July 9, 2017

A cure for the electoral college problem (including its ethnic bias rooted in slavery)

Oregon Public Empowerment News - The Oregon State Senate should debate and then pass HB 2927, putting Oregon among the states who have not just recognized that the current electoral college system has failed us but which have also figured out a way to adjust the electoral college so that every American can have an equal say in electing our sole nationally elected official.

That adjustment is the National Popular Vote plan. That’s the deal where state legislatures pass laws agreeing that, once enough states are part of the deal to make it work, they will award their state’s electoral college votes for the presidency to the candidate who gets the most votes across all 50 states, putting an end to the bizarre result where the candidate preferred by millions more Americans can lose the race for our sole national office.

The electoral college was not just, as popular lore has it, a Rube Goldberg contraption cobbled together due to the elite Founding Fathers’ mistrust of the unwashed masses. That story is a cover story for the reality, which is that the system was set up as another way to help protect slavery, which by 1787 had become a uniquely vicious and extraordinarily profitable way of life for a tiny oligarchy who ruled the slave states with iron hands.

The entire constitutional project in Philadelphia was warped by the insistence of the representatives from the slave states on embedding the peculiar institution into the bedrock of the country. Those slave state delegates worked to protect the slavery system against the very ideals of freedom that they rhetorically championed. That is why they could not agree to direct popular election of the president – they could easily foresee a time of national abolitionist sentiment.

So they devised a system that gives greatly disproportionate weight to the states with low voting population: the electoral college, with each state legislature specifically charged with deciding how their state’s electoral votes would be determined. (The slave states also insisted that each slave be counted as three-fifths of a person in deciding how many representatives the states got, which also determines how many electoral votes the states would get.)

In America today, the outsized influence of the combined low population states makes them nearly the equal of states having millions more Americans. That creates a situation where, thanks to the electoral college, voters in just a handful of swing states decide who is president, while the rest of the country is left out of the choice.

And those low population states, with their outsized influence, are much whiter than America as a whole, while the most populous states reflect the diversity of America to a much greater degree. Thus, the recent trend towards popular vote losers being chosen as electoral college winners is not just an oddity. It has profound consequences to our ability to address the problems of inequality and injustice that dog us. If we do not overcome this legacy of slavery that is regularly installing popular vote losers in the White House – twice since 2000 – we are at risk of greater and greater pressures and cracks in society that cannot be resolved through the normal workings of democracy.


R. Smith said...

So, we let California decide the president. If you discount California's votes, Trump won the total popular vote from the other 49 states. I'm not a fan of Trump, but I believe the Electoral College levels the playing field so that the states with greater population don't run roughshod over the smaller states.

Anonymous said...

...Which is of course preferable to the state of affairs we have now, where smaller states ride roughshod over the places where most people actually live.

xilii said...
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