Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Electoral College: How We Got Here

scene_at_the_signing_of_the_constitution_of_the_united_statesDonald Trump carried nine of the ten North Country counties that lie entirely or partly in the Adirondack Park and won 55.4 percent of the region’s votes. All told, 110,730 people in those ten counties voted for Trump. Their votes were counted, of course, but they did not count.

That’s because Hillary Clinton easily won the statewide vote, and in our antiquated system of electing presidents, that means she will be awarded all of the state’s votes in the Electoral College when the state’s electors meet this Monday.

Nationwide, the tables were turned. Clinton won the popular vote by a good margin. As of this week, she led Trump by more than 2.6 million votes. But because Trump won more states, with more Electoral College votes, he is poised to become the second president in this young century to enter the White House after getting fewer votes than his opponent. It’s as if Democratic votes didn’t count in all those Trump states.

Democrats and other anti-Trumpians are outraged. Some are imploring the Electoral College to rebel and pick someone else for president. Others are circulating petitions on Facebook calling for the abolition of the Electoral College.

I am one who thinks the Electoral College should be scotched. I’ve seen arguments in favor of it and find them unconvincing. In a modern democracy, it makes no sense that the loser of the popular vote should win the election.

How did we get to this place? To find out, I recently dug out my copy of James Madison’s Notes of the Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787. Madison’s Notes are the best source we have of what went on behind the closed doors of the Constitutional Convention that bequeathed us the Electoral College.

A Chimerical Idea

The starting point for the debates in the convention was the Virginia Plan. On May 29, just a few days after the convention musters a quorum, Edmund Randolph of Virginia proposes a number of resolutions that together formed a framework for a new federal government. It calls for a bicameral legislature (with one branch appointed by state legislatures), an executive, and a judiciary.

We are concerned with Randolph’s seventh resolution, dealing with the national executive. It proposed, in small part, “that a National Executive be instituted; to be chosen by the National Legislature …”

james-wilsonOn June 1, the convention delegates take up the seventh resolution. On this day, they barely touch on the method of electing the executive, but James Wilson of Pennsylvania, one of the most learned of the delegates, argues that the executive should be independent and so should not be appointed by the legislature. Madison writes: “Mr. Wilson said he was almost unwilling to declare the mode [of election] which he wished to take place, being apprehensive that it might appear chimerical. He would say however at least that in theory he was for an election by the people.”

The next day, June 2, the delegates consider the election question in earnest. Wilson now proposes that the states be divided into districts, comprising one or more states, and that the people in each district vote for electors who in turn would appoint the “executive magistracy.” Here we have the germ of the Electoral College.

“Mr. Wilson repeated his arguments in favor of an election without the intervention of the States. He supposed too that this mode would produce more confidence among the people in the first magistrate, than an election by the national legislature.”

Madison writes that Hugh Williamson of North Carolina “could see no advantage in the introduction of Electors chosen by the people who would stand in the same relation to them as the State Legislatures, whilst the expedient would be attended with great trouble and expence.”

Wilson’s motion is defeated in an 8-2 vote by the state delegations. Only Pennsylvania and Maryland vote for it. Later in the day, the delegations vote 8-2 to have the national executive elected by the national legislature for a seven-year term. The same two states dissent.

The Idea Reborn

Many delegates continue to harbor doubts about allowing the national legislature to pick the executive. The fear is that candidates will curry favor with the legislature and become beholden to it. Some delegates favor election by the people; those opposed argue that people would be duped into electing an unfit leader or would vote only for candidates from their own states.

On July 19, Rufus King of Massachusetts revives Wilson’s idea from weeks earlier. “On the whole he was of the opinion that an appointment by electors chosen by the people for the purpose, would be liable to the fewest objections.”

William Paterson of New Jersey takes Wilson’s suggestion a step further: “He proposed that the Executive should be appointed by Electors to be chosen by the States in a ratio that would allow one elector to the smallest and three to the largest States.”

Wilson says he is glad to see the idea gaining ground.

James Madison himself then weighs in, arguing that the executive should not be appointed by the legislature. At first, he seems to favor a direct election by the people. “It would be as likely as any [method] that could be devised to produce an Executive Magistrate of distinguished Character.” However, he then raises a difficulty “of a serious nature.” We’ll quote this part in full:

“The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.”

The language is somewhat elliptical. I’ll do my best to translate. In general, many delegates thought the relative power of the states should be proportional to their populations. For this reason, the South wanted slaves to be counted in the population. Since slaves could not vote, however, the clout of the southern states would not be proportional to their population if the executive were chosen in a direct election by the people (i.e., those with the right to vote). Yet if the executive were chosen by electors, the relative power of southern states would be preserved as each state would be allotted a number of electors based on its total population.

Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut moves that the executive be appointed by electors. The states vote 6-3 in favor. The delegates from Massachusetts are divided. The delegates then vote on whether the electors should be chosen by the state legislatures. This passes 8-2.

At this stage, then, we have an Electoral College whose electors are chosen not by the people, as they are today, but by state legislators. The delegates put off discussion on how many electors should be given to each state.

Back to Square One

Four days later, on July 23, William Houston of New Jersey and Richard Spaight of North Carolina move to reconsider the whole business of electors. “Mr. Houston urged the extreme inconveniency & the considerable expense, of drawing together men from all the States for the single purpose of electing the Chief Magistrate.”

The states vote 7-3 to reconsider. The next day, Houston makes a motion, seconded by Spaight, that the executive be appointed by the national legislature. “He dwelt chiefly on the improbability, that capable men would undertake the service of Electors from the more distant States.”

In a long speech on July 25, Madison analyzes the various options and the demerits of each method of choosing the executive. He opposes election by the national legislature, the state legislatures, or the state executives. “The option before us then lay between an appointment by Electors chosen by the people—and an immediate appointment by the people.”

james_madisonMadison argues that having electors would reduce the chance of political shenanigans. “As the electors would be chosen for the occasion, would meet at once, & proceed immediately to an appointment, there would be very little opportunity for cabal, or corruption.”

Nevertheless, Madison feels the delegates would not support an appointment by electors. “The remaining mode was an election by the people or rather by the qualified part of them: With all its imperfections he liked this best.”

The next day, George Mason, a fellow Virginian, opposes Madison. “It has been proposed that the election should be made by the people at large; that is that an act which ought to be performed by those who know most of Eminent characters, & qualifications, should be performed by those who know the least.”

Mason moves that the executive be appointed by the national legislature for a term of seven years and not be eligible for reappointment. The states vote 6-3 in favor. Virginia’s delegation is divided. In an unusual step, Madison specifies how his fellow Virginians voted. He and George Washington (revered by all) had voted against it.

The convention adjourns until August 6 to allow a five-member committee (the Committee of Detail) to write the first draft of the constitution.

The Draft Constitution

On August 6, the Committee of Detail delivers its draft of the constitution. Article X deals with the executive branch, and Section 1 of that article spells out how the President will be elected. Section 1 reads in its entirety:

“The Executive Power of the United States shall be vested in a single person. His stile shall be, ‘The President of the United States of America;’ and his title shall be, ‘His Excellency.’ He shall be elected by ballot by the Legislature. He shall hold his office during the term of seven years; but shall not be elected a second time.”

In the ensuing weeks the delegates deliberate over each part of the draft constitution. On August 24, they take up Article X. Some delegates continue to resist an election by the legislature.

Daniel Carroll of Maryland moves to replace “by the Legislature” with “by the people.” The delegations vote 9-2 against it, with Pennsylvania and Delaware in dissent.

Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania moves that the President “shall be chosen by Electors to be chosen by the People of the several States.” The delegations reject the proposal in a 7-4 vote.

The convention votes separately on the first part of Morris’s motion—namely that the President “shall be chosen by Electors.” This is defeated in a close vote, with the states evenly split.

Further discussion of Section 1 of Article X is postponed.

A Second Revival

On September 4, the so-called Committee of Eleven — with one member from each of the eleven states in attendance — proposes a number of additions and changes to the draft constitution. Among other things, it restores the Electoral College, sparking a robust debate that stretches over several days. The new proposal reads in part:

“Each State shall appoint in such manner as its Legislature may direct, a number of Electors equal to the whole number of Senators and members of the House of Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Legislature. The Electors shall in their respective States, vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves.”

Under this scheme, if a candidate wins a majority of the votes, he becomes president. The runner-up becomes vice president. If no one claims a majority, the Senate will choose the President from among the five highest vote-getters.

The plan contains several innovations: (1) it lets the states decide how they will appoint electors, (2) it gives a formula for calculating how many electors each state will have, and (3) it directs that the electors vote in their respective states rather than gather in a national convention.

