Ever since President Cheeto won the Electoral College while Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by an overwhelming margin, many of my students have asked just how the electoral college works. These questions only increased after so much speculation abounded about the upcoming electoral vote and the so-called “faithless electors,” although I knew there wouldn’t be enough of them to sway the end results. While there were a few electors who voted for others, I was right that it wouldn’t be enough to make a difference. President Cheeto is now officially our next Commander in Chief. God help us all.
As Democrats have been learning to their consternation, the electoral college is a horribly unfair system. It was originally designed as a compromise between those who wanted the Senate to decide upon the next president and those founding fathers who thought that a popular vote (which was what most other countries used then and pretty much all other countries use now) would be the safer bet. It was feared by some of the founders that a popular vote wouldn’t work out well, as so many Americans were uneducated enough that the founders believed any slick-tongued charlatan would convince the American people he’d make a good president.
We sure dodged that bullet, didn’t we?
There are many politicians today who believe that the electoral college system lends a voice to the smaller, less populated states. I say shit on that. Because of the winner-take-all mentality of this system, over 650,000 people in Iowa who voted for Clinton got to see their votes thrown at President Cheeto instead. The same went for nearly 3 million Clinton-supporters in Pennsylvania. The list goes on. Their votes didn’t matter. Not only this, but we’re saying that the voting rights of swing states such as Iowa and Florida are more important than those of California. California is the sixth largest economy in the world (beating out Russia, to boot) and the largest in the U.S. The people of California are so angry over this lack of say over who will be the next president that they are threatening to leave the United States. There’s even the possibility that Californians will vote on this as early as 2018. Now, I’m not saying that California will leave the U.S., but I can’t predict the future. All I’m saying is this–we can’t afford to isolate California. We need them a lot more than they need us.
So, what would it take to ditch this outdated electoral college, where the votes of the people only influence the votes that the electors–whose votes actually count–and where the more populated states have nowhere near the voting power as the crucial swing states? As the rules for this one are written into the Constitution, it would take a Constitutional Amendment to change it. And those are hard to come by. It would take a two-thirds vote from both the Senate and the House of Representatives (both of which have a Republican majority at the moment, and they’re not going to give up their edge so that politics can play fair), and that’s after 38 states agree to ratify it. These are slim odds.
Translation: we’re stuck. And we’re screwed. Merry Christmas.