Why Presidents Aren’t Elected by Popular Vote

electoral collegeIn spite of what we’re hearing about how “Hillary Clinton won the popular vote so she should be the president”, statements like this reveal a basic misunderstanding of the American electoral process.

According to Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe, there is no such thing as “national popular voting trends” in the U.S. Constitution – and for good reason. We are a nation of states, not just populations.

“Those states have different political, economic, and cultural interests — Massachusetts and Arkansas are not interchangeable — and the Founders designed a federal system that respects each state’s identity and autonomy.”

This is why they created an Electoral College, a system that ensures that voters in a handful of densely populated urban regions cannot hand the presidency to a candidate that a significant majority of the states oppose, Jacoby explains.

“Remember, it was the states that created the national government. That’s why it takes a consensus of the states, not merely a popular majority, to elect a president or amend the Constitution.”

Even though Clinton supporters are using the popular vote count as a way to assuage their disappointment over her loss, in reality, the presidential campaigns of both Clinton and Trump were never focused on winning the popular vote. As we all know, their whole strategy was based upon the need to acquire the majority of 538 electoral votes – which is at least 270 votes.

And if no candidate wins 270 votes, the process still does not default to the popular vote but goes to the House of Representatives to decide.

Jacoby goes on to cite an analogy made by David French in National Review a few days ago where he said, “We don’t know who would have won the 2016 (or 2000) presidential races if the president was elected by popular vote because the race would have been run completely differently. . . . Democrats declaring Hillary’s superiority aren’t unlike sports fans who stubbornly cling to the notion that their team would win if only the rules were just a little bit different.”

In other words, if the World Series were decided by total runs scored, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians would be sharing the 2016 trophy because each team had 27 runs over the course of seven games – but, as Jacoby points out, that’s not how baseball works.

And winning the popular vote isn’t how America elects presidents.

“The Constitution was crafted to thwart pure majoritarianism, which the Founders knew was apt to lead to a tyranny of the masses,” Jacoby explains.

While it’s understandable that the losing party would seize on Clinton’s win in the popular vote to make it look as though the election was illegitimate, this is nothing more than empty talk. If we truly want every vote to count, rather than just the votes from large population centers, then we need an electoral college.

“No one becomes president without commanding the support of many states,” Jacoby writes. “It’s no guarantee of presidential wisdom, courage, or honesty. But it does confer constitutional and political legitimacy. In a nation as polarized and diverse as ours, that’s no small thing.”

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