The proposal seems to catch delegates by surprise. Virginia’s Edmund Randolph and South Carolina’s Charles Pinckney “wished for a particular explanation & discussion for changing the mode of electing the Executive.”

Gouverneur Morris, one of the committee members, offers six reasons for the change (the direct quotes are from Madison’s Notes; my comments are in parentheses):

  1. “The 1st was the danger of intrigue & faction if the appointment should be made by the Legislature.”
  2. “The inconveniency of an ineligibility required by that mode in order to lessen its evils.” (If appointed by the legislature, the president would be ineligible for a second term even if he were worthy.)
  3. “The difficulty of establishing a Court of Impeachments, other than the Senate which would not be so proper for the trial nor the other branch for the impeachment of the President, if appointed by the Legislature.”
  4. “No body had appeared to be satisfied with an appointment by the Legislature.”
  5. “Many were anxious even for an immediate choice by the people.” (That is, some delegates favored direct elections by the people.)
  6. “The indispensible necessity of making the Executive independent of the Legislature.”

Morris goes on: “As the Electors would vote at the same time throughout the U.S. and at so great a distance from each other, the great evil of cabal was avoided. It would be impossible to corrupt them.”

George Mason concedes that the scheme would reduce the chance of corruption. “It was liable however to this strong objection that nineteen times in twenty the President would be chosen by the Senate, an improper body for the purpose.” The implication is that if the Senate were to appoint the president, opportunities for corruption would still arise.

Charles Pinckney offers three more objections:

  1. “The Electors will be strangers to the several candidates and of course unable to decide on their comparative merits.” (This also was an objection to holding direct elections.)
  2. “It makes the Executive reeligible which will endanger the public liberty.” (He feared the President would become “fixed for life” in the office.)
  3. “It makes the same body of men which will in fact elect the President his Judges in case of an impeachment.”

James Wilson, who first suggested an Electoral College back in June, remarks on the divisiveness over the election issue. “It is in truth the most difficult of all on which we have had to decide.”

The delegates debate a number of points over the next few days, but they seem most concerned with the prospect that presidents will be beholden to the senators who appoint them. It adds to fears that the Senate is being given too much power and could evolve into an aristocracy. Under Wilson’s plan, the people would choose the electors. Under the revised plan, Wilson declares, “the President will not be the man of the people as he ought to be, but the Minion of the Senate.”

To deprive the Senate of a role in the election, Mason suggests that whoever gains the most votes from the electors should be president, even if he fails to win a majority of the votes. However, this motion is roundly defeated, 9-2.

It should be noted that the power of the small states is magnified in the Senate, where each state has an equal vote. This was not lost on Roger Sherman of Connecticut, who opposed Mason’s motion. “If the small states had the advantage in the Senate’s deciding among the five highest candidates, the large States would have in fact the nomination of these candidates.” He is referring to the fact that the large states would have more electors in the Electoral College.

On September 6, Hugh Williamson “suggested as better than an eventual choice by the Senate, that this choice should be made by the Legislature, voting by States and not per capita.” The aim is to dilute the role of the Senate.

Sherman then proposes that the choice be made by the House of Representatives, leaving the Senate out of the picture entirely. Mason endorses this idea “as lessening the aristocratic influence of the Senate.” Sherman’s motion passes 10-1, with only Delaware opposing.

Under this scheme, the House votes by state. Thus, the small states retain their outsize influence if the House must decide an election.

The delegates have now created the basic machinery for electing the president that remains in place today, with one change: the Constitution will be amended in 1804 so that the electors cast ballots for both president and vice president.

Some Conclusions

The Electoral College does not operate as the delegates imagined. Judging from their remarks at the convention, it seems clear that the delegates envisioned it as a deliberative body, which is why they feared cabals and corruption. In fact, the Electoral College acts a rubber-stamp, with each state’s electors merely ratifying the popular vote in their state. The electors serve no purpose.

So what is the rationale for continuing the Electoral College?

The delegates to the 1787 convention believed that the average man in the street or on the farm would not be in a position to judge the character of candidates from distant states. Given the lack of mass media at that time, that was perhaps a reasonable assumption. That’s not a concern today. No doubt there was some class bias at work too. Nowadays, we accept that every eligible citizen has a right to vote.

As Madison pointed out, the Electoral College helped the slave states. In an infamous bargain, the delegates agreed that each slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of tallying a state’s population. This gave the slave states more clout in the Electoral College than they would have had if presidents were elected by popular vote. In essence, slaves were included in population counts to give slave states more power to perpetuate slavery. This repugnant history is all the more reason to get rid of the Electoral College.

In 1787, states were more or less sovereign realms. Indeed, the failure of the country to act as one nation under the Articles of Confederation led to the Constitutional Convention. At the convention, the smaller states feared they would be “swallowed up” by the larger states and demanded an equal vote in the legislature. In the Great Compromise, the delegates agreed that each state would have an equal vote in the Senate but not in the House of Representatives.

Similarly, some people argue that the Electoral College is also designed to protect small states. However, the small state/big state divide was not a major part of the debate over the Electoral College. In fact, the delegates acknowledged that the big states would hold sway in the appointment of electors who in turn would vote for president. The small states would have an equal vote only if the election were thrown to the House. But this hasn’t happened since the 1800s.

Trump supporters like to point out that the 2016 electoral map shows most of the country colored red (Republican), even though Clinton won the popular vote. By this logic, land mass matters more than population in electing a president. So should we apportion votes in the Electoral College based on a state’s acreage? Under this scenario, Alaska, with a population of 737,000, would have 12 times as many Electoral College votes as New York State, with a population of 19.8 million. Does that sound fair?

Actually, the map oversimplifies political reality. It’s not the case that Democrats live just on the coasts and Republicans just in the heartland. Many Democrats live in red states, just as many Republicans live in blue states. For example, Trump won 4.4 million votes in California — far more than he won in the small western states that account for much of the red swath on the electoral map. If we were to elect a president by popular vote, candidates would campaign throughout the nation, not just in a few swing states. All votes would matter, and all votes would matter equally. To me, that sounds fair. And I think James Wilson would agree.

Howard Chandler Christy’s “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States.” The drawings are of James Wilson and James Madison.

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Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.


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214 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Scrap it as we did with the Pony Express…

  2. JohnL says:

    I think the electoral college is an incredibly well thought out way of handling the electing  of a President, particularly in a nation the size of this one.  To use an electoral college system for a small area like a town, county, or even state wide office may be a waste of time and resources, but for this immense nation as a whole, in my opinion it serves one very large and critical purpose.   If not for the electoral college system, this country would be electing the president based on the votes of a (very) few large urban areas, to the detriment of rural areas such as I, and presumably many of the Almanac readers, live in.  Mr Brown has a point that right  now candidates tend to campaign in the ‘contested’ states, but without the electoral college, they would be campaigning in only a very few cities.  Think, NY,  LA, San Diego, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Phoenix, etc. If you think these cities’ interests are the same as those of Oneida, Glens Falls, Spencerport, or Lake Placid, then I guess the popular vote is for you.  Upstate NY (including the Adirondacks) is a perfect example of what happens (or doesn’t happen) when the people of New York City are the ones deciding the fate of the entire state.
    One last point I would make is that what I’m seeing this election cycle is that the people who are all of a sudden railing against the electoral college system, a system that has been in place for 200+ years, are those people whose candidate lost.  Get over it. 

    • rc says:

      “110,730 people in those ten counties voted for Trump”
      But you don’t cite how many state-wide voted for Clinton or other candidates. Are their votes less important because they didn’t pick the least qualified candidate who has ever run for ANY political office? Because they live away?

      Should we break away and become a separate state, questing to beat out Mississippi as the poorest state in the union?

      We depend on downstate – like it or not. And they depend on us.
      “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Remember those words?

      Getting over a 2.8 million vote difference between actual and electoral votes will require a president with compassion and prudence, both of which trump apparently lacks. But we can hope for the best. Even from a proto-fascist.

      • Alan Vieters says:

        The election of trump is unpresidented.

      • JohnL says:

        Clinton won the popular vote nationwide by some 2.8 million votes. Clinton won the popular vote in California by 4 million votes. That means Trump won the popular vote in the other 49 states. If you want California electing our President, I’ve got nothing else to say to you. Proto Fascist. Wow, you really ARE a sore loser.

        • Dave says:

          That’s not how the math works

          • JohnL says:

            Works for me. Please explain in detail where my math is faulty.

            • Dave says:

              It wouldn’t be CA electing the president in a popular vote scenario anymore than it will be TX that elects Trump in this Electoral College.

