I don’t think the Electoral College is a good way to select a leader. It magnifies the power of white voters, disenfranchises voters in non-swing states, and leaves open the possibility that a legitimate winner can be denied victory by a small group of unelected, unknown citizens—and before you give me the argument that the Electoral College ensures that the president has to win a variety of states, it really doesn’t. Just the eleven most populous states—California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey—are enough to cross the finish line, and as urbanization accelerates, that kind of result is increasingly likely. The Electoral College is a bad system that needs to be done away with.
And yet, I find myself hoping that the electors will bail us out of our current predicament. Donald Trump is a demagogue who gives every appearance of being an authoritarian, and I don’t want him anywhere near the halls of power. This leaves me in the uncomfortable position of hoping for an undemocratic outcome from an undemocratic institution to save our democracy.
Partially. I’m still unsure. This whole situation has left me deeply conflicted.
On the one hand, I remain steadfast in my belief that the electoral college is a crappy system that needs to be gotten rid of. On the other hand, I want to respect the fail-safes the Founding Fathers built into the Constitution, because they clearly had good reasons for many of them, see: what’s happening right the fuck now. Electing presidents by popular vote, just as we do with every other elected office, would seem to be a better system to me, and it would have solved the whole Trump problem, but what happens if we’re ever faced with a left-wing populist demagogue? If the voting lines stay as they are, we would be defenseless once someone like that got the Democratic nod.
Which, once again: Single Transferable Vote. It solves so much. You can argue that I prefer using the popular vote because I’ve twice seen the candidate I preferred lose due to the Electoral College, but with Single Transferable Vote, I have no idea how the voting lines will shake out. Hell, I might not even still be a reliable Democratic voter once we implement STV, not when there are more parties (and independent candidates) to choose from.
Plus, using STV solves both problems. First, because every vote is worth the same amount, there would be no areas where voters have disproportionate influence, i.e. no swing states. Disenfranchisement would lessen as most people find candidates and/or parties that actually like, instead of one they hate less. Primaries wouldn’t even be necessary anymore, since marginal candidates could campaign all the way to the end without repercussions on ideologically similar candidates. It would be more similar to the popular vote method—but with the important caveat that STV’s instant runoff gives the advantage to moderates, who are largely palatable to many voters, as opposed to fringe candidates, who have fewer (though more ardent) fans. That makes it harder for a demagogue to seize power, since they tend to make enemies.
If given the choice between leaving the system as it is today, with the Electoral College, and switching to a straight popular vote method, I would probably choose the latter, though you could argue that it would be for partisan reasons. I wouldn’t agree with that argument, but I can see where it’s coming from. Better than that, I think, is to switch fully to STV, and make the partisan issue moot as the existing party structure is totally scrambled.
I’d rather live in a country where the presidency is always won by center-left, center-right, or moderate politicians, and no one freaks out after each election because we’ll all know the person in the White House isn’t a yahoo, because we’ll all see the yahoos out there all the time, campaigning for their crazy candidates under their own banners, rather than slowly rotting the centrist parties from the inside. In this, at least, the radical left and radical right are useful—we need to see them for what they are, so reasonable people don’t let them anywhere near the nuclear codes. I think STV would help us do that, so we could put the un-democratic Electoral College nonsense.
EDIT: I should probably clarify my position on the electoral college with regards to Trump. If I had my perfect world from this point onward—clearly if I could have my perfect world from a month and a half ago, HRC would just win—the electors would ratify the election for Trump, with 5-10 Republican electors going rogue to make everyone super pissed off at the Electoral College. Then he’d get sworn in, and impeached in short order for violating the emoluments clause or one of the many other horrifying things he’s liable to do. (I of course hope he doesn’t do anything impeachable and is a great president, I just don’t believe it’ll happen.)
There’s definitely a part of me that hopes the electoral college votes against him, though, if only because it’d get the constitutional crisis we’re cruising for out of the way sooner rather than later. I’m not sure I’d act on that monkey brain feeling if given the choice, especially since there are definite downsides, but I’m not an elector, so I don’t have to square that circle. What I do know is that if the electoral college doesn’t vote against a literal demagogue, I don’t see a point in its existence.As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).