Sunday, November 15, 2020

The American people chose the right candidates twice, by increasing margins

supporters of joe biden celebrate across the country, after major networks projection him winning the presidency

(The pro-American alternative. Photo source here.)

I suppose you could even say the people chose right three times if you skip to the 2000 election. In the two modern splits between between the Electoral College and the American public, the public chose twice, and in this last election were the Electoral College could've gone the wrong way if less than 100,000 votes shifted, the public was even more right.

Hillary Clinton won the November 2016 election by 2% and three million votes. As of today, Biden's ahead by five million votes, a 3.5% margin over Trump, and that's going to increase to between 4% and 5% as late votes from California and New York finally get counted. An incumbent president also has an edge when running for re-election probably worth about 2-4%, so that also got beat.

I don't expect democracy to get it right all the time, and I have personal experience to verify that, but the flaws in our democratic republic that resulted in terrible presidents have come from not being a sufficiently democratic republic. When idiots like Mike Lee say we're a republic, not a democracy, and pretends he's saying something meaningful, it's an excuse for why the majority shouldn't get to choose the candidate they elected, while saying nothing about what constitutes a meaningful republic. The hoaxsters are full of garbage about vote fraud costing the election, but even so, almost none of them claim the hoax was 6+ million voters or more. It's as if they don't care about that.

What I find interesting about all this is the many Republicans who profess their great love for America while not being very interested in having Americans, not the Electoral College, choose the leaders of the Republic. There is a conflict between waving that American flag and talking up your belief in American exceptionalism while not thinking the people who you profess to love so much should make the decision about leadership.

There are of course areas of policy where minorities should have their rights protected against majorities, and it's self-evident that selection of elected leaders are the least-appropriate category for that, especially for the head of government. Yes, there are borderline arguments for reserving a percentage of parliamentary seats in countries for women and minorities, and that's not what we're talking about. There are also situations where the plurality winner in multi-candidate elections may not best reflect the popular will, which also isn't what we're talking about here.

What we have instead is a system that is fundamentally disrespectful of the American people's will, fundamentally supported by people claiming to be patriotic supporters of those Americans. And they probably never even thought it through.

This year, fortunately, the Electoral College will reflect what a democratic republic would do. And we have the great news of Colorado joining the National Popular Vote Compact to get a step closer to neutralizing the Electoral College. Until we fix it, the right side just has to keep winning by comfortable margins.

UPDATE: The Washington Post agrees on abolishing the Electoral College.


William M. Connolley said...

I still think that complaining about the electoral college is wrong. The USA is in some respects - one of them being the EC - deliberately non-majoritarian by design, and you make a very weak case for changing that. In particular "There are of course areas of policy where minorities should have their rights protected against majorities, and it's self-evident that selection of elected leaders are the least-appropriate category for that, especially for the head of government" is desperately weak: your "self-evident" is not true; if it were, there would be no discussion. But if it is indeed as obvious as you say, please lay out the logic clearly and succinctly; if all you have is "it's obvious" you have nothing.

> When idiots like Mike Lee say we're a republic, not a democracy, and pretends he's saying something meaningful

That is rhetoric, not coherent argument. You must be aware of the founding fathers fears of majoritarian rule; you need to actually address that, not just call people who believe it idiots.

Mark said...

The Electoral College no longer functions as it was to do at the founding of our nation, as argued for in The Federalist. Communication across the country is far more rapid, and slave states no longer get a power assist by having larger population counts through including nonvoting individuals. A more fair method might be some variation of ranked choice voting, at least in cases where there are more than two candidates.

Phil said...

The Electoral College has failed. Needs to be fixed.

Yes, the founding fathers were non-egalatarian in many ways, for example most of them "owned" other people. Sure, Ben Franklin had decided that was evil, and had freed his slaves. Sure, Thomas Jefferson thought that slavery was evil and dreamed up all sorts of schemes to end it... All of which were not practical. Thomas Jefferson continued to own and abuse people for his continued wealth and comfort. Sure, Hamilton was active in ending the international slave trade and in "The New-York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and Protecting Such of Them as Have Been, or May be Liberated". As was John Jay. And both men owned slaves.

They were not perfect men.

If the Electoral College would have prevented Trump, I might have a different opinion. But it is not, and can not, act as the founding fathers expected it to act, as a deliberative body able to prevent one such as Trump from becoming President. So as a result, it is a failed experiment, and the USA should recognize that it as failed and amend the Constitution. Or bypass it with the National Popular Vote Compact.

Old_salt said...

The simplest way to fix the electoral college is to expand the House of Representatives. The number of electoral votes of states with large population goes up. The House should triple in size, which would also make gerrymandering harder.

Canman said...

The electoral college makes recounts easier as you don't have to recount the entire country.

Don Gisselbeck said...

72 million is the most votes a fascist has ever gotten.

Brian said...

William - I agree the US is/was in some respects non-majoritarian by design, e.g. originally allowing slavery, and I think we've fixed some things and haven't yet fixed others, while individual rights should never be "fixed".

Consent of the govern on matters of common import like elected officials derived by majority consent is both different from individual rights and seems intuitively, obviously better than derived by minority consent - if you want full-fledged philosophies about that, there are much better philosophers than me that you can consult. Moral intuition is a reasonably-good ethical shorthand, btw, even though I like to look at Kantian and utilitarian ethics in tougher calls. Whether consent of the governed is a good idea and whether it can be derived from some minority of the governed instead the majority on matters of common import just isn't an interesting debate to me.

