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Fetishism? E.J. Dionne, The Washington Post, and the Constitution

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last week, E.J. Dionne, one of the liberal stars of the Washington Post op-ed team, still smarting from an election loss he never saw coming, once again advanced his new cause, namely the abolition of the electoral college, and the substitution of the presidential election on the basis of a straight popular vote.  Granted, other liberals, similarly bewildered by the events of November 8th,  have sounded the clarion call as well.  The New York Times and a number of other organs of the prestige media have jumped on this bandwagon, which will undoubtedly fuel conservative suspicions that the liberal media do conspire together to advance their agenda.  Be that as it may, the liberal echo chamber is in full operation, as we read and hear liberals fulminate against the wisdom of the American founders, and lead increasingly strident cheers for a simplistic solution to the “problem” of the 2016 election, not to mention the elections of 2000, 1888, 1876, and 1824.  So, Mr. Dionne’s column of last week may be an example of a sore loser determined to have the last word in this matter, but we conservatives should not allow Dionne and his liberal brethren to throw a temper tantrum without fully answering his charges.


 In his column last week Dionne took his Washington Post colleague George F. Will to task for commenting that the electoral college system has served the country well, and that the electoral count overruling the “winner” of the 2000 and 2016 elections was only a scandal to those who made a
“fetish of simpleminded majoritarianism.”  Dionne, showing Will proper respect for having opposed Trump during the primary and general election season, nevertheless called the electoral college outdated, and in fact, a major impediment toward governance by the will of the people.  He got to the heart of the matter in his next paragraph when he complains that “…majoritarianism …is the way we run just about every other election in our country.”  He went on to ask, rhetorically, why we choose our State Treasurer or County Recorder of Deeds by popular vote, but do not choose the president of the United States in similar fashion.  

 This is the point where E. J. Dionne and his majoritarian gang need an elementary lesson in U.S. Constitution 101.  A reading of that venerable document reveals, in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3, that election to the presidency will be the business of the states with “electors” meeting in their respective states.  This is a constitutional provision, which “trumps,” if you’ll pardon the pun, the wishes of the deep thinkers like E. J. Dionne.  The mere fact that the Washington-New York I-95 corridor liberals do not like the outcome of the election means nothing in terms of legitimacy, any more that it would have meant if Donald Trump had gotten 2.9 million more votes than his opponent, but lost because she eked out a bare electoral majority.  Those constitutional provisions can be changed, but only through the amendment process.  On Dionne’s second point, that being the fact that we choose our state and county officials largely by popular vote, he should, again, consult the Constitution.  The Tenth Amendment reserves all powers not assigned to the federal government to the several states, and that includes the power of local elections.  Most of our states have chosen to require candidates for state and county offices to stand before the voters in direct elections.  That is the right of each state to determine, but it is a very different matter to run for a specific county office and to run for the presidency.  Our liberals know that, but will not admit as much when their anointed Fairchild has been beaten.  


  Dionne, at this point, has lost the argument, but digs himself in deeper when he criticizes the idea that the current system requires a candidate to show electoral strength throughout the country, not only in large metropolitan areas.  He plaintively remarks, “…the winner is picked not by the law of election but by the luck of a casino.  If you hit the right numbers narrowly…, you can override your opponent’s margins in the big states.”  Yes, but seen in another way, the current system forces candidates to possess some appeal in rural and sparsely populated areas, even if Dionne & Co. would prefer to allow voting only by the coastal states, with a couple of liberal bastions like Minnesota and Illinois thrown in for good measure.  The scenario Dionne sketched out was the 2016 election in a nutshell.  Hillary Clinton ran up huge numbers in California, New York, and New England but lost everywhere else.  Does regionalism count for nothing?  Did the Democrats not see this as a problem during the primary season?

 Dionne doubles down on his criticism of the current system, although he does concede that Lincoln won the 1860 election with 39.8% of the vote, but he was the leader in terms of actual votes among the four candidates.  He might also have noted that Rutherford B. Hayes, the minority winner in 1876, turned out to be an excellent president in terms of ability and honesty.  Benjamin Harrison, the minority winner in 1888, is not rated as highly as Hayes, but was no failure, either.  Dionne, however, sticks to his majoritarian guns, and gives away the game, by admitting that the Democrats have supported open borders as a way of creating new liberal voters, and that a winner-take-all presidential election would be a sure win for the Democrats if they can simply get rid of the old and antiquated electoral college.


 Finally, Mr. Dionne finishes his missive with a lyrical phrase, saying that “…the question of how a democratic republic should work is not a game.”  He argues that we must “evolve” toward a system in which the winner of the most votes prevails.  In point of fact, the USA is not a democratic republic.  We are a constitutional republic, with democratic elements.  Dionne and his friends on the left are fond of calling Donald Trump and others they dislike fascists.   However, the modern liberal who wishes to sweep away the states, counties, and regions in order to subsume the nation in anonymous majoritarianism will lead us down that path quicker than we thought possible.

Happy New Year to all Townhall Readers!


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