              That’s not how summation of numbers works. You can’t point to a single number in the sequence that you happen to dislike (or like) and claim it as the reason for the total. All of the numbers in the sequence, combined, are responsible for the total. Sure, CA’s 8 million Clinton votes helped her win the popular vote, but the other states contributed 57 million votes for Hillary, and without them CA’s would obviously be meaningless.

              I do think you raise a very valid issue about large population centers v. small rural areas (an argument that’s been going on in this country since Hamilton v. Jefferson) – and that is something this country should continue to discuss and work out, but the example you used in your second comment, and which I’ve seen repeated on conservative social media all day today (is that where you got it?), doesn’t add up (pun intended!)

            • rc says:

              and thus we see simple math education lacking

        • Alan Vieters says:

          “I love the poorly educated.”

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          That’s like saying Trump won the Electoral College because he won Texas.

    • Boreas says:

      My feeling is 1 person, 1 vote. Over 2 million votes this year were essentially ignored. Why should it matter where you live? Ever hear of gerrymandering? Other countries seem to do well without it.

      BTW, I have been railing against it for 40 years. And yes, you are going to hear more about it every time the electoral college is forced to go against the popular vote. Get over it!

      And don’t get me started on 18 month campaigns and the primary system… What a waste of billionaire and corporate money!

      • Boreasfisher says:

        Must be your doppelgänger.

        Agree. Let’s hear it for simpler, cheaper, shorter, and fairer.

        • JohnL says:

          Re: Boreasfisher wanting it simpler, cheaper, shorter, and fairer.
          In engineering design we used to have a saying. Fast, Cheap, and Good………pick any 2.

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      JohnL, many people have been unhappy with the Electoral College for a long time. It is an anachronism and anti-democratic. The reason you are hearing more about it now is obvious.

      • JohnL says:

        Sorry Phil, I wholeheartedly disagree. It’s much fairer than the scenario I painted above. Anachronism??? Some things are ageless.
        BTW, when the number of people who disagree are enough for a Constitutional amendment, you’ll get your way. In the meantime…….

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          Hard to think of a more apt adjective for the Electoral College than “anachronistic.” It never functioned as the founders intended, even in their own lifetimes. The scenario you painted above is an oversimplification of political reality. The suggestion that California alone would elect the president if not for the Electoral College is ludicrous.

    • DebraE says:

      ” what I’m seeing this election cycle is that the people who are all of a sudden railing against the electoral college system, a system that has been in place for 200+ years, are those people whose candidate lost. Get over it.”
      Where have you been for the past 40 plus years? Perhaps too young to remember? Perhaps you never took an interest?
      I have always been against the Electoral College. I first voted in 1980 yet learned of the Electoral College prior to that. Both Democrats and republicans have supported abolishing the electoral college. Many people are against the Electoral College and have been for some time. Even before my voting time there were people trying to educate others as to why this archaic system should be abolished.
      In the 1800’s it was a good idea and compromise. It has no place in the 21st century. In 1969 Nixon said “I believe the events of 1968 constitute the clearest proof that priority must be accorded to electoral college reform,” and from then President Jimmy Carter, “I do not recommend a constitutional amendment lightly,” Carter said in March 1977. “I think the amendment process must be reserved for an issue overriding the governmental significance. But the method by which we Get with it!

  3. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Phil, you’ve performed a real service to your readers who want to get started in either sorting this all out or understanding the comments made in this blog.

  4. Dave says:

    One of the things that jumps off the page when I read the founding fathers is that most of them did not trust true democracy. Almost all of them saw that throughout history you could draw a straight line from democratic systems to tyranny. That the mob was dangerous, in and of itself (Shay’s rebellion was a wake-up call for many of them), but also because it was susceptible to manipulation. Only after understanding these fears have I been able to fully appreciate the genius of the republic they created. It addressed most, if not all, of the problems that governments throughout history, to the Greeks and before, have faced. It very specifically placed checks and firewalls to protect our republic from the whims of a popular democracy.

    Unfortunately, I fear the systems and firewalls they crafted have been chipped away a bit too much by subsequent generations. We’ve slowly, over two plus centuries, watered down the republic they created and moved on to a broader popular democracy… complete with all of the problems they knew such systems would have.

    The Electoral College seems to be a good example of this. The EC was meant to serve several functions. (I find that you have to read beyond the secondhand notes from the private convention to get the full picture, and here is where things like the Federalist Papers, in particular, help.) It was a political compromise meant to give smaller states more of a say in the federal government that was being created (and it was also an unfortunate bone thrown to the slave states, as mentioned). In this respect the EC is indeed still working as intended. Probably too well, I would argue. Smaller states are disproportionately represented now, but that begins to split hairs. Point is, the EC is serving its intended function in this regard.

    However, it was also meant to do a few other things. Including serve as a layer between the people, most of whom were uninformed and too easily whipped up into a frenzy over some issue or another, and the highest office. It was supposed to serve as a pumping of the brakes, so to speak, on big drastic changes fueled by national emotion. It was also, very specifically, intended to protect us from a foreign power sabotaging our election process to elevate their chosen individual to power.

    It is failing miserably at those tasks.

    And the reason is pretty obvious. We’ve watered it down. The electoral college is no longer an independent check on the system. As Phil points out, it has become a rubber stamp of the popular vote in each state. Indeed, many states now legally mandate their electors abide by the popular vote in that state. So, because of this, it still serves the purpose of protecting those small states, but it no longer serves the purpose of protecting us from “every sudden breeze of passion and every transient impulse” of the democratic mob.

    But is the answer to those problems to scrap the Electoral College? While it is true that small state concerns are no longer the issue they were when we were 13 independent colonies, the other protections the EC is supposed to be providing seem more important now than ever. Mass media and the internet have not created the enlightened masses we thought they would. In fact, they may be having the exact opposite effect. We are seeing that misinformation, fake news, and propaganda have equal purchase in such an environment, if not an upper hand. And this isn’t a new phenomenon. After all, the media systems of Europe were very well established in the first half of last century when democracies were falling faster than we could count, to tyrants adept at bullying and manipulating those media systems. One has to wonder if our hyper-interconnectedness is simply accelerating the problems that collapsed every other broad democracy throughout history, and that our founding fathers tried to protect us from when they insisted on a complex, checked, and balanced, republic.

    If so, wouldn’t the solution to this particular problem be to take steps toward becoming more of a republic again? To re-empower the Electoral College as the founders originally imagined? As a deliberative body of elected representatives who can formally debate the merits of candidates and serve as a layer between the democratic mob and what is now the office of the leader of the free world?

    That is probably wishful thinking on my part, though. This is almost certainly a Pandora’s box situation. Once you move away from a republic toward popular democracy, there may be no going back. Once you give people power, they don’t vote to give themselves less power. Especially given our modern (and historically oblivious) reverence for the idea of popular democracy. Alas, if we have to choose between the lesser of two bad options – between stumbling along with this weak version of the Electoral College that seems to be serving little real function these days and may actually be doing more harm than good, or throwing the doors open to a true popular democratic election of the president – maybe scrapping the Electoral Collage all together really is the better option.

    I suppose I could have saved the 1,000 word comment and just said “Yeah, Phil, I think I’ve come to the same conclusion, but from a different angle.” Thus is the danger of typing as you think. Either way, happy to see this essay here.

    • Phil Brown says:

      Dave, I doubt having the Electoral College become a truly deliberative body would make us better off. Having a few hundred people out of 325 million choose the president seems like a recipe for corruption and political shenanigans. Many of the founders were in favor of a popular vote, including James Wilson, who first broached the idea of an Electoral College. It’s not clear to me why Wilson did not advocate for a direct popular vote. However, in his scheme, the people would choose the Electors. Evidently, the people would choose Electors whom they trusted to represent their interests.

      • Dave says:

        Those few hundred electors would be chosen by the 325 million (representative democracy) and would have immunity to actually take a deep dive into the issues and consider the actual merits of the candidates, while protected from the emotional whims of the larger population. As Federalist 68 puts it:

        “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.”

        Such a body of electors would be no more prone to corruption than any other elected body, in fact it would be less so since it is a temporary body with no office or power to hold onto. Indeed, one of the reasons stated FOR the Electoral College is that it would be more stable and less corruptible. Again, from 68:

        “Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption … But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment. And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors. Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias. Their transient existence, and their detached situation, already taken notice of, afford a satisfactory prospect of their continuing so, to the conclusion of it. The business of corruption, when it is to embrace so considerable a number of men, requires time as well as means. Nor would it be found easy suddenly to embark them, dispersed as they would be over thirteen States, in any combinations founded upon motives, which though they could not properly be denominated corrupt, might yet be of a nature to mislead them from their duty.”

