It’s the most wonderful time of the year. By that, I mean it’s that time to defend the electoral college against coworkers who believe their votes are meaningless or that the system is unfair. Donald Trump thinks that, by the way. I just saw him say it on 60 Minutes. Critiques of the electoral college pop up every now and again, but most often, in the midst of a tough November loss. Unfortunately, dissenters are wrong to believe that the electoral college is unfair or senseless, or even racist.
Mark Joseph Stern, a writer at Slate, recently published a series of articles criticizing the electoral system. His first column is entitled, “Yes, We Could Effectively Abolish the Electoral College Soon. But We Probably Won’t.” He isn’t wrong. There are a number of alternatives that have been proposed, such as the congressional district approach or the proportional approach, which have gained some support. His second column is entitled, “The Electoral College Is An Instrument of White Supremacy – and Sexism.” It is possible that Stern developed one or both of those arguments before Tuesday, that his thoughts and analysis regarding the electoral college were prexistent to November 8th, and that he planned to publish them no matter how the election went. But, I have a hunch that if Hillary Clinton won, Stern would have written about something else.
To address his most recent column, it’s not surprising to see Stern argue that the electoral college is racist and sexist, because everything is racist and sexist for the Left.
Stern cites a BuzzFeed article entitled, “How The Electoral College Favors White Voters” to support his claim that the electoral college is discriminatory. The author, John Templon writes, “The high concentration of Asian voters in certain ‘safe’ states, ones that are almost certain to break for one party or another, means that they have less influence on the ultimate outcome of the election.” What a novel discovery! Not. First of all, realize that Templon just said what we our coworkers say: “I’m not going to vote, because it won’t make a difference!” He simply frames the argument in racial terms, rather than ideological terms, assuming that Asians vote as a monolith (which they might; many racial minorities tend to vote uniformly).
Notice how Templon makes the electoral system appear unjust by making it necessarily about Asians being Asians rather than about who Asians vote for in elections. Newsflash: Every voting minority experiences this in”safe states,” Mr. Templon. Asians who vote for Democrats in red states have the same amount of influence as Whites who vote for Democrats in red states. Asians aren’t at any more of a disadvantage than Whites. In other words, he makes it appear that there is a grave injustice by defining influence on racial terms alone, rather than by who-they-voted-for terms.
Stern makes a good argument explaining how the electoral college (along with limited voting rights) was an instrument of racism and sexism. But he makes no argument supporting that it is the same today. In fact, his historical analysis detailing change brought by constitutional amendments and the expanse of voting rights renders his in-title argument moot.
As for the Stern’s disdain for the electoral college, I respond with some numbers. According to Politico’s numbers, Hillary Clinton garnered nearly 8.4 million votes from counties containing the country’s ten largest cities. Other than showing how uniform support is for Democrats in big urban areas (Clinton won each of these counties, with the exception of Maricopa which contains Phoenix), it shows how much influence the population centers have. To put it into perspective, based on numbers from this election, those who voted for Hillary Clinton in those counties pulled more weight than all votes in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Mexico, Kansas, and Delaware combined.
The concentration of votes for Hillary Clinton alone in New York City (roughly 2 million), which includes all five boroughs, outnumbers the total number of votes cast in Mississippi and New Hampshire combined. If direct popular vote were to decide, one singular metropolis would have more influence on an election’s outcome than two whole states. Numerous other comparative examples can be made about relative influence among cities and states. Simply choose one of the country’s largest cities and run the numbers.
The point is that we are a vast nation with varied population densities, as well as varied points of view. In order to “level the playing field,” to encourage candidates to campaign everywhere and to be the president of all states, not just the big cities, we have an electoral college that represents state interests.
Also, direct popular voting cannot honor our country’s nature as a confederacy (Whoops, did I trigger you?). The United States, we call ourselves. We are a coalition of states, and state populaces vote collectively, as states. Even though he doesn’t understand the implications, Mr. Stern recognizes this fact: “States are a collection of human people, not electors, and the president they choose represents all of them.” That’s right, states are collections of human people, and those collections of human people vote as such in the electoral college system.