The Popular Vote Is A Hoax
Enough whining about how Hillary’s “victory” in the popular vote reflects the people’s “real” choice for president. As recently as October, Democrats were calling popular vote systems racist; and besides, dumping the Electoral College may not even be constitutionally possible. I voted for Hillary, but liberal contortions to invalidate her loss by rewriting the rules exasperate me. The “popular vote” is a fake construct, a hoax that measures nothing of significance.
Preposterously, since the election some leading Democrats have been calling the Electoral College racist and even akin to slavery. But usually leftists argue the opposite – that popular vote systems are racist, not those that count by jurisdictions. Heavily Democratic California passed a voting-rights law in 2001 that allowed minority groups to sue cities with “at-large” systems of electing councilmembers. Supporters of such laws argue that citywide systems (the popular vote) stifle minority voices, and thus only Electoral College-like district elections ensure racial fairness.
Ever since, dozens of cities and school districts in California have abandoned popular-vote systems in favor of districts, to the rejoicing of left-wing proponents of populist inclusiveness. A Latino Democrat trying to dismember popular voting in Santa Monica complained of waiting “more than 70 years for fair elections and it’s not in the best interest of residents to continue to live under a rigged political system.”
Wait, I thought the Electoral College was rigged and the popular vote was fair. I guess it depends which system helps liberal candidates more.
Not that it matters much, because a popular-vote constitutional amendment would probably be unconstitutional. That seeming absurdity dates to a wrinkle the Founding Fathers ironed out in drafting the Constitution. The Electoral College is based on the two-chamber legislative structure known as the Connecticut Compromise, which gave big states like Virginia representation by population in the House; and small states like New Jersey an equal voice in the Senate.
After that careful balancing act, the Founders froze their hard work with the only permanent exception to the provision allowing constitutional amendments: that the Connecticut Compromise could not be repealed without the consent of every affected state (look it up: Article V).
In any event, there is no “popular vote” – or at least there wasn’t in 2016. In sports, nobody would crown a winner using results recalculated under different rules; why should politics be any different? Though the Seattle Mariners won 116 games in 2001, far more than any other baseball team, nobody gave them championship rings. Those went to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the World Series. Sure, winning games is very important in baseball – just like winning votes is in politics – but everyone knows it’s not how you win the top prize.
The very contours of this year’s campaign would have been different under a popular-vote system, so Hillary Clinton’s supposed 2.7 million-vote lead is a meaningless statistic.
In fact, the nominees themselves might very well have been different without the Electoral College. Candidates garner primary endorsements, volunteers, donations, and votes based mostly on their case that they would be the strongest nominee in November – under the rules of the Electoral College. Marco Rubio, to take one example, may have looked like a stronger 2016 nominee under a popular vote system, because votes from his fellow Latinos in Texas and California would matter, whereas they barely register in the Electoral College. If Trump – or Hillary – had lost the nomination, what relevance would her 2.7 million-vote margin have then?
A popular vote campaign would focus on different issues. For example, the desires of voters in oil-rich red states like Texas and Alaska were muted in 2016, as were the economic concerns of voters in heavily urbanized blue states like New Jersey and Massachusetts. Debates, TV commercials, campaign flare-ups – all would have been different if every vote counted the same. It would literally have been a different election. The popular vote totals are useful, I guess, for writers of Hillary Clinton fan fiction and trivia nights 20 years from now – but nothing more.
Presidents win under the Constitution’s rules, full stop. If each county got one vote, Trump would have been elected in a landslide. Who cares? If every resident of America (including felons, 17-year-olds, and illegal immigrants) was allowed to vote, Hillary would have dominated. Who cares? In presidential elections, there are no moral victories – only victories. Even for those of us who don’t like it, the victor this time was Donald J. Trump.
David Benkof is a columnist for the Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.