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          Dave, if it worked the way it was intended, maybe. But even the founders were leery of corruption among the Electors. That’s one reason, I think the major reason, that they decided to have them meet in separate states instead of at one location.

          • Dave says:

            Thus my argument to return the Electoral College to the system it was intended to be. All of the issues we’ve identified with the EC are not a product of the system as created. The founders carefully took into consideration and accounted for all of these things. These problems are products of the system as implemented.

            If returning the Electoral College to a state that matches its original purpose is impossible (logistically, politically, or otherwise), then I agree… getting rid of it is better than hanging onto this mutated version that is causing havoc now. But we should be clear, such a move is yet another incremental step away from the type of republic/representative democracy that the foremost political geniuses of the past 500 years or so created for us… and in the direction of the type of governmental system that many of them explicitly feared. (see: Polybius’ sequence of anacyclosis, which was well referenced by many of the ‘key’ founding fathers)

          • AG says:

            The founders also thought only white males who owned land should vote. These men were just that – men. People act as if it is holy scripture.
            That said – we are not a direct democracy either… So the electoral college is complicated. Though – I find it ironic who is coming out against it now. People are for or against it based on if “their” candidate won the last election. That goes for the right and left of the political spectrum.

            • Dave says:

              There is a reason certain human creations, be they art or literature or architecture, are revered through the ages. They transcend the time of their creation and bare the mark of genius. In the history of political documents and governmental systems, the US constitution is one such creation. There is no such thing as perfection, and no, it is not holy scripture, but it is right up there in terms of political scripture.

              And yes, the founders originally created a system where only white land owning men could vote. What gets lost in conversations about that detail is that white land owning men happened to correspond with the educated class of the day, and several of the key founders believed very strongly that government should be powered by the educated and the experienced in society.

              Clearly the “white” and the “men” part of that original equation is morally reprehensible by today’s standards – and indeed, several of the key founding fathers felt it suspect even back then. It needed to change. Unquestionably. But when we corrected that error, we introduced a new flaw by not accounting for how to ensure that the government would continue to be primarily powered by the educated and experienced.

              I know. This all sounds so elitist and antithetical to how most of us perceive the constitution and its origins. But one must understand that the reason the founders were so adamant that the electorate consist of the educated is not because they were snobs, or looking to oppress the poor or uneducated… just the opposite. They knew the only way to sustain a republic was through an enlightened electorate. Or, put another way, they knew that an ignorant electorate was susceptible to succumbing to tyranny, which was the true oppression they hoped to avoid. This was the well documented fate of almost every other historically significant attempt at democracy. The ages were warning them about this, and the founders listened. In turn, they tried to create a system to protect us from it.

              I can’t recommend enough listening to Justice David Souter address this very issue when he talks about the danger that Civic Ignorance poses to our republic: https://youtu.be/qyxawIuqbjM

              It gets really good around the 55 second mark where he gives the famous Benjamin Franklin quote “A republic, if you can keep it” and adds to it, “You can’t keep it in ignorance.”

              No doubt that this recent election cycle has had me thinking about all of this stuff more than ever. As I watched absurd conspiracy theories and fake news take root with both political extremes. Where a scary percentage of people actually believed that Sandy Hook was fake, or that a pizza joint was hiding sex slaves associated with the candidate they didn’t like. It is increasingly hard not to wonder if this is the exact type of electorate the founders feared and tried to protect us from.

              • Boreas says:

                I agree. I believe both the primary system and the EC failed the electorate during this election cycle. And neither addresses cyber interference in the process.

                • Paul says:

                  ” I believe both the primary system and the EC failed the electorate during this election cycle.”

                  Can you explain a bit more? To me it seemed that they functioned perfectly normally. I don’t like the outcome but that isn’t the same as a failed system. It looks like the votes were counted there was no real major issues. The EC did what they were required to do by law (with a few minor exceptions). What is the failure?

    • rc says:

      One thing to remember about the founding fathers is that the were ALL male, all wealthy, mostly large-tract landowners who worked to construct a state which held them as being the ones who held power.
      History – the final frontier.

  5. Bushwhack Jack says:

    Very informative article. The only thing I challenge is “Nowadays, we accept that every eligible citizen has a right to vote.” The problem is that there are organized efforts to narrow what “eligible” is. Class bias definitely still exists.

    John L’s comment about eliminating the electoral college resulting in the concentration of campaigning to the population centers has merit even if it wasn’t an issue when conceived.

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      Yes, class bias still exists, but all citizens of age have the right to vote even though some laws may try to obstruct that right. As to the claim that abolition of the Electoral College will concentrate campaigning to population centers, I’ll make three points. One, that is largely true already. Two, that is no reason to abandon the principle of one man, one vote. Three, if the Electoral College were abandoned, candidates would not restrict campaigning to just a few swing states. Every vote would matter.

  6. bob lyon says:

    Read the book “Left Turn” by Tim Groseclose, PhD, Adam Smith Chair of Economics at George Mason University. Liberal media bias accounts for an 8-10% increase in the popular vote. This bias, if corrected, would obviously void the difference seen in this election’s popular vote.

    • kathy says:

      And if there were a “right turn” book to measure % increase of bias by conservative radio /tv talk show hosts?

      • blyon says:

        That’s also covered in the book. All things considered (no intentional pun for NPR), there is clear 8-10% liberal media bias. Which means a Republican candidate needs to overcome that first. A liberal candidate goes in with an 8-10% lead.

        I suggest you read the book. The author lays out all of his methods and personal biases ahead of time. If you are trained as a scientist, you will appreciate how this study was done. You might not like the results, but you would appreciate the work. If you are not trained in the scientific method and how rigorous studies are conducted, you will either learn a lot or find it’s over your head and not finish it. If so, simply read the first 4-5 chapters then Chapter 22.

        For me, the electoral college question is a red herring. First, I doubt the electoral college would have been called into question if Hillary won the electoral college and Trump won the popular vote. Second, “Left Turn” shows the real problem to be liberal media bias that has a profound effect on all of our elections. Third,if the popular vote was the primary factor, the candidates would have campaigned completely different than they did. So in the end, no one knows what would have really happened with the popular vote.

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          So we should keep the Electoral College, violating the principle of one man, one vote, because of a book that claims the media is biased?

          • blyon says:

            No. We should keep the Electoral College because there is no good reason not to keep it. If Hillary won the electoral college this discussion would not be happening.

            If the 8-10% liberal media bias was not there, Trump would have won the popular vote and this discussion would not be happening.

            Amazon, 5 bucks for a used copy including shipping.

            • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

              No good reason except that it violates the principle of one man, one vote.

              • blyon says:

                Yes, that is a “principle”. The Electoral college is also based on a “principle”. Just curious, would you be arguing this position if Trump won the popular vote and Clinton won the College?

                • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                  No need for quote marks. One man, one vote is a bedrock principle of democracy recognized around the world. What principle of the Electoral College would you say supersedes it?

                  • blyon says:

                    Got it. You are only discussing this because your candidate lost. It’s called sour grapes. Time to move on. You can change the electoral college by amending the Constitution. Good luck.

                  • Steven Langille says:

                    First, we have to clarify the fact that we don’t live in a Democracy, we live in a Democratic Republic. We weren’t founded on the principle of one man, one vote, but chosen representative because of the innate possibility of mob rule in a true democracy.

              • Paul says:

                No. In the case of how our national election works (currently) each persons vote is cast knowing very well what their vote counts toward. It is still one man one vote.

                • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                  As others have noted, California, with a population of 38.8 million, gets 55 electoral votes. That’s one electoral vote per 705,000 people. Wyoming, with a population of 584,000, gets three electoral votes. That’s one vote per 195,000 people. A vote in Wyoming carries 3.6 times as much weight as a vote in California. The fact that everybody in each state votes only once is not the point.

                • blyon says:

                  Yes. You can change this by amending the Constitution.

              • Bruce says:

                Phil,

                Except that the founding fathers in their wisdom realized there had to be some mechanism in place to reduce the chance of “Tyranny by Majority.”

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority

                • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                  Except the Electoral College does not function the way the founders envisioned. They thought the Electors would deliberate. The Electors were to make sure a demagogue was not installed in the White House. The “tyranny of the majority” is a nice talking point, but simply allowing the runner-up in the popular vote claim victory does nothing to prevent it. What about all the times that the winner of the Electoral College and the popular vote align? Is that tyranny of the majority? If so, I guess the system is not working all that well.

