Okay—I’m going to step back a second on the Electoral College. In general, I think the institution has served us well for over 200 years. No, I don’t think that the five times a president was elected by winning the 270 electoral votes, but not the popular vote, constitutes a harbinger for the destruction of our republic. Liberals whine about Bush’s 2000 win. They whine about Trump’s 2016 win, albeit with more froth around the mouth. There were a solid couple of weeks worth of hot takes about how the Electoral College is archaic, racist, and anti-Democratic and yet we’re still here. Yet, there’s an emerging consensus that while the Electoral College might have served us well, we’re approaching a point where the Democrats could run the table, and that swing states, in general, are dictating policy as a result of this system. We’ll get to that in a second.
In April, Townhall was invited to a seminar by the Institute for Research on Presidential Elections to a seminar about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and other reforms relating to the Electoral College, such as electors chosen by congressional district and proportional representation. I can already hear the groans. I had my reservations, but while I’m still on the sidelines concerning taking a side—the point about swing states being a catalyst for bad policy is compelling.
If you go on their website and search on your own, you can get a brief history about the Electoral College, and see how the system we witness in action every four years was not the one envisioned by the Founding Fathers. The system was a form of compromise. James Madison wanted direct elections; Alexander Hamilton wanted Congress to elect the president. States were allowed to decide how they would participate in the Electoral College because no one could figure out a uniform way on how to elect the president. The point is winner-take-all was never in the cards from the beginning. Most states did not have such a system in our first election. Concerning picking electors, the states had a hodgepodge of presidential elector systems, governor appointments, or congressional elector districts to fill their slates.
After Thomas Jefferson lost the election of 1796, thanks to three electors breaking for John Adams through the district system, Virginia passed a winner-take-all to ensure Jefferson would receive the state’s entire slate for 1800. Massachusetts repealed their district system to ensure that all of their electors would vote for John Adams in the election of 1800. This set off a domino effect, where virtually all of the states were rushing to establish winner-take-all systems by the time of the Civil War.
So, let’s forward to the modern era. Some could argue that the writing is on the wall. In the last six presidential elections, Democrats have been able to easily win 242 electoral votes from the West Coast and the liberal northeast. They only need to win Florida to lock up the necessary votes (271) for the presidency—and Florida will probably be a blue state in the next two election cycles.
So, how will this interstate compact work? Well, first enough states have to sign on to equal the required amount of electoral votes to win the presidency. Right now, 11 states equaling 165 electoral votes have signed on, the proposal has gained traction in other state legislatures, and two states—Georgia and Missouri—have passed a committee.
If enough states to equal the required 270 sign on, the compact is triggered and whoever wins the most popular votes is elected president, regardless of party. It also reduces the influence of swing states and expands the map. In 2012, 100 percent of the general election events occurred in just 12 states. Playing Devil’s advocate, I’m sure the people of Kansas, Missouri, and Montana probably have the exact same concerns about jobs and health care, as people from Ohio.
Still convinced this is a bad idea? Well, if this were to occur, conservatives in New York and California, who have been hiding in the bunker for decades, would be incentivized to turn out and vote. In the Empire State for example, the Conservative Party of NY found that there was a pool of 1.6 million voters who would support their causes. It’s not a far jump to see them supporting a Republican for president, yet, given that they know it’s a deep blue state, whose winner-take-all electors will go to the Democrats—only around 500,000 turn out and vote. It’s possible to make states more competitive and it’s possible that Republicans can still win national elections through this compact. If you believe that we’re a center-right nation, and I think we are, running on our ideas and winning shouldn’t be a problem. Gone are the days of tailoring campaign messaging for some states, but not others to avoid alienating voter groups.
This is probably the most compelling part of the NPV compact: it could curb the proliferation of bad national policies that are drummed up to win elections. George W. Bush pushed No Child Left Behind, which federalized education policy, to win over mothers in Hamilton County, Ohio, one of the key counties in the state. Medicare Part D, which added trillions to the unfunded liability of the entitlement program, was meant to keep seniors from drifting too far from the GOP (i.e. keep Florida in play). Those are just two policies that have been detrimental to the country. One added to the debt and deficit, while the other stripped power away from local school boards who know their districts best. Under the NPV, the Republican Party can run a hardcore conservative campaign. For liberals, they can run on their single-payer, political correctness, and identity politics nonsense if they wish as well. What about the 11 most populous states running the table? Well, NPV’s memorandum on the myths about NPV notes, “no big state delivered more than 63 percent of the popular vote to any candidate in 2000, 2004, 2008, or 2012.” Moreover, the five biggest states—Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina—were closer to 50-50. Also, they’re not predisposed to either party; Bush won six—Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia—in 2006.
