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August 23rd, 2019

earl watt mugL&T Publisher Earl Watt


Back in 2000, when George W. Bush was running against Al Gore for the presidency, many conservatives believed it was time to get rid of the Electoral College because the predicted outcome was that Bush was going to win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College count.

Everyone knows that just the opposite happened once the final hanging chad was counted in Florida, and it was Bush that won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote to Al Gore.

Today, it is the liberal supporters wanting to do away with the Electoral College since twice now their candidates have lost in the Electoral College while winning the popular vote.

Whenever our candidate loses, we always want to look at the process and present a different way of conducting the election.

For example, when Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992, third party candidate H. Ross Perot threw a kink in the system as a third party candidate who pulled 18.9 percent of the national vote which was almost 20 million votes. Bush lost to Clinton by 5 million votes, and with only 43 percent of the popular vote, Clinton became president in an Electoral landslide, 370-168.

Being on the losing side, I would have preferred a run-off of the top two vote-getters, just like some states do when a candidate does not achieve 50 percent of the vote. Had that occurred, Bush would surely have been re-elected since a vast majority of Perot supporters were conservative, business-leaning voters.

But that’s not the way it works.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, he only achieved 39 percent of the popular vote, but he won the Electoral College with four major candidates on the ballot.

Many liberals believe that the Electoral College should be scrapped, believing that their candidate would have a better chance at winning the popular vote rather than the vote in the Electoral College.

As a quick reminder, the Electoral College is a way of electing the president that takes into account the popular vote as well as statehood.

Each state received Electoral votes based on the number of representatives in the U.S. House plus two for each state based on the U.S. Senate.

For example, California has 55 Electoral votes while Kansas has six.

Each state has the authority on how they reflect their state’s votes. Most states have a winner-take-all system, where the top vote-getter in their state receives all Electoral votes.

Some states reflect each district with the additional two Electoral votes being awarded to the winner of the state overall.

Those systems are determined at the state level, another reflection of the separation of federal and state authority, which is why the Electoral College was established in the first place.

While they could have chosen from hundreds of scenarios, the Framers of the Constitution settled on the Electoral College because it reflected the concerns of heavily populated states as well as that of the rural states. It also established a system that reflected regional differences.

It’s always good to revisit the Constitution to see how it is working and to see if any tweaks are necessary, so let’s compare the arguments 232 years ago to today and see if a change is warranted.

Are there regional differences in America today?

The question might as well be rhetorical. 

Yes, there are major differences in the regions of the United States — the Northeast and West coasts reflect sprawling urban populations with very liberal values as blue states.

The South and Great Plains regions tend to reflect a more rural value system as red states even as cities continue to grow throughout the South.

The Midwest is a blending of the two with pockets of conservatism and liberalism throughout, gaining the term “purple” states.

Some areas like Colorado where hunting rights blend with green rights, and there is a purple hew to their political views because of it.

With the wide-ranging regional differences, the election of the presidency still requires this to be taken into account.

Are there rural and urban differences?

America is continuing to become a more urban nation, but there are still wide areas of rural America that have distinct differences from its urban counterparts. The Electoral College insures that states with large land masses but small populations still play a role in the selection of the president.

Had these small states back in 1787 been forced to accept a popular election for the presidency, they never would have joined the Union.

What other factors influence presidential elections?

We also tend to look at elections through two political parties today, forgetting that it is possible for multiple candidates to be on the ballot.

For example, John Anderson was on the ballot when Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination, and he pulled 5.7 million votes away.

In 2000, Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, pulled 97,488 votes in Florida. A vast majority of those voters would have selected Gore over Bush in a two-man race, but Bush won the state by 537 votes.

Since then, the Democratic Party has absorbed the Green Party by adopting the Green Party platform into its own.

While the Republican Party struggles to maintain a coalition of moderates and conservatives, the Democratic Party is struggling to maintain the liberal and socialist views, and with this type of split in the electorate across the country, now more than ever we need the beauty and the wisdom of the Electoral College to balance these ever-blowing turbulent winds of political change.

It’s almost as if the Founders were clairvoyant. They could see not only where they were, but where America was headed, and the best course on how to keep the ship sailing forward.

We also have to take the long view, and the Electoral College serves that view better.

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