MSNBC's Chris Hayes Conflates History When Explaining Why The Electoral College Should Cease To Exist

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Posted: Aug 31, 2019 5:07 PM
MSNBC's Chris Hayes Conflates History When Explaining Why The Electoral College Should Cease To Exist

Source: Twitter/MSNBC

MSNBC's Chris Hayes had a rather interesting and riveting take on the Electoral College. According to Hayes, the Electoral College would be unconstitutional...if it wasn't in the Constitution.  

"I think there's a deeper philosophical question happening, which is: what exactly is America democracy for?" the MSNBC host asked a live audience. "And the weirdest thing about the Electoral College is the fact that if it wasn't specifically in the Constitution for the presidency, it would be unconstitutional."

In Hayes' eyes, this would be considered unconstitutional because the Supreme Court had a jurisprudence saying one person equals one vote. 

"The idea is that each individual's vote has to carry roughly the same amount of weight as each other individual vote, which is a pretty intuitive concept, but was not a reality," Hayes explained. "There are all sorts of crazy representational systems that were created that would not give one person, one vote and would disenfranchise certain minorities. You can guess which ones."

What's amazing though, is Hayes uses the idea of cracking and packing districts as a means of explaining how the Electoral College disenfranchises people of color. 

"Here's an example. Let's say you have a city. It's 60 percent black and 40 percent white. Here's how you ensure white people stay in charge: divide the city into four voting districts but you put the entire black population in one district, 60 percent of the people, and each district allows one city council member and viola. A majority-black city is run by a majority white government," Hayes concluded. 

But that conclusion has nothing to do with the Electoral College. If anything, what Hayes is talking about is gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district lines so it favors one political party over another (or in his example, one race over the other). The Electoral College was established so that large metropolitan areas, like Los Angeles and New York City, don't trample on smaller flyover states like Kansas or Wyoming. 

"The basic principle behind one person, one vote, the candidate with the most votes wins, those are the basic principles that are applied everywhere in the United States, in every election, from dog catcher, to state senator to governor up to two institutions, the two most powerful: the United States senate and, this might be for another show, but you might have noticed, the same number of senators represent the 40 million people of California and the half-a-million people of Wyoming," Hayes said. "Not really one person, one votee. And then, of course, the other institution, the presidency."

According to Hayes, it's "preposterous" that the Electoral College exists because, "if you run for class president in the fourth grade, you're elected, if and only if, you get the most votes."

Hayes is conflating so many issues into this one.

For starters, the House of Representatives and the Senate are established completely differently. The idea was that the House would be representative of people, that we'd elect those who represent us. The Senate, however, was supposed to be the "government's pick," so-to-speak. The state legislatures The idea was simple: the Senate was supposed to be a more stable institution, with less turn over than the House, so things didn't completely swag at the will of the people. The Senate was supposed to keep the "ignorant masses" in check. In a lot of ways, the Senate was the elitist picks. 

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We didn't vote for Senators until the 17th Amendment was passed. The first election taking place to choose Senators was during the 1914 elections.

The MSNBC host takes issue with district lines, how they're drawn and how people's representatives are chosen. That's not an Electoral College issue. That's a political party issue. State political parties determine how district lines, especially federal districts, are drawn. What the party does is then "crack" and "pack" districts. They will take voters from one party and draw lines so they're all packed into one district. Or they'll draw the lines so that voters from one party in an area are split between two districts. That's typically done to the minority party.

A great example of packing and cracking are congressional districts in Southern California. Orange County and parts of the Inland Empire have been a Republican stronghold for years. Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter in CA's 50th congressional district is drawn so the majority of Republicans are in his district. Just north of Hunter, Democratic Rep. Mark Takano in CA's 41st congressional district is drawn so Republicans are split. The state's Democratic Party put Jurupa Valley in Takano's district, despite being heavily Republican, because there's so few Republicans in the rest of Takano's district that it becomes a Democratic strong-hold.

At least if Hayes is going to make dumb claims about the Electoral College, he did some digging...and maybe go back to high school civics.