A few days ago I was on a panel disputing the subject of replacing the current electoral college method of selecting the president with the “national popular vote compact,” in which states adding up to more than 270 electoral votes would pledge to cast their electoral votes for the national popular vote winner, regardless of how any particular state’s voters may have come out. This effectively abolishes the electoral college.
Picture this scenario: Trump wins the popular vote next year but loses the conventional electoral college narrowly, but under this scheme California’s electoral votes would go to Trump and make him the winner after all, even though he’ll likely lose the vote in California by 2.5 million or more. Would this abject contradiction of local majority sentiment really please California voters? I’d love to see this happen, just to watch liberal heads explode when yet another grand reform blows up in their faces.
One of the republican merits of the present electoral college system is that the winner’s electoral majority by necessity takes in or expresses a wider range of interests than are contained in a mere numerical majority, especially a numerical majority that is now so lopsided or concentrated in a few metropolitan areas on the coasts. Take out Los Angeles County, the Bay Area, and the New York metro area, and Trump carries the rest of the country by a large majority. Think those three urban areas are well representative of a cross-section of American interests and opinions? Ask yourself this: the most popular vehicle in America is the pickup truck. Yet you don’t seen many pickup trucks in these major urban areas, and when you do they are typically owned and driven by small service enterprises. Are the interests and opinions of pickup truck drivers (and NASCAR fans) less legitimate because they are not shared by a narrowly concentrated numerical majority? Federalism and the electoral college are good means to strike a balance between majority rule and minority rights and interests, though I will admit that if I was a Democrat, seeing my party lose two presidential elections in 16 years due to this subtle system would drive me nuts, too.
Which brings me to Canada’s election. Justin Trudeau is the “winner,” even though his party lost the popular vote! The Conservative Party won the largest share of the vote, but Trudeau’s Liberal Party won more seats—though not an overall parliamentary majority—and will thus form a minority government. (See chart below.) CNN calls it “a humiliating night for Trudeau.”
Sounds a bit like our electoral college, no? Two-thirds of the country voted for someone else (a lot more than voted against Trump in 2016), yet Trudeau gets to stay on as prime minister. I wonder if any of the people who excoriate the electoral college and demand that the person with the most votes should win will consider Trudeau an illegitimate premier? I won’t hold my breath.