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Friday, December 23, 2016
NY Times: Scrap the Electoral College because of slavery
The New York Times endorsed the election of presidents by popular vote in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The Times resorts to playing the race cardby arguing that the original reason for the Electoral College was to favor the Southern slave states:
The Electoral College, which is written into the Constitution, is more than just a vestige of the founding era; it is a living symbol of America's original sin. When slavery was the law of the land, a direct popular vote would have disadvantaged the Southern states, with their large disenfranchised populations. Counting those men and women as three-fifths of a white person, as the Constitution originally did gave the slave states more electoral votes.
This race argument is based on the essays by attorney Donald Applestein and Yale law professor, Aklhil Amar, who argue that counting each slave as three fifths of a person added to the population of the slave states, thereby giving the slave states more representatives in the House and therefore more electoral votes than it would have if slaves were not counted.
The Times is linking the argument for a popular vote election to labeling the Electoral College as a living symbol of slavery that must be abolished. We fought a civil war to end slavery, but the Times dredges up slavery as reason to endorse the popular vote.
The Times seems to have discovered and to be offended by this view of the E.C. only after Trump won the E.C. vote but lost the popular vote, and probably by Bush 43 winning the E.C. vote but losing the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000.
The constitutional reasons for the E.C. were stated by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 68:
It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. ...
The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications[.]
Hamilton did not own slaves. He started a movement in New York to free the slaves. He did not campaign for the E.C. to give power to the slave states. Hamilton wanted another buffer, the E.C., between the people and the presidency to elect the president because he did not trust the electorate. A nationwide popular vote is not consistent with Hamilton's reasons for the E.C.
The E.C. prevents the domination of the presidential election by the most populous states such as California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina. One danger of a popular vote election is that a candidate would campaign in the populous states and the large cities in each state and would tailor his agenda to the voters in the large cities in the large states. This would ignore the needs and views of small towns and rural areas, which are the base of the Republican conservative party.
The Times complains that the election now is fought in the ten or twelve battleground states. But a popular vote election replaces the battleground states election with an election fought in the ten most populous states.
The Times endorses the National Popular Vote Compact, which if enacted by states having at least 270 votes would give the E.C. votes from the states in the Compact to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the winner of the state. The website of the National Popular Vote states:
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Explanation It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes (CA, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA). It will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes. Most recently, the bill was passed by a bipartisan 40–16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House, 28–18 in Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate, 57–4 in Republican-controlled New York Senate, and 37–21 in Democratic-controlled Oregon House. It has passed one house in 12 additional states with 96 electoral votes (AR, AZ, CO, CT, DE, ME, MI, NC, NM, NV, OK, OR."
The fair method to reform the E.C. is to have each state agree that the E.C. vote goes to the winner of each congressional district. The E.C. vote would mirror the House of Representatives, which is the most representative elected body in our government. It would also force the candidate to campaign in all fifty states, thus involving the entire country in the election. A candidate would have to appeal to voters in the 435 congressional districts. Having the E.C. vote based on the congressional districts is consistentwith Hamilton's reasons for the E.C.
Conservatives must mobilize to oppose a popular vote election and push for an election based on the congressional district model. If we do nothing, the only proposal is the popular vote model, which will eventually pass.