If You Think Trump Has Made The Election a Mess, Support the Electoral College
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post thinks this election is a mess and therefore wonders if the Electoral College is sustainable. In a multi-tweet thread, he wonders, “Is the Electoral College sustainable when Trump fights to overturn the results in a handful of states, in a vain hope to win, even though he lost the popular vote by more than 5 million votes? Bush in 2000, by contrast, only barely lost the popular vote.”
Later he adds, “The Electoral College has many advantages and served the country well. But Trump’s actions here further open the door to endless challenges in the future by future candidates.”
If Kessler thinks Trump’s legal challenges in a handful of states like a mockery of the system, then counterintuitively, he should support the system.
As it is, Trump and his campaign’s lawyers are currently engaged in a legal effort to try to flip enough states red to give him the necessary 270 electoral votes. Kessler, not totally unreasonably, views this as a sore loser just throwing everything he can up against the wall in hopes that something, anything will stick.
But, just imagine if instead of being down 40-something-thousand votes in Pennsylvania he was down that same amount nationwide in a system without the Electoral College.
Instead of statewide recounts, we would have a nationwide recount. Every single one of the over 140 million ballots would have to be counted, a process that is still, one week later, ongoing and then re-counted, and maybe re-counted again possibly by hand.
From the remote Aleutian Islands to downtown Manhattan, both campaigns would be filing lawsuits against every state, every county, and every city. It would be Florida 2000 times fifty.
And if that was not bad enough, most countries that do have a popular vote system for their head of state (i.e. France) require the winner to get at a majority. In other words, if we re-counted over 140 million ballots multiple times and went through endless legal challenges, if the final tally ended up at being under one percentage point, then we would get to the whole thing over again minus all the third party candidates.
The truth is there are consequences that would be paid if we eliminated the Electoral College that go beyond the usual worries that a massive continental country would be governed by a small handful of coastal cities. While most elections will not be the nightmare scenario given above, most elections as they are now are not 2000. Trump’s legal challenges will likely fail, but even if they succeed the odds they flip the election are pretty much zero. For those who despise him, don’t worry: he will soon be yesterday’s news, but if we had a national popular vote, that would be a much less certain claim.