The electoral college is a must to keep. One must read to the end of The Washington Post’s recent editorial headlined “Abolish the Electoral College,” before hitting on the real reason the paper’s editors want to upend the long-standing constitutional institution. “Mr. Trump’s election was a sad event for the nation,” notes the Post, “his re-election would have been a calamity.”
Maybe, maybe not. That’s a matter of partisan perspective. Those who are genuinely concerned about the future of American governance would be calling to strengthen institutions that provide political stability, not destroy them. But when your concerns about “American democracy” are really just a euphemism for partisan power grabs, you end up making lots of sloppy arguments.
Like so: “It is alarming that a candidate came so close to winning while polling more than 5 million fewer votes than his opponent nationwide. The Electoral College, whatever virtues it may have had for the Founding Fathers, is no longer tenable for American democracy.”
The fact that the Electoral College doesn’t align with the “popular vote” isn’t alarming; it is the point. If the Electoral College synchronized with the outcome of the direct democratic national vote tally every election, it wouldn’t need to exist. It isn’t a loophole; it is a bulwark.
The Electoral College exists to diffuse the very thing the Post claims is most beneficial: the “overbearing majority,” as James Madison put it. If majoritarianism is truly always the best means of deciding an issue, then the Post would support a mere majority of states being able to overturn the First Amendment or decide abortion policy.
But if states still matter, then the Electoral College’s “virtues” are far stronger today, in an era when federalism is ignored and Americans are more likely to cluster in urban areas, than it was in the founding generation, when Washington was largely powerless. It is one of the institutions that makes a “democracy” tenable in a truly diverse and sprawling nation.