The White House today released a response to a petition that sought to dissolve the electoral college and create a national popular vote.
The response repeats the bullshit we all learned in social studies – that the electoral college is so wonderful because it gives small states a bigger say by a tiny bit and people who live in small states should get ever so slightly more of a vote so they don’t get ignored and everything will be about cities and not farms (forget that most states contain both cities and rural parts) and blah blah blah.
Of course, that is complete nonsense and only reemphasizes the point of the petition. As pointed out in the petition and this graphic, the electoral college gives ALL the say in the presidential election to swing states, especially big swing states. If you are a voter in one of the 80% of states that is basically already decided one way or the other, your vote for president means absolutely nothing, and history shows that no candidate will pay any attention to you whatsoever.
Besides, that’s a backwards-looking justification – no one in 1787 was saying that we should have an electoral college instead of a popular vote out of concern for small states – they’re confusing that with the New Jersey Compromise. In fact, the debate about a national popular vote in 1787 wasn’t big state vs. small state, it was North vs. South. Once again, the South, the anchor of American progress, was concerned about how a national popular vote would effect their right to treat people as cattle. As James Fucking Madison himself put it:
There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.
That’s right,the purpose of the electoral college was to prop up slavery. With the electoral college the south could have its slaves and eat them too – they would get electors based on 3/5ths of their slaves, without actually giving them the right to vote. Under a national popular vote, they obviously would only get credit for people that actually vote. Liberals were pussies back then as much as today (note how it wasn’t even the 1/2 compromise, despite the ridiculousness of giving the South any credit for slaves in the first place), and the result was the electoral college we hate today.
But enough of history, let’s get back to why this horrible system still exists today. The White House seems to have deliberately misread the petition’s argument: “While supporters of the popular vote argue that the Electoral College gives a disproportionate amount of influence to smaller states…” the petition says. This is the dreaded straw man, the most annoying argument tactic ever. The problem with the electoral college, or rather the one problem stated in the petition of the many, many problems with the electoral college, is singular focus on swing states, rather “disproportionate” influence to smaller states.
Why is that bad? Here’s where the petition fails – it doesn’t really explain this. Giving so much influence to just a few states makes it much, much easier to corrupt the process. Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re an oil billionaire named Favid Foch, and you very badly want to have your favorite candidate, Fitt Fomney, get elected president. Fitt Fomney would be great for you because he will deregulate your industry allowing you to pollute at will and finally defeat your arch-nemesis, Mother Earth. So you come up with a devious plan – you will use your money to launch false and misleading ads supporting Fomney and attacking his opponent, fooling the masses into voting for him. Fomney, in turn, will be grateful for your support, and will totally bend over for you once he’s in the White House.
So is it easier for you to get Fomney elected by using your money to advertise in all 50 states as you would need to do in a national popular vote, or in just the handful of states that are undecided under the electoral college? Of course, it’s much easier under to advertise in the handful of undecided states, and that’s exactly what ends up happening. The electoral college multiplies the effect of Foch’s dirty money.
But if you want more problems with the electoral college, here just a small sample:
- Makes runoff elections effectively impossible, entrenching Duverger’s Law and thereby stifling third parties.
- Makes it harder for people temporarily staying away from their states of residency (e.g. students, soldiers) to exercise their right to vote. These people must vote absentee, which requires requesting a ballot by mail well in advance.
- Overall results are not reflective of actual votes – this is true especially in winner take all states, which are the vast majority of states. If a candidate gets 50.1% of the vote in 3 states, he gets all the electoral votes from all three as if he got 100% of the vote.
- Eases disenfranchisement – a state has nothing to lose by disenfranchising its citizens because its electoral votes are based on population, not the number of people that actually vote or can vote. So if you’re a state that wants to treat a segment of the population like complete human garbage and take away their right to vote to change any of that, there’s no repercussions to your voting power. In fact, that’s the reason we have the electoral college, as explained above.
So, after ignoring the real problems with the electoral college, the White House finally gets to the real reason no one’s going to try to change it:
…the President does not have the power to change this Article of the Constitution. A constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress (or a Convention under Article V of the Constitution) and ratification in three-fourths of all fifty states, would be required.
So we have an electoral college because it’s too difficult to change and too arcane for most of the electorate to care about. People are mostly content with their bullshit social studies textbook explanations about how the electoral college was about giving a boost to small states instead of whipping the First Lady’s ancestors. For the few who want to change it anyway, they’re never going to be strong enough to do all that’s necessary to change it.
And that, is why we have an electoral college. Because of slavery->Oops, it’s in the Constitution now -> Don’t feel like changing it. But I guess that would make a rather impolitic response to the petition.