Mark - I'm a big fan of ranked choice voting. There are weird possibilities under which it can go wrong, but it is far more likely to express community opinion than first past the post.

Old salt - I wouldn't have a problem with expanding the House of Representatives. I believe that would definitely require the consent of the Senate and implicitly require repeal of the Senate filibuster. The National Popular Vote Compact might not, especially in state courts.

Canman - I could argue about that, but in the end it's not an important reason for retaining the EC.

Don - fair enough. I thought about including in the blog post that the number of votes Trump received was appalling. Still, the people voted the right way even though the margin wasn't nearly a lopsided one that would make moral sense.

William M. Connolley said...

> the US is/was in some respects non-majoritarian by design, e.g. originally allowing slavery

I think that's dishonest. You're well aware that the original non-maj was not lead by slavery, and would have been there regardless.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

Phil has the best point of all those so far. If the original design of the Electoral College was to prevent the majority from electing a demagogue, then it obviously failed in 2016--it was the Electoral College that elected the demagogue! Clearly the Electoral College is a failure. It should simply be abolished, and we should go to majority vote election of the president.

Phil said...

Why was the EC implemented in the first place? Slavery is one important reason. Not the only reason, to be sure.

It is dishonest to ignore parts of history that you don't like.

Is there any remaining reason for the EC?

Snape said...

The winner-take-all model is the main problem, right?

If electoral votes were distributed as a percentage, reflecting the percentage of votes each candidate received in the state’s popular vote, problem solved.

Canman said...

George Will says the electoral college is here to stay:

"To the multiplying reasons for hoping that Donald Trump’s presidency is in its final 17 months, add this: Although he might assemble 270 electoral votes, it is highly unlikely that he can win the popular vote. So, if he is reelected, three of the previous six elections will have been won by the popular-vote loser. This will fuel the assault on the electoral college, which has served the nation well and is justified by sound political considerations (it encourages national campaigning and coalition building) and constitutional principles (it tempers majoritarianism to strengthen federalism)."

Snape said...

“It encourages national campaigning and coalition building”

Because the winner takes all, the states where the race is expected to be tight, the battleground states, get far more attention than states where the outcome tends to be lopsided.

Meaning, a battleground state serves to LESSEN the effort put into campaignIng at the national level. The opposite of the intended result as stated by George Will.

Nathan said...

It's a poor system when you compare it to the New Zealand or Australian methods...

EC makes no sense, especially when you have no guarantee that the perosn you're voting for is actually going to vote for the candidate you want.

Nathan said...


" You must be aware of the founding fathers fears of majoritarian rule"

it's not majoritarian...

It's majority rules

And of course, in a Federation, there are arguments against majority rules... which is why the Senate is created as it is.

But you can modify the EC system, so that it isn't 'winner takes all' and just distribute the votes proportionally. Also get rid of the actual electoral college voters, what is the point of voting for someone to vote on ONE agenda item on your behalf, it's dumb and open to corruption.

Would also be better for the voter to have preferential voting as well, that way you can get proper choice without losing the value of your vote.

Nathan said...

I meant to say that you can make those changes to the EC systen while still avoiding the terrors (tm) of majority rules.

TransparencyCNP said...

Interesting county-level red/blue map made by CDJB:

Bob Loblaw said...

That red/blue county map seems to be an odd way to try to demonstrate that most of the U.S. population is concentrated in a lot of small areas, and most of the area is pretty sparsely populated.

Nathan said...

Huzzah for Alaska!

Preferential voting!


Everyone playing Hamilton on their earbuds shoud=ld take them out and put them down for long enough to re-read the Federalist Papers cover to cover.


Phil said...

"We may also suppose, without trespassing upon the bounds of probability, that this man may not have the means of supporting, in private life, the dignity of his former station; that like Caesar, he may be at once ambitious and poor, and deeply involved in debt. Such a man would die a thousand deaths rather than sink from the heights of splendor and power, into obscurity and wretchedness."


". If the original design of the Electoral College was to prevent the majority from electing a demagogue, then it obviously failed in 2016--it was the Electoral College that elected the demagogue!"

Did not the electorate elect the electors .

The elephant or titanic ass in the room is the shift in rhe design of the franchis since the days of the demagogue-unfriendly orginal .

The founders also preferred intermediating justice though jury selection to letting mobs rule the courts and interpret the law.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

TCW: Did not the electorate elect the electors .

BPL: I think you need to review how the Electoral College works. It goes state by state. Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of 3 million, but lost the electoral vote. So no, the electorate did not elect the electors. A narrow majority in states with a majority of electoral votes elected the electors.

Phil said...

Explains how the EC was intended to work.

That's not it works.


Presuming them to American citizens of sound mind and good character, I hereby nominate Barton and Phil to serves as Electors for their respective States of the Boiling Frog Party in the 2024 Presidential election.

Nathan said...

It just seems dumb to vote for people, who's job it is to vote once on your behalf.

It's stupidly inefficient and you have no guarantee they'll vote the way you want if your elector gets up.

It's ripe for corruption.

Also, why if you win a state is it sensible to gain ALL the electors. Makes no sense, why not allocate them proportionally?

It's bad value for the voter.
Votes have more value in preferential systems, and they tend to give you more choice, and it's less likely you end up in the stupid two-party system you have currently. With preferential voting you don't have to be 'rusted on' to your party, you can vote more tactically.

More choice is better, go for preferential voting and proportional representation.