal. Again, this speaks to voter suppression by the RNC and the Kremlin.
CL: Who knows? Maybe Clinton’s 4.3 million-vote edge in California would have been smaller if turnout weren’t affected by a factor unique to that state: multiple progressive-minded referenda, including marijuana legalization and parole reform.
RAD: Playing the “what if” card is an interesting exercise but not the point. The point is that one wants a high turnout of all voters state by state. But that’s not how it plays out. In fact the states that Trump won historically are very low turnout states, mostly in the South.
We also know that negative campaigns, in this case Trump's campaign, are designed to lower voter turnout. It worked to everyone's surprise more than anyone ever imagined. As a result Trump represents less than 28% of American voters.
CL: There’s no use multiplying hypotheticals. While the Clinton popular-vote edge is so large it might represent what would have happened in a direct election, we can never be sure of that.
This is not to validate the electoral college per se. To the contrary, 2016 reinforces long-standing concerns about the democratic adequacy of U.S. presidential elections.
RAD: We agree on this point. But to concede this point is exactly “the point.” Our political system is founded on the premise of the “consent of the governed” and on the rule of “one person/one vote.”
To have an election system that violates these two cardinal principles is to encourage mischief in future elections and to imperil the legitimacy of our democratic system and with it the moral authority of the winner.
Yes, Clinton lost on a technically – “if one” accepts the votes that were counted… I don’t.
Yes we are faced with “limiting the damage” caused by this election – the ugly rhetoric by Trump, the dubious cabinet choices he’s making and a person who is intellectually unfit to be President. He will face a crisis of legitimacy from day 1…
The system is rigged and the watchdogs of the system – the media failed us. It’s past time we change the system. But for now, I will remain a voice of opposition from Day 1 until Trump leaves office hopefully like Nixon sooner than later…