The election of Donald J. Trump proves it is time to scrap; or dramatically reform, the Electoral College.
Contrary to popular belief it is the Electoral College; a body of unelected part-time officials, and not the American people – that elects the president. This is leading to a serious problem here in the United States that might create a constitutional crisis.
We now have a situation in which a large segment of the American public views the president as illegitimate and illegal. Note: I personally disagree with this assessment and believe that Trump is a legal and legitimate president – albeit a very weak and extremely unpopular one.
It is this weakness and unpopularity that should make us reconsider the whole idea of the Electoral College. For we have a president who lacks a popular mandate. The Donald lacks a popular mandate because his opponent Hillary Clinton, got a much larger share of the popular vote; 65.844 million or 48.2% to his 62.99 million or 46.1%, CNN reported.
This situation occurred because the Electoral College allows the election of a president without a popular mandate. Disturbingly, this is the second time such an election has occurred in less than 20 years. George W. Bush was elected without a popular mandate in 2000.
Worse, we now have a president who is so weak and vulnerable that he might be incapable of any sort of constructive action or effective leadership. Not since the election of Abraham Lincoln have we had a president so widely viewed as illegitimate by a large segment of the American people. That of course did not end very well, and neither might the Trump presidency.
A Weak and Ineffective President
The lack of a mandate makes Trump a moving target in office; and worse sows discord, distrust and strife on a scale we not seen in generations. Some of this strife is obviously driven by Trump’s obnoxious personality, flamboyant style and controversial behavior, but the lack of a popular mandate makes things far worse.
All Americans need to honestly and soberly consider the following facts:
- Trump’s electoral victory generated rioting and protest marches in many American cities.
- Crowd scientists interviewed by The New York Times estimated the crowd at the so-called “Women’s March on Washington” on January 21 was three times as large as the audience at Donald’s inauguration.
- Serious (and I believe illegal) efforts were made to block Trump’s approval in the Electoral College.
- Worse the legitimacy of the election and the process itself was called into question by recount efforts and other allegations.
- President Trump’s inauguration was greeted by massive protest marches around the country. There were even reports of rioting in Washington, D.C., during the inaugural ceremony.
- Over 60 members of the House of Representatives boycotted the inauguration; because they view Trump as an illegitimate president, NPR reported. That indicates a complete lack of cooperation and bipartisanship in Congress that will lead to gridlock and all out political warfare on Capitol Hill.
- At least two prominent Republicans; US Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Florida, have launched public attacks on Trump. That indicates they do not view him as their party’s leader and think it is to their political advantage to attack him. McCain has even been promoting a smear document full of unverified claims about Trump that originates from a shadowy foreign spy.
- Elements of the intelligence community feel free to attack Trump and sabotage his administration and its policies. A number of informed observers; including prominent journalist Glenn Greenwald, believe there is an active conspiracy to destroy Trump among some elements of the national security establishment.
We need a President with a Legitimate Popular Mandate
None of this would be happening if Trump had anything like a legitimate popular mandate. We may have; or be approaching, a situation in which we lack an effective president.
The question of Trump’s legitimacy is an open wound that will not heal. Like an untreated wound, the legitimacy issue will fester and become infected. Worse, it threatens to poison our whole political process with doubt, hatred, cynicism, distrust, mistrust and fear.
This alone should make us reconsider the Electoral Congress and adopt the popular election of the President and Vice President. We need a President that represents all Americans and the entire country, not just a few states or a specific segment of the population.
Trump won by practicing a narrow class and race-based brand of politics that sowed nothing but division and hatred. To make matters worse the Democratic Party is now dominated by an even narrower identity based politics; that is even more out of touch with the public, than Trump’s cheap bigotry.
The Danger from the Electoral College
These narrow politics have come to pass because of the Electoral College. The college enables a candidate to reach the White House with just a very narrow focus.
Two thirds of the 2016 Presidential Campaign occurred in just six states in a nation of 50 states, according to the National Popular Vote project. To make matters worse 94% of the campaigning occurred in just 12 states.
There is no way a democracy can function with such a tiny segment of the population choosing the leader. We might face a worse situation in the future, if a President is elected with even a lower level of the popular vote. How is such a person supposed to lead a country into war or through a national emergency?
Here’s something to consider in 2004, Democrat John Kerry could have been elected President by just 59,393 votes in Ohio, even though President George W. Bush had a lead of three million popular votes. Even worse in in 2012, a shift of just 214,393 votes in 2012 would have allowed Mitt Romney to become President; even though Barrack Obama had a lead of five million votes.
A Good Plan to Scrap the Electoral College
This indicates we might face the nightmare not just of a president with no popular mandate, but of a chief executive actively opposed by a vast majority of the population. There is absolutely no way an effective government can function under such circumstances.
Fortunately we can rectify this situation this by enacting the National Popular Vote proposal. It will become law when legislatures of states with 270 electoral votes enact it around. Around 61% of those states have already gone along with the proposal.
The big advantage to his plan is that it would not require amending the Constitution. Instead it simply involves changing state laws to require the electoral vote to represent the popular vote. For a good view of this process see Yale law professor Akil Reed Amar’s recent book The Constitution Today.
One has to wonder if the looming debacle of a completely ineffective president locked in constant political warfare will force the National Popular Vote to become law. If it does not our Republic is in very sorry shape indeed.