Every four years, Americans hear a familiar refrain from the media, talking heads, and Leftist politicians: “we need to abolish the electoral college, and choose a president by popular vote alone.”
There are many reasons why getting rid of the electoral college would hurt our Republic rather than help it, but for now, let us leapfrog that debate and consider the exact opposite route: what if we abolished the popular vote instead?
Not only were most of the 2020 polls wildly inaccurate, but the actual vote-tallying also isn’t going so well either.
Imagine a presidential election where the only votes cast for the candidates came from the electors of the electoral college, and those electors were only voted in by their respective state legislatures. No direct input from the American people would be necessary at all. (RELATED: The 2020 Election Debacle)
What a dystopian nightmare, cry loyal MSNBC viewers!
But this system is largely how the first eight U.S. presidential elections functioned through 1820, and the practice didn’t die out completely until after the Civil War. Two centuries and 24 more states later, the nation’s population has exploded, but that does not mean the old way of doing things would be impossible today.
The states themselves once decided how to select electors for the electoral college, most often through state legislatures. Of course, the people voted for their state representatives to do just that.
Why that setup is any less righteous is seldom considered by those who fetishize the popular vote.
The wildest and consistent expansion of power in American history has been that of the federal machine in Washington, DC. Eliminating the popular vote to protect democracy may sound counter-intuitive, but it would relocate the nexus of political drama to local statehouses, investing citizens with far more concern for their own community.
It could also cut through the rabid national polarization wrought by skewed news coverage, campaign ads, pandering speeches, lies, censorship, and hundreds of millions of dollars sucked away by the consultant class.
As H.L. Mencken wrote over 100 years ago, “Civilization, in fact, grows more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
Today, talk of civil war brewing is fashionable. Such buzz should probably be chalked up to another “craze” or “hobgoblin,” but political divides are indeed sharpening, impacting communities across the country. The end of an election no longer signals a pause in the political and cultural scrimmage.
The popular vote contributes to this escalation of tensions by thrusting every individual into the political trenches. To the political class go the spoils, while the average American gets a raw deal.
If the American people decided to shrug off the popular vote, citizen vs citizen political conflicts would remain primarily local rather than national or tribal, and we could all be less antagonistic, frightened, and angry toward our countrymen in a far-off state. There would be a stronger democratic check on the government than before, because the incentive to watch your local politician is stronger.
That politician then has more motivation to champion regional issues that actually matter to the people. (RELATED: Trump Launches Last Ditch Legal Effort In 4 States)
The status quo does the opposite, atomizing voters as they align with the red team or blue team, both being detached from any community while in pursuit of 70 million votes every four years.
Returning to strictly local politics could quell the ever-expanding power base in Washington, DC. Americans could finally decide for themselves how to organize and live in society, rather than battling every four years for total control over 328 million people.
One person, one vote is viewed as a sacred principle in America, but it should not be an end unto itself. However unlikely it is that we will change our system, Americans should ponder whether the popular vote, far from empowering them, has allowed them to be enraged, divided, and used. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Nick Hankoff is a writer, editor, and host of a podcast at, where his other writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Advocates for Self-Government can also be found. He lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his wife and their three children.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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