A couple of my more “progressive” friends want to abolish the Electoral College because their candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lost last month’s presidential election to billionaire businessman Donald Trump even though Mrs. Clinton garnered more popular votes than Trump. I think my friends are wrong, and I’ll tell you why.
The Electoral College was established by Article Two of the Constitution, which declares that “each State shall appoint ... a number of electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State is entitled in the Congress.” Therefore, it would require a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College. In order to amend the Constitution two-thirds of senators and congressmen would have to propose an amendment, and then three-fourths of state legislatures would have to ratify that amendment, a highly unlikely outcome.
The very erudite Dr. Precious Hall, who teaches political science at Truckee Meadows Community College, told a Chamber of Commerce breakfast audience on Wednesday that the Electoral College protects small states like Nevada against the tyranny of the majority. If the popular vote chose our presidents, three or four populous states could elect the president, and the 40 plus less populous states would be shut out of the democratic process. Imagine turning our constitutional Republic over to ultra-liberal California and New York. Scary.
As Jay Cost wrote in the neoconservative Weekly Standard, “Liberals are up in arms about this (the Electoral College) as they were 16 years ago when George W. Bush won the Electoral College even as he lost the popular vote to Al Gore. Why should the will of the people be thwarted by an antiquated institution? The Electoral College should be abolished!” That’s the liberal argument.
But wait, there’s more. Cost goes on to say that “the College deserves to be defended against these assaults” because it’s the product of the so-called Great Compromise of 1787, which resolved conflicts between large and small states by establishing the Electoral College. James Madison recognized in Federalist 39 that “ours is a system that is partly national and partly federal. It centralizes power in a national government . . . (but) the states retain a measure of sovereignty and play a crucial role in the operation of the national government.”
Liberals, Cost continues, “wish to undo the federal - national compromise that is at the very heart of our union.” That’s true, and it reminds us that the U.S. isn’t a pure democracy; it’s a constitutional, representative democracy, and long may it endure.
The Electoral College received strong support from one of California’s major daily newspapers, the Orange County Register, following November’s presidential election. A Register editorial recognized that “the Electoral College system for choosing presidents has been controversial since the nation’s founding, but never more than now and nowhere more than in California.” The Register went on to remind its readers that the Founding Fathers “were addressing a legitimate fear ... to prevent someone from becoming president by rolling up a huge margin in one populous state,” like California, where Mrs. Clinton polled 3.5 million more votes than Trump.
“Imagine what the states that went for Trump would be saying about Californians if we alone had tipped the election to Clinton,” the editorial concluded. I rest my case.
Children’s Home Correction
Last Sunday, in a review of Bonnie Boice Nishikawa’s new book, “My Life as a ‘Home’ Kid,” I wrote that the Nevada State Children’s Home “closed in 1992, when it was replaced by cottages.” Actually, the cottages closed in 1992 and the children were placed in foster homes.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.