Commentary: Electoral College under attack, again

Early this year, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, a vocal critic of President Trump, introduced a bill to eliminate the Electoral College.

In two presidential elections since 2000, including the most recent one in which Hillary Clinton won 2.8 million more votes than her opponent, the winner of the popular vote did not win the election because of the distorting effect of the outdated Electoral College,” Cohen said in a statement.“Americans expect and deserve the winner of the popular vote to win office. More than a century ago, we amended our Constitution to provide for the direct election of U.S. Senators. It is past time to directly elect our President and Vice President.”

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the Electoral College came about as a compromise between large and small states. The large states wanted presidential voting to be based on population, as in the House of Representatives, while the small states wanted each state to have the same number of votes, as in the Senate (and the Constitutional Convention itself, for that matter). So they split the difference by giving each state a number of electors equal to its combined total of seats in both houses of Congress and establishing the Electoral College.

Critics of the Electoral College point out that five times in our nation’s history (twice since 2000), the winner of the popular vote did not win the electoral vote. What they neglect to point out is that fifteen times the winner did not get a majority of the vote. President Clinton did not receive 50% of the vote in either of his presidential elections. Most of those who want to eliminate the EC are liberal, since both of the presidents elected in modern times and lost the popular vote were Republicans- George W Bush and Donald Trump. Funny there isn’t the same outcry for a clear majority for election. Two thoughts to consider regarding the Electoral College:

First, America is a representative republic, not a democracy. The Electoral College is consistent with that representative republic model. Our founders rejected a pure democracy because as James Madison said, “democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.” A democracy is mob rule.

Second, we are the United STATES of America. Vertically Americans are one people living under a rule of common law, but horizontally we live in sovereign states. If the Electoral College were eliminated, the rights of sovereign states would disappear with it. The college was established to protect state rights and to insure each state had a voice in electing the POTUS. Under the Electoral College, every state is relevant. If it were eliminated, candidates would ignore smaller states in favor of the larger metro areas.
Cohen’s bill has little chance of success this year. To pass, it would require a two thirds majority in Congress and ratification by three fourths of the states, and that won’t happen, but conservatives should be diligent. The Electoral College and state’s rights continue to be under attack and liberals won’t rest until both are eliminated.

Note: Steve Fair’s commentaries have appeared occasionally at the CapitolBeatOK website. Fair is Chairman of the Fourth District of the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by phone at 580.252.6284 or by email at
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