Peter Beinart continues working through the stages of grief as he realizes the left has just lost the Supreme Court for a generation and its utopian agenda is about to hit the rocky shore of a Trump Administration. His latest is to declare that the Electoral College was designed to stop men like Trump. It is true. The Electoral College was designed, in part, to tame the passions of direct democracy that might bring about a demagogue.
But over the last two centuries, well meaning progressives have expanded voting rights to everyone, including people who do not own land or pay taxes, and the popular vote in each state has largely become binding on how the Electoral College electors are supposed to vote.
Yes, in the beginning, it was party men chosen by party loyalists who composed the Electoral College and they did not pay attention to popular votes. But when they did pay attention to popular votes, it was white male property owners they paid attention — arguably the people who demand the most stability to protect their property rights.
Over time, it became all white men, then all men regardless of race as we purged the blight of slavery from our system. Into the twentieth century, women got the vote, then Jim Crow tried to deny black voters their rights, and then we arrived at the end of the twentieth century. Over the course of time, through progressive efforts, the Electoral College became more and more tied to the popular vote of a state — to the extent that laws were creating punishing members of the Electoral College for deviating from the will of the people of the individual states.
Now, in this country, the Electoral College is no longer a vehicle by which a tyrant can be stopped if that tyrant makes a broad based appeal that crosses from large to small states. The Electoral College remains a vehicle to stop one candidate from being able to focus solely on the concerns of major coastal metropolises at the expense of everyone else, which was always its primary purpose. What Beinart really wants is a system where Presidential candidates can make a play for the mob — whoever gets the most votes wins. The net result would be Presidential campaigns designed to ignore the concerns of heartland voters, blue collar voters, and rust belt conservatives. Instead, they’d make plays for the values and concerns of urban and coastal liberals like Beinart.
And frankly, that would be far more dangerous than the Electoral College we have. Had the Democrats paid attention to blue collar voters and shifted just a few thousand votes, they wouldn’t have this problem. But they did not. Instead, they made a play for coastal elites and will now lose the Supreme Court for a generation. When you look at the data, Clinton really lost because she lost a few thousand votes in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania. She’d have won had she carried those states, but she did not relate to those people.
In other words, the Electoral College may not prevent a tyrant, but it still serves its foundational purpose, which was to ensure the large states do not gain so much power as to treat the smaller states as vassals worthy of ignoring. We have the media to do that.
If nothing else, let this election be a lesson for the left: states still matter. They are not just administrative entities of one national government.