                  • AG says:

                    If you look at the majority of the Presidents for most of the countries history – you could label them that. Let’s be honest about history. I mean what do you call the Monroe Doctrine? Manifest Destiny? Andrew Jackson and his “Trail of Tears”? Let’s be honest… Nothing at all has changed about the system. The majority opinion has just changed in the last 50 years as the nation has become more diverse. Let’s be honest here – the founders never envisioned a country as diverse as it is right now. Right or wrong – good or bad – the system indeed works as it was designed.

            • Boreas says:

              “We should keep the Electoral College because there is no good reason not to keep it.”

              I think we have cited plenty of reasons – the fact that it is totally antiquated and unnecessary being a significant reason. The recent election is simply an illustration of its failures, not the reason people want to abolish it.

              • blyon says:

                Start working on the amendment to the Constitution. And as with the filibuster that Harry Reid nuked, be careful what you wish for.

        • kathy says:

          Where I live there seemed to be a lack of liberal media bias and much negative “Clinton” rhetoric with the most popular and short interchanges of repetitive “lying Hillary” and “you liberals are all alike” with no meaningful dialogue to discuss merits of either candidate. When I asked for sources for information they obtained on how her “hit squad” operated I was told “everyone knows that”. Seems most of the commonality was a radio talk show and Fox news so perhaps geographically I was not exposed to liberal media bias and voted with my gut feeling.
          I just may have to read that book and yes a few semesters of research study evaluation methods will help.

  7. Tony Goodwin Tony Goodwin says:

    Phil;
    As a History major, I congratulate you on your concise summary of how the Electoral College came to be.

    With the Electoral College, each person’s vote is worth more because it is only “cancelled” by a vote from ones own state rather than being part of a much larger national vote. Unfortunately, with states like New York where one candidate is the presumptive “state winner”, that state receives not a lot of attention during the election cycle.

    Cokie Roberts of NPR stated recently that she still favored the Electoral College because there were states where in, some elections, minorities could make a significant difference in the electoral votes, thereby raising their clout that they wouldn’t have in a true popular vote. This is particularly significant because Cokie’s father, Hale Boggs and long-serving Congressman from Louisiana, had earlier introduced a bill to amend the constitution to abolish the Electoral College.

    While I certainly respect Cokie’s reasoning, I now believe that social media and the Internet have truly made us one whole electorate and that we should vote for our President that way. Our Founding Fathers could never possibly imagined the Internet, so we should have some discretion here. We should also remember that the Electoral College was created when one person could own another person – it was called slavery. Times have changed.

    And just to make sure that I haven’t omitted any group tied to the “original” constitution, when the 2nd Amendment was added to the Constitution, slavey was still legal and the most deadly weapons were flintlock rifles and pistols. Times have changed in the gun control debate as well.

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      Thanks, Tony. And good point about the gun debate.

    • Dave says:

      I’m not sure the Electoral College’s age, or its creation by slave owners, is reason to keep or toss it (you can make those two arguments about anything in the constitution), but I am interested in Cokie’s thoughts about it empowering minorities. I think I found the piece Tony is referencing: http://www.npr.org/2016/12/14/505512587/cokie-roberts-answers-your-questions-about-the-electoral-college

      Speaking of changing times, the more I read the founders, the more I become convinced that if they saw what the internet is today, its echo chambers and the speed at which radicalizes and divides people into factions, they would have protected our republic with even stronger firewalls against popular democracy.

  8. Craig says:

    If the founders had not intended to weight smaller states differently from larger states, they would have make EC votes proportional to house seats, not house seats plus senate seats. The founders clearly intended to provide some level of protection for small states vs. more populous ones.

    New York could do as Maine and Nebraska do and allocate their electors more proportionately. I would recommend that as a first step, especially considering the unlikelihood of an amendment.

    A constitutional amendment to change the EC might be very hard to pass since it would require a number of smaller states to go against their own interests and vote for the amendment.

    • Dave says:

      The Maine and Nebraska model are flawed because of the impact and corruption of gerrymandering. Before moving to any such similar model, that issue would have to be resolved (and boy are we long overdue to resolve that issue).

    • Marc Wanner says:

      Well, yeah, but it’s not as if they had a whole lot of choice in the matter. The nation was composed of a mix of large and small states, and nine of the 13 state legislatures had to approve the document for it to take effect. The accident of the disproportionate sizes of the original states created the problem, and something like the EC would have had to be created to solve it.

      But the situation has been made far worse by the winner-takes-all rules that have been adopted by most states. It is that rule that leads to situations such as that in New York State where a large proportion of votes is effectively lost, since all votes that exceed 50% for one candidate are ineffectual. THAT is why candidates campaign almost exclusively in swing states.

  9. Andy says:

    The big bad decision was popular voting for the presidential electors, effective for the first time with Andrew Jackson’s election in 1832. Prior to that the state legislatures chose their electors and candidates did not debase themselves campaigning. The old way had it’s problems but he current method gives too much power to the uninformed. Candidates now have to pander to the ignorant and don’t dare speak the truth about sensitive issues. It also means elections now hinge on irrelevant points and misconceptions as we saw this year.

  10. Hell, yes, lets let California crazies and NYC enclaves, rule the country thru the popular vote.. Can’t wait to make the whole USA mostly like upstate NY, completely subjugated by the CA and NYC folks who find it a cute living zoo, including deplorables to view safely behind economic bars..
    Thank the gods the antiquated electoral college protects us from that and will be very difficult to change by the leftist losers, those still baying at the moon at the loss of their darling lady.
    Apparently the Adirondack Almanac encourages articles of a progressive bent, having precious little to do with the Almanac, penned by people who did not take a Civics class. They therefore missed that the USA is not a democracy, but a very carefully crafted republic.
    I love the arrogance of some writers to suggest tampering with the greatest evolved government ever. They know better many words later. Fools.

    • Geogymn says:

      You make some good points, too bad they will be devalued because of your choice of delivery.

      • Alan Vieters says:

        Marty is foul mouthed chap. That was as good as it gets. Try talking to him about climate change.

    • Marc Wanner says:

      I love that “very carefully crafted republic” line, one I encounter time and time again from “conservatives.” It IS a republic of course, but a republic composed of 50 separate democracies, many of which (the ones run by the GOP, mostly) are doing their damnedest to be as undemocratic as they can possibly manage, using gerrymandered voting districts and voter suppression measures to achieve virtual one-party rule. Dangerous stuff!

      • JohnL says:

        Mark. 1. Do you believe that only United States citizens should be allowed to vote in OUR elections? and B. Do you consider it ‘voter suppression’ if people have to show ID to vote. Just curious.

        • Marc Wanner says:

          Yes, John, of course only citizens are allowed to vote by law. No where are non-citizens allowed to vote. The stories that California allowed non-citizens to vote is fake news. Check out http://www.snopes.com/california-motor-voter-act/

          And 2, er, B, EVERY time I have voted, here’s how it has worked. First, you have to register to vote, which requires some form of ID. Once you are registered, you simply have to sign your name, and your signature is compared to the signature on file from the registration process.

          • JohnL says:

            So, Mark, where’s the voter suppression you speak of? BTW, very good on your answer to Number 1. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t even agree with that simple idea.

          • David West says:

            in response to JohnL:

            Mark. 1. Do you believe that only United States citizens should be allowed to vote in OUR elections? and B. Do you consider it ‘voter suppression’ if people have to show ID to vote. Just curious.

            Isn’t it ironic that I need “11 points of ID”, including a picture ID to register a new utility trailer in New York, yet I can walk into many state poliing places in the U.S. and announce who I am and vote.

            Since 911, it is hard to do most things in this country without a certified picture ID or passport; i.e. pick up mail at the Post Office, cash a check, renew a drivers licennse. register for a hotel room, open any kind of account, etc. Like everything else, the personal identification standards have evolved to virtually require everyone carry a picture ID. Why not raise the the voter registration standard to the defacto standard the rest of the country is operating on?

            • JohnL says:

              David. I think you misinterpreted my comments. I’m with you 100%. I was trying to ascertain if Mark is one of those who think a simple thing like showing ID at the polling place is an exercise in voter suppression. I think it should be a universal requirement in this country.

              • AG says:

                Yeah – you need ID to do just about anything else – so how could it be voter suppression. One person told me ID’s are too expensive. All I could do is shake my head.

    • Phil Brown says:

      Are you aware that 4.5 million “California crazies” voted for Trump? That’s about the same number of votes he received in Florida and almost as many as he received in Texas, his two biggest states.

