In the wake of the 2016 election, the Electoral College has come under fire by those on the left. In what was certainly a surprising election, the Democratic Party and many of those on the left have taken clear steps to undermine the political institution that is the Electoral College.
Many, including myself, argue that Hillary Clinton lost on Nov. 8 in large part due to the fact that the electorate was looking for an outsider. Sick of the political correctness — from giving every child a trophy to limiting when it’s OK to say “Merry Christmas” — many Americans were looking for a different type of leader, not afraid to express his or her true opinions. Whether you agree with President-elect Donald Trump on his policies or not, it’s clear that he’s different than any political leader we’ve ever had. This has made many who disagree with Trump upset, so much so that they’ve actually been calling for the abolishment of the Electoral College.
I get that Clinton supporters are upset that they lost. But while a popular vote system would’ve ended with a President Clinton, neither candidate received a majority of the popular vote — neither candidate could get over half of the population to support them because not everyone votes. These cries simply demonstrate the left’s mindset when it comes to losing: Everyone deserves a trophy and nobody (unless your name is Trump) deserves to lose. When they finally did lose, they ultimately chose to act immaturely, cry foul and fight for a complete change in the rules of the game.
The left, and those fighting for a popular vote system, constantly argue that all experiences matter and that diversity is a strong aspect of American society. I agree. Yet they fail to recognize that the Electoral College supports diverse experiences. This type of system allows for people in states with smaller populations like Wyoming or North Dakota to have the same impact as those who live in New York or California. While I obviously recognize that people in New York, for example, all have different experiences, people in farming states are probably going to care about different issues than those who live in major cities. The separation between the urban and rural populaces, the different priorities they have and the different lifestyles they live is good for this country.
What these proponents fail to recognize, furthermore, is that if we transitioned to a system where the president was elected by popular vote, presidential campaigns would be won and lost in major cities. Republicans and candidates would need to campaign solely in major urban centers, in effect ignoring the rest of the population. Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.5 million votes. If we had a popular vote system, she would be president. But she would’ve been able to do it by ignoring the factory workers of Ohio, the union workers of Detroit and the Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton would’ve been able to win by ignoring the independent voters this country prides itself on and by focusing on turnout in a select few metropolitan cities. Not to say that voters in large cities are less important, but a popular vote system would take away the voices and power of those across the country — the Electoral College, on the contrary, preserves everyone’s voice.
What the Electoral College protects, and what popular vote advocates don’t realize, is the voice of the minority. No matter the election cycle, our national campaigns are always competitive. There is always a chance of either party winning. In my mind, this is a good thing.
Furthermore, I argue that at certain times in history, more control by one party is good, while at other times in history it’s good to have competition and minority opinions. It’s not good for the country if one party completely dominates politics for long terms in history. The American people recognize this, and that’s why it’s common for the opposing party to win following an eight-year president. Tyranny of the majority is never good; our founders recognized this and implemented the Electoral College. No matter which side of the political aisle you fall on, a system that protects and equally weighs all voices is good for the United States.
I’ll admit Republicans have gotten lucky with this system in both 2000 and in 2016, and Democrats have felt understandably cheated out of victory. Yet this is how our system is structured. I believe if we look past our own biases, we can see that this system produces equality of impact across the country. We truly have diversity of opinions and experiences by forcing our candidates to pay attention to every state, each filled with people of unique backgrounds. When Republicans have lost, I don’t recall the right calling for a complete change of our political institutions, I don’t remember intolerance. I remember a self-reflection and improvement of the party, which ultimately led to this year’s strong victory up and down the ballot.
As college students, we have the opportunity and responsibility to respect the political institution of the Electoral College. Simply advocating for its end due to the fact that it has historically favored one party and the opinion that it seems archaic is simply whining. This country was never intended to be a pure democracy — it was meant to be a republic in hopes of protecting the will of both the majority and minority. Going back, looking at the reasons our founders advocated for an Electoral College and understanding how it has shaped our nation in its protection of all backgrounds and experiences should yield a favorable viewpoint of a critical political institution of our nation. Clinton won the popular vote, but it doesn’t matter at all. Trump recognized the rules, and won by playing the game as it was meant to be played.
Max Rysztak can be reached at email@example.com.