Those who listened to yesterday’s episode of my podcast Peaceful Globalist Review will remember the name David Harsanyl, a Conservative columnist for Townhall. Specifically, they’ll remember him as a guy who wrote an article defending the Electoral College system, which many people, myself included, have called broken.
For the past half a decade or so, one thing we’ve been told constantly is that we’re “more divided than ever.” I have dismissed that idea (how could you even measure that?) as nothing more than an excuse for authoritarianism, however, the people at Townhall have not, they take the idea rather seriously. Hence why Harsanyl says while defending the Elecotral College:
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.
(Side note: When I think of Presidents who have brought “political stability” George W. Bush and Donald Trump are quite possibly the last two to come to mind. Bush left office with the lowest approval rating in United States history — three points lower than Nixon after Watergate —after two controversial wars and the worst economy since the Great Depression and Donald Trump has done nothing if not destabilize political institutions — I thought that was “fighting the deep state” which most of his supporters love him for doing.)
However, it is this argument for keeping it that I most want to highlight, as it is a common talking point among Electoral College supporters:
If he is to be successful, Biden must govern in ways that are popular to diverse cultural and geographical areas — such as North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona, and not just California and New York.
(Another side note: New York and California are nowhere near as populated as most people think. California has a population of forty million and New York has a population of twenty million. Combined, that’s a population of sixty million in a country of three-hundred forty million — or about eighteen percent of the population if you round up. A president who appealed unanimously and only to them would end up with less than half of the popular vote share Walter Mondale ended up with in 1984 or that George McGovern ended up with in 1972. Even being as generous as possible with my estimates, it would take the nine most populated states all coming together and voting unanimously for a candidate in order for someone to win without the support of any smaller states.)
Of course, this issue with this argument should be obvious — the President of the United States should not have to worry about appealing to any state specifically. Biden should not have to worry about doing what’s good for “diverse cultural and geographical areas — such as North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona.” He should only have to worry about doing what’s good for one group, the people of the United States of America.
We hear all this talk about division from the media, yet nobody ever thinks about how divisive it is to put different areas of the country against each other constantly. If the President is forced to confront a policy that advantages some Americans against others, he should not be making this choice based on which area is a swing state, but based on which area contains the most Americans. He is the President of the United States of America, not the President of a handful of “diverse cultural and geographical areas” that will be the most split about voting for his party four years from now.
Now, am I saying that rural areas (and smaller states in general) should be left behind through our economic policies? No, however, I am saying that those concerns are not those for the President to worry about. If these smaller states feel a policy is leaving them behind, they have two Senators to represent their interests in a place where all states, regardless of size, can meet on an even playing field and determine if a policy is good for all of them.
I remember I once heard somebody say the reason we need the Electoral College is because without it, hypothetically someone could be elected President on the promise of taking water from the rest of the country and giving it to California. Ignoring the fact that California does not have enough people for this to be the case, any attempt to implement this would fail the House at best 53–382 and the Senate 2–98. Our government contains checks and balances in large part to make sure something like the hypothetical does not happen, yet when it comes to arguments for the Electoral College, we all of a sudden act like the President is nothing more than an elected autocrat.
For that matter, lets not forget just how much power the Senate has. The Senate ratifies treaties, it confirms cabinet nominees, and it confirms Supreme Court Justices — that’s a large amount of power all happening in the place where states are on an even playing field. And yet, somehow we keep hearing that rural areas are getting left behind — while I do agree that is the case, it’s clear that it’s not an issue of them not having enough political power, but the people they give that power not looking out for their best interests.
As it stands, the Electoral College is a failed system that does nothing more than divide our country just as much as any president elected through it. A move to a national popular vote, while far from a perfect solution to all issues, would at the very least mean elections take place in the United States, not in a handful of states.