      • Pat says:

        OK, Phil, let’s suppose you and the radical left NY Tiimes do get your way and the Electoral College is put out of its misery. Then when the next Republican president or governor is elected, you’ll be pouting again. The time for discussion is before the election or during midterm elections.
        I liked the Clinton archipelego map. Since your argument is that the battleground and smaller states determined the outcome, it proves the Democrats (and the once-mighty NY Times) failed to realize that Hillary Clinton was not as popular as they imagined and appealed only to the fringe.
        We knew the system in 2000 was flawed, yet our leaders in Congress failed to muster any change. Again, as a writer noted earlier, the argument about the outdated Electoral College only seems to surface when the Democrats’ candidate loses badly!
        The election is over and so is this discussion.

        • Dave says:

          Your partisan rhetoric makes it hard to discern the points you were trying to make here, but from what I can gather you seem to be suggesting that people only complain about the Electoral College when their candidate is victimized by it, and that people are suggesting we should do something about the Electoral College after the fact to alter this recent election.

          Both of those suggestions are simply not true.

          People – including, by the way, Donald Trump in his famous tweet in 2012 – have been complaining about the Electoral College for a long time, regardless of the outcome. This has been an ongoing discussion in political and historical circles for generations. Maybe YOU only notice the conversation when your candidate benefits from it, but that doesn’t mean that is the only time the discussion happens.

          And no one, certainly not Phil, and certainly no one in these comments, is suggesting the Electoral College should be changed retroactively to alter the outcome of this election. These discussions are exactly what you are proposing should happen. They are conversations aimed at, and happening before, future elections.

        • Boreas says:

          “Again, as a writer noted earlier, the argument about the outdated Electoral College only seems to surface when the Democrats’ candidate loses badly!”

          Maybe it is the only time the GOP is actually listening? It is brought up often. But the GOP tends to be a little testy when they know they won only because of this “antiquated” system. Since the popular vote vs. EC conundrum has happened twice in the last 20 years benefiting the GOP, it will be interesting to see what happens when the dice break against them. It is sure to happen with only a few swing-states determining our presidents.

          I would think the GOP would be looking ahead to scrap the system while they control all branches of government, as they are likely to be burned within the next 20 years as well.

    • Boreasfisher says:

      Yes, let’s beat up on those selfish fools from the population centers. After all, decent healthcare for people living outside the population centers is something those people continue to vote for and support. Imagine that! What selfish fools –they are to be willing to pay higher taxes so that less fortunate people can live decent lives as they age.

      Don’t it always seem to go…We’re about to find out just what benefits people in rural communities have received from people who live in population centers as the new administrations retrograde tax policies come into focus and those benefits are taken away. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.

  11. Jim S. says:

    My children, in their twenties ,don’t bother voting because they don’t believe their vote counts. They blame the electoral college and democratic New York state.

    • JohnL says:

      I’m truly sorry they feel that way, although in some contests they have a point. However, how about all the other races on the ballot, the House, Senate, and numerous local candidates for local jobs. They should be exercising the rights that many of us have fought for.

      • Jim S. says:

        I agree 100%, but they feel it is useless and many of their friends are as disillusioned as they are. My advice falls on deaf ears

  12. Bruce says:

    The writer stated erroneously that we have a Democracy. We don’t, it’s a Constitutional Republic. The Electoral College is a mechanism to prevent a pitfall of a pure democratic system, tyranny by the majority. It works as designed. The only reason to scrap it is if it does not work as designed, the same with any other Constitutional rules or amendments.

    This debate is just another shot at long-standing rules which some people find inconvenient. Second Amendment, anyone?

    • Craig says:

      Agree that seems to work as designed. The design can be changed, as it has been many times, for example to directly elect senators. From what I have seen, when the design favors someone’s ideology, the design is fine, when it works against it, as it is currently now doing with the Democratic party, those folks seem to want change.

      Democrats wanting change would be better off getting engaged in state and local issues and getting Democrats elected into key positions. A first step for them is to get young people and non-whites to vote more in off-year and state/local elections. Their biggest problem is not loosing the presidency after holding for 8 years, its that they are weak across the board.

    • AG says:

      Yeah most people don’t realize we don’t have a direct democracy. In some ways our “republic” was patterned on the Iroquois confederacy that Ben Franklin admired from upstate NY.

  13. Nick Rose says:

    excellent summary, thanks

  14. Pete Klein says:

    Trump won. Clinton lost.
    If you like the popular vote over the electoral college vote so much, why not have a popular vote in the Adirondack Park where full-time residents of the Park get to decide to keep or get rid of the APA?

  15. George H says:

    Phil –

    Obviously, if the national popular vote was used, candidates would spend all their time and money campaigning in the most populous states like NY and CA. The “Fly over states” would have little weight or influence in electing our presidents. The electoral college gives all states a fair influence in the national vote by allocating proportional votes based on the outcome of each states individual popular election.

    Love the Almanack. Stick to outdoor recreation and environmental issues please.

  16. Dave says:

    I’m all for keeping the electoral college. Even though Hillary won the popular vote, if you look at where she won, it consisted of only those states that have a ocean as a border. She ignored the inner 3/4 of the country. Democratic votes came from major urban cities & they ignore the rural voter. That’s what cost them the election. If all I need to do as a party is get the urban cities to vote for me, I can just write off the rest of the country. Democrats need to figure out how to reach out to that rural voter. When 1/3 of your House members come from only 2 states & 2/3 of your members only come from states with a ocean as one border you have a problem. It’s not the electoral college that is the issue, it’s your democratic policies that’s the problem!

  17. Paul says:

    For this particular election the results of the popular vote don’t really mean a whole lot since campaigning was done based on the electoral college system. Both candidates would have had a very different strategy if it was the popular vote that they needed. Republicans would certainly do a lot more campaigning is states like NY and CA if they were in search of the popular vote. If we scrapped the EC system politicians would focus their attention on the East and West coast probably not even bother with anything else. I am not sure that is such a good thing for the country.

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      Clinton now leads the popular vote by 2.8 million. That is a fact. Whether Trump would have done better if he were seeking the popular vote is speculation. You also could speculate that Clinton would have beat him by a wider margin. I keep hearing the claim that without the Electoral College candidates would campaign only on the coasts. I tried to address it in another comment.

      • Paul says:

        Yes, they would campaign where there are lots of people. They would be the new “swing” states. It just turns out to be a fact that most american’s now live near the water. I would throw in Texas. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to go with the popular vote I would just not judge this particular vote on it since that wasn’t the name of the game they were playing this time around. I am sure there are lots of people who might have voted for either candidate in places where one or the other was a shoe in if their vote was actually going to matter so that is an argument for as well as what makes this popular vote tally not very telling.

        BTW – I didn’t vote for him.

        • Marc Wanner says:

          We’re so stuck on the idea of Winner-Take-All that we forget that a popular vote election would NOT work that way. So if a candidate could create a majority vote by getting, say, 45% of the coastal states and 60% of the rest, they would have to campaign everywhere, and so would their opponent. Left out of this discussion is the National Popular Vote Compact, which pretty much stands Winner-Take-All on it’s head by committing a states electors to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. It only has to be passed by states with 270 EC votes to take effect. It is about 60% of the way there. http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/

  18. Tim-Brunswick says:

    I’m glad Hillary did not get elected…….but wish I had another choice on the GOP side. That being said…YOU DON’T CHANGE THE RULES OF ANY GAME after the fact.

    Republican voters ( I’m a registered “Conservative”…..go figure huh?) have also suffered in Presidential Elections because of our outdated Electoral College System & never did you hear as much whining as we are ALL being subjected to now. Time to suck it up and move on Kids. Regardless of who you voted for…we all need to say some prayers and hope for the best.

    Incidentally….I sure do like the above commentary by “Pete Klein”……you go Pete!!

    Thank you

    • Marc Wanner says:

      Well, Tim, never say never. Here is Donald Trump tweeting back in 2012 when, briefly, it looked as if Romney was going to win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College:

      Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump 9m
      This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a
      democracy!
      Expand

      Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump 11 m
      More votes equals a loss…revolution!
      Expand

      Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump 11m
      Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The
      world is laughing at us.

      Expand
      Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump 13m
      We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop
      this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!

      Expand
      Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump 14m
      The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our
      nation. The loser one!

      Expand
      Donald J. Trump realDonaldTrump 22m
      He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should
      have a revolution in this country!

      (In that next-to-last tweet, it seems safe to say that the odd phrase “The loser one!” was meant to be “The loser won!”)

  19. James Marco says:

    One man, one vote. When this does not happen it is an affront to the very basis of democracy. The EC has to go. Regardless of my political feelings, it just ain’t right in today’s times of mass media, internet access, and, the thousands, indeed millions, of people who see their expressed desire subverted.

