The latest Gallup poll shows that majorities of Republican, Democrat, and Independent voters support an amendment to do away with the electoral college and replace it with a popular vote, and only 35% are in favor of it. It’s easy to see why – the electoral college is a relic of a voting system that never really existed. The idea was that each state would choose electors, and that the electors would then vote according to their own will. In reality, every state either actually requires or effectively requires its electors to vote in accordance with the majority of voters in each state. Instead, all the system really does is create an arbitrary winner-take-all system that effectively disenfranchises voters in solidly red or solidly blue states, and results in the complete disregard of almost half of the votes in swing states where the difference between winning and losing may be less than a percentage point. It’s no wonder that the US is the only remaining system that elects its executive in this bizarre manner.
Despite the massive opposition to the electoral college, there is not the slightest iota of attention in Washington, and very little attention in the media, for the idea of changing it. Why? Let me speculate up a few reasons:
1. The Republican Party (not Republican voters) is particularly fond of it – Since 1980, Republicans have dominated US policy. The Republican ideas of deregulation, low taxes, preemptive invasions, unrestricted military/CIA, drug wars, etc. have become the official policies of the Federal Government, regardless of what the public thinks about them. The Democratic Party has largely accepted the dictated Republican positions while ignoring even widely supported liberal ideas like socialized healthcare, drug deregulation, and limits on government intrusion. Thus it is no surprise that the Republican Party position on the Electoral College is the only position in Washington. Why is the GOP so fond of the electoral college? Simply because it helped them get Bush elected in 2000. There’s no reason whatsoever to think that it couldn’t go the other way in the future, but the Gallup poll clearly shows that this made a number of Republicans favor the electoral college.
2. The Democratic Party (not Democratic voters) is particularly fond of it – What? The Democratic Party got screwed by the electoral college in 2000, why would they be for it? Because in the long run, it’s the only reason they’re in power. The Democratic Party is essentially an amalgamation of all the different groups in the country that have a reason to be angry with the way the Republicans have been running the country for the last 30 years: the working class, minorities, social liberals, the well-educated, etc. Under the electoral college, the only way these groups can stop the Republicans is by voting together for whatever party is most likely to defeat the Republican candidate. Under a national popular vote, which would likely involve a runoff election, each of these groups would be free to vote for their own favored third party, and then choose the strongest among those in the runoff election. If this were to happen, it would be the end of the Democratic Party as we know it (really, the same exact thing is true of the Republican Party also) and the birth of many new third parties that would more accurately represent the people.
3. Lobbyists and corrupting influences like it – Probably the largest means of semi-legal bribery used by special interest groups is the attack ad. The attack ad is especially useful under the electoral college because the ads can be targeted at swing states, which gets more bang for the buck than advertising across the whole country. In addition, the attack ad makes far more sense in a two-party race, because then a decline in support for one candidate directly translates to an increase for the other. As discussed above, the end of the electoral college would allow third parties to gain support, and the lobbyists would find themselves becoming increasingly irrelevant.
In short, we don’t have a democracy, so it’s not up to the people to decide whether we should have an electoral college or not. So forget about it, sit back, and enjoy your shitty elections.