The memo also notes:
1. The rural vote is already diminished since these states are not considered in the battleground category under the current system
2. It won’t allow cities to dominate the electoral landscape because the ten largest cities only house eight percent of the U.S. population. The 100 biggest cities (one-sixth of the total U.S. population) voted 63 percent Democratic in 2004, but 60 percent of rural Americans voted Republican. The remaining two-thirds live in the suburbs, which are evenly divided.
3. On voter fraud, it’s hard to have a concerted national effort to defraud an election, whereas it’s easier to alter a smaller pool of votes in a winner-take-all state and possibly flip it. Florida’s 25 electoral votes decided the 2000 election out of over 105 million ballots cast. That wouldn’t be an issue under the NPV.
4. On its constitutionality, Article II states, “Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of Electors.” Winner-take-all systems are state-based laws. The NPV is a state-based initiative. All it is doing is replacing winner-take-all states, or enough of them to trigger the compact, by awarding electors to the candidate who has won the most popular votes in all 50 states.
The rest of the information is featured on their site. There are some appealing things to this: the freedom to run a campaign that is truly at the heart of the party platform, the notion of winning California again, and the reduction in bad policies crafted to win over key counties in a handful of battleground states. The deluge of new Republican-leaning voters leaving the bunkers in deep Blue America, knowing their vote will count just as much as a battleground state voter could have a significant impact. It’s not a constitutional amendment. All of these are very interesting things, but overhauling a centuries-old institution requires more debate. There should be a long, vibrant debate and it should be held nationally.
Both sides will be hesitant to budge. Democrats see a possible lock on the Electoral College, while GOP voters will fear big states and metropolitan areas dominating the political scene. Yet, stepping away from national politics, you can’t win a majority in Congress by just winning the cities. If there’s one area where have moved on, it’s the significance of cities in our national politics. Yes, bastions of power, but not all-powerful. These areas are still insufferable with their politics, however. Also, while it’s a progressive analysis, the Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress and Bill Frey of Brookings noted a scenario that could put Democrats in an Electoral College pickle for quite some time. The Left likes to think they’re on the verge of a permanent majority, though these two demographers noted a scenario where the GOP’s hold on the white working class could give Republicans the electoral advantage, despite favorable demographic shifts that yielded more minority voters. That’s because a geographic wall—the cities, hems in Democrats. That’s fine if you have more voters in your ranks, if they live in areas that have been Democratic for eons and not competitive in national elections, it doesn’t make a difference. There are definitely some in the GOP elite that know this. Democrats should also know that a lack of presence in the rural areas does spell political death if they don’t reclaim some territory in the near future. The strategies of accomplishing that, like not stripping support from pro-life Democrats, might cause heartburn among the progressive wing of the party. Not supporting single-payer could also devolve into Democratic blood sports. Concerning these high concentrations of minority voters, given that the suburbs are where most voters live and are evenly split, that still wouldn’t be an issue under the NPV.
Besides curbing bad policy, the Florida issue cannot be ignored. Florida will be blue in our lifetime. That’s 29 electoral votes added to the Democrats’ guaranteed 242, which is the ballgame. I’m not a person who thinks the constitution is fungible, but this is a state-based initiative that could work. I do want to learn more before taking a side. I’m sure all of you have opinions on this matter and I hope you debate them in the comments section below. For now, just call me a Devil’s advocate on the matter. Not for or against, but wanting a debate on it. Donald Trump and the GOP might have a solid lead with white working class voters that will bolster their standing in elections, but that will go away. Trump can’t be president forever, and Democrats are learning the hard way that you can’t build your entire movement and party apparatus around one term-limited individual. I say let’s have a debate on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. That alone cannot hurt the country.