    The will of the “People, by the People, and for the People” was not done.

    • Bruce says:

      So James,

      Are you saying the Constitution is not the will of the people, by the people and for the people? Perhaps we should start over and draw up a new Constitution more amenable to one side or the other.

      • kathy says:

        We “the people ” the people have a changed face and focus since the constitution, no longer white male property owners have the only vote.
        Wonder what an overhaul would look like if the “now ” people were to draft it.

        • Paul says:

          That is the beauty of our constitution. The now people are free to amend it. And they have many times.

      • James Marco says:

        Yes. As Kathy said, we have changed the constitution many times. When we see a clear inequity. When we see a clear violation of the ideals it sets forth to be followed. When we see the times change. The real beauty of the constitution was the allowance for change as the country grows and changes. A living dynamism that was never meant to put the rich in power at the expense of the will of the people that it represents. Money is the measure of success of an individual, it is NOT a measure of political acumen. We have a problem.

  20. Paul says:

    Phil, this is a good article. Didn’t realize that this sort of topics was another one of you specialties!

  21. George says:

    The electoral college has its pluses and minuses as stated above but the popular vote method of election could have a major negative. Take Bush-Gore in 2000 and the fiasco of recounting the votes in Florida which went to the Supreme Court to decide.

    The popular vote nationwide was extremely close that year-about one half of a percent with Gore on top. Imagine an even closer election and trying to do a country-wide recount which would involve every state. It took weeks just to get the final total for Trump-Clinton. The Florida problem could be duplicated in many states down to local levels. We might not get a decision for months or a forced decision that embitters a huge sector of the electorate.

  22. Mike says:

    Excellent “the rest of the story” article Phil- thanks.

    I’m starting to think that we have accepted most of the faults of the Electoral College, while not taking advantage of the benefits that the Founders intended. That being the case, maybe it’s time for it to go.

  23. Charlie S says:

    Bruce says: “Are you saying the Constitution is not the will of the people, by the people and for the people? Perhaps we should start over and draw up a new Constitution more amenable to one side or the other.”

    What was that called when the Supreme Court justices put George W. Bush in power Bruce back some few years ago? The same Supreme Court justices that daddy Bush put in power some years prior. That went against the Constitution yet we hardly hear a peep about that nowadays do we?

    The rich have been running this country and we’ve been going down the tubes and now we have a billionaire in power and we’re gonna make America great again! I am so excited about this and look forward to the day.

    • Bruce says:

      Charlie S,

      Here’s the court case. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_v._Gore

      Please show me which part of the ruling was unconstitutional by quoting the appropriate passage(s) in the Constitution itself and explain why those passages demonstrate an unconstitutional ruling. Try to avoid Democratic campaign rhetoric about Bush getting elected because daddy selected the sitting court.

      • Charlie S says:

        I have to put up a defense on this? It was a lie all these years later. Wikipedia has it right I suppose. Let’s face it Bruce….the people who run the show…do you really believe they care about the Constitution? Tell me please!

        • Bruce says:

          Charlie S,

          You made the statement saying Bush’s election was unconstitutional, I was asking for fact-based clarification.

          As to who cares for the Constitution, let’s see now…I don’t see any conservatives calling for dismantling the Constitution. The left on the other hand, wants to eliminate the Electoral College, and dismantle or seriously modify the Second Amendment.

  24. David West says:

    I am a reigistered independent. I have lived in both rural and metropolitan areas. My politics are middle of the road. While I voted in the past election, I did not vote for either the Democrat or Republican Presidential candidate. I have travelled the U.S. extensively, lived in ten homes in five states and lived in Mexico. I appreciate and embrace the geographic and ethnic diversity of this country. It is a large part of our strength and character. My disclaimer.

    I have watched the Electoral College debate for decades. I thank Mr. Brown for his research. But as can be seen in many aspects of our democratic history, what the founding fathers intended does not always hold in our evolved democary. Our legislature, executive and judiciary branches have changed considerably over the past 200 plus years. While our roots are in the past, we live in the preesnt.

    I for one like the idea of the Electoral College process. To me moving to a national “winner take all” popular vote for President denies the geographic diversity represented in the rural areas of this country. Whether or not intended by the founding fathers, we are still a nation of states. Our local and state governments are meaningful and reflect our evolving, local diversity and heritage. The Adirondacks are just one example of this rural character.

    I thought we had seen the last of the “silent majority” mobilizing in middle America in enough numbers to elect a president. Mr. Trump’s campaign proved me wrong. While eight years ago this country’s voters turned out to elect President Obama, a liberal, urban champion of hope. Eight years later our voters turned out to elect a candidate from the conservative side of politics. I think the American voters see-saw back and forth between the left and right to keep us in the middle of the road.

    Looking in the rear view mirror, I believe the Electoral College has never done us wrong. We have had a representative government that has reflected the critical issues of our times. Given all the arguments pro and con, we have never had a compelling argument for a new Constitutional ammendment to dissolve the Electoral College.

    Our national governmental system is the best of the alternatives. It still has flaws that need our attention. The Electoral College is not one of them. Let’s not try and fix what is not broken and focus our energies on poverty, education, sustainable resources and peaceful international relations. When we have solved those issues, I would entertain a debate on Electoral College reform.

    • Terry says:

      Well thought out and written, Mr. West!!
      Grass-roots efforts often lead to win/win results.
      Let’s encourage all walks of life to ‘hop on board’ and stay the course of focusing on the four items you mentioned in your final paragraph.

  25. Pat says:

    Phil, You did a very thorough job reprinting this history. However, I don’t understand why everyone is up in arms over the decision of the Electoral College now. It’s been a part of U.S. history for 200 years and all of a sudden, the Democrats are unhappy with the results of one or two elections and propose to throw out the entire system? Odd — as unhappy as they were with the results in 2010 or 2014, you didn’t hear Republicans campaign to toss out the Electoral College. Elections are all about choice and to quote Barack Obama the day after the election, “You win some, you lose some.”
    I guess Phil wouldn’t be upset if a Democrat won every presidential election from now until the end of eternity. How narrow-minded!
    In NYS elections, we can clearly see the impact of the forces of “democracy” and the “will of the people” as downstate voters determine the outcome of all elections for governor or senator, which essentially negates or diminishes the votes of upstaters. I bet Phil would howl if we held a referendum on the Adirondack Park and the majority of voters (downstaters or those who live in the big cities, Buffalo, Albany, and places south and east who have no connection to the ADKs) decided to scrap the Park regulations or open it up to mining, drilling and fracking. Let the majority rule?
    As a commentator pointed out today, if you take California out of the picture, then Trump actually won the popular vote!

    • Phil Brown says:

      Pat, as I replied to a similar comment earlier, many people have been upset with the Electoral College for a long time. The reason you’re hearing more about it now is obvious: we just had an election where the loser of the popular vote will be awarded the presidency. Republicans had no reason to squawk in 2010 or 2014. Obama won both the popular vote and the Electoral College.

  26. Phil Brown says:

    Here’s a good analysis of how Trump won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. Essentially, he squeaked by in four of five key battleground states. What’s especially interesting is that Clinton won seven of the 12 smallest states, and Trump won seven of the 10 largest. That debunks the claim that the Electoral College protects the small states against the “tyranny of the majority.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/upshot/why-trump-had-an-edge-in-the-electoral-college.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    • john says:

      But in those 7 states that hillary won, how much population was crammed into the small space. She only won in urban settings, she had no rural get out the vote campaign. Democrats only care about larger population centers. Why do you think upstate NY gets screwed so much, it’s the dam NYC democrap crowd that outweighs everything upstate.

      • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

        I have not done that research, and neither have you, evidently. You are making a lot of assumptions. How is upstate getting screwed? My understanding is that tax dollars flow north from the NYC area. “The dam NYC democrap crowd”? That adds a lot to the conversation.

        • john says:

          Go back & look at a election night map. The areas hillary primarily won were large population centers. She carried no rural areas.

          • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

            For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re correct and Clinton won only “large population centers” (that is, the places where most people live). If she got more votes, why shouldn’t that entitle her to the presidency under the principle of one man, one vote? What’s your argument for asserting that the votes of people outside large population centers should count more?

            • David West says:

              Guess it is not one man one vote or one person one vote. The founding fathers gave us the Electoral College process where one plus one does not equal two.

          • Boreas says:

            “The areas hillary primarily won were large population centers. She carried no rural areas.”

            I fail to see your point. Are you saying if you own more land in the country your vote counts more? Are you saying if you live in an apartment, and own no land, your vote is worth less? The more taxes you pay the more your vote counts? The more money you make? Amount of facial hair? Age?

    • Boreas says:

      I have never bought any geographically-based arguments on this subject. In this 2-party system – I don’t much care where you live – you will have neighbors that are in the opposing party. No city is all blue and no rural area is all red. Plus, these numbers change over time as well. Rural South and much of the rust belt used to be strongly blue, but not any more. I don’t really buy state size arguments either for the same reason.

      • AG says:

        Only having two major parties is also a part of the problem.

        • Boreas says:

          Indeed! Think of how the EC would work with 3 or 4 parties.

          • AG says:

            I was more talking from the choice of candidates rather than even thinking of the EC. In fact – both Democrats and Republicans stayed home. Voter turnout was not good at all.

          • Boreasfisher says:

            There is an illustration…the election of John Quincy Adams had to be decided in the House because no candidate won the EC. The House was over whelmingly Whig at the time…not a happy result…it led to the election of Andrew Jackson 4 years later on a wave of antigovernment…end the corruption…sentiment, and huge strains between rural populists and Washington insiders.

          • John Lounsbury says:

            You don’t have to think of how the electoral college would work with 3 or 4 parties – we know.

            We have had more than one election in which there were more than 2 candidates receiving significant levels of votes. One example is 1992 when Ross Perot received 18.9% of the popular vote but no EC votes.

            Another is 1912 when 3rd party candidate Teddy Roosevelt received 27% of popular vote and 88 (out of 531) EC votes. TR beat the Republican William Howard Taft (23% popular, 8 EC votes) and Woodrow Wilson won the EC in a landslide with 42% of the popular vote.

            But the most complicated case was 1824, when a four-way race saw all candidates carry states (2 for Willam Crawford, 3 for Henry Clay, 7 for John Quincy Adams and 12 for Andrew Jackson). Jackson won 41% of the popular vote and Adams 31%. But Jackson failed to carry a majority of the EC votes (he got 99 out of 261). When the election went to the House of Representatives, Adams (who had received 84 EC votes from 7 states) won 13 states against 7 for Jackson and 4 for Crawford and became president.

            In a two-candidate race in 1828 Jackson handily beat Adams with 56% of the popular vote and an EC margin of 178-83.

  27. Wayno says:

    The fact that small population states like Delaware, Vermont, Montana and Alaska get two Senators is enough of a concession to them IMO. If you do the math the people of CA get one electoral vote per 705,454 people while Montana gets one electoral vote for every 341,333 people, that is grossly unfair, again IMO. (FYI, New York gets one electoral vote per 637,097 people). So the most democratic resolution would be to give everyone in the country the same amount of say in electing a president and replace the Electoral College with one person/one vote, direct election.

  28. Wayno says:

    Another aspect of the electoral college that has not been really discussed in this forum is the out-sized influence states like Ohio and Florida have in the election process. Due strictly to current voter demographics a few states comprise most of the battleground for the entire election. The people of New York get virtually ignored as they are taken for granted by the Democrats. Now this may seem to be good or bad (at least we are not barraged with campaign ads on TV) but it does reduce the state’s role in the campaign debate and diminishes the average New Yorker’s influence in the election. Again another reason to eliminate the Electoral College.

    • Dave says:

      You are right, Wayno. The Times piece that Phil linked to above draws this very conclusion. Nate Cohn makes a compelling analytical case that the Electoral College’s bias is not CA and it is not small states. It is battleground states. His conclusion, matches yours, and Phil’s. There is little justification for how the system is working today.

    • Boreas says:

      I agree. The so-called swing states are basically choosing our presidents.

  29. roamin with broman says:

    Trump ran to win the EC. If it was decided by popular vote, he would have campaigned differently.

    • Phil Brown says:

      Speculation. And that talking point is getting old.

      • roamin with broman says:

        How can you deny this? Look where he spent his time.

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          I agree he would have campaigned differently. So would have Clinton. It’s pure speculation to say Trump could have made up 2.8 million votes. Clinton might have widened her lead. Who knows? What we do know is that both campaigned under the same rules, and Clinton won the popular vote by a substantial margin. Trump won the Electoral College by one of the slimmest margins in history, and yet he mischaracterizes his victory as a landslide.

          • blyon says:

            You are right…it’s all speculation. We cannot say Trump would have won if he campaigned differently and we can’t say Clinton would have won either. Both ways are possible. So where does that get us?

            The fact of the election remains: Trump won and lost only 2 electoral college votes. Clinton lost 5. Trump also picked up 180 votes in the WI recount. Hillary did not.

            And the stock market may break 20K today.. I believe that is good for everyone’s 401K. (the market did not crash as predicted is the point).

  30. roamin with broman says:

    Here is who wanted Hillary.

    https://i.imgur.com/oAlVHGU.png

    • Dave says:

      An archipelago might not be a bad metaphor to try to understand the divide over this problem. The islands in that map are where most of the people actually live. The sea, on the other hand, consists of a lot of empty land.

      So in some way the question becomes, who should have more influence over a national election? Actual people… or geography?

      This debate always seems to be framed in the following way: Why should population centers make leadership choices for the rest of the country?

      How come the reverse is never discussed with as much passion? Let’s begin to ask the equal, but opposite question.

      Why exactly should the minority get to make this choice for the majority simply because they choose to live over a geographically dispersed area? Is geography really a compelling enough argument to throw out majority rule?

      • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

        Exactly!

      • Boreas says:

        Exactly. Geography should play no part in the election. 200 years ago, how many rural frontiersman and farmers even voted, or knew anything about the candidates? Many of the people in cities only voted because corrupt politicians compensated them in some form – whether in “insurance” or in beer. They voted early and often. The EC made a little more sense back then. Nowadays, everyone should easily be able to find out about candidates and their platforms. How can they not?

    • JohnL says:

      Phil, do you read (or quote) anyone OTHER THAN that left wing (indisputable, settled science) rag New York Times? Suggestion: Look around for alternative viewpoints. You’re welcome.

      • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

        My news sources have nothing to do with the question of the Electoral College. I’ll repeat the question I posed earlier that you have failed to answer:

        For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re correct and Clinton won only “large population centers” (that is, the places where most people live). If she got more votes, why shouldn’t that entitle her to the presidency under the principle of one man, one vote? What’s your argument for asserting that the votes of people outside large population centers should count more?

        • David West says:

          A simple question, although hypothetical. The Democrats / Clinton won the popular vote. However she is not entitled to the Presidency as the rules we currently play by say she lost.

          I have travelled the U.S. for over 50 years. The thing I lament most is the homoginization of this country. I go to different places to just to experience what is different. I relish the cultural and ethnic diversity we exhibit. I would be against the abolition of the Electoral College simply becasue it is another step in this homoginization.

          I fully expect both parties will be on the winning and losing side of future Presidential Electoral College results. That is the game we play on our national stage, at least until we overwhelmingly decide to change it. We are not there, yet.

        • JohnL says:

          It’s quite simple actually. It’s because the ‘rules of engagement’ in this election, and the previous 56 Presidential elections have been the rules of the Electoral College. All 4 candidates knew the rules and campaigned accordingly, albeit some were more effective than others. And, no matter how you want to parse it, even with the Electoral College rules, everyone’s vote counts.
          Seriously Phil, for a learned man, what part of “you can’t change the rules of an event after that event” don’t you understand. We all get it. You don’t like the electoral college. You’ve got an online platform from which you could work to change it. Be my guest.

          • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

            I’m not advocating we change the result of the election. I’m advocating we change the rules so in the future the winner of the popular vote will win the election.

            • JohnL says:

              Go for it!

              • Boreas says:

                “Go for it!”

                Absolutely! The GOP certainly didn’t get the president they wanted. The election results may just be the nail in their coffin for the future.

                • Paul says:

                  Which GOP are you referring to? The one that won the election or some other GOP?

                  • AG says:

                    He probably meant the “establishment” of the GOP… They clearly don’t like Trump. They mostly all came out saying they would write in a candidate or vote for Hilary. It was the “average” person that got him the nomination. The “one man one vote” that this is supposedly about. Bottom line is Clinton ran a horrible campaign against a candidate who was a TV personality. It wasn’t the FBI or the Russians that lost the election for her. It was arrogance that Florida and the midwest states were “locked up” because “no one takes Trump seriously”.

    • blyon says:

      The NY Times also published this opinion piece by Maureen Dowd entitled “Election Therapy”….a good read, although not a piece on the electoral college.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/opinion/sunday/election-therapy-from-my-basket-of-deplorables.html

      One excerpt:

      “The election was a complete repudiation of Barack Obama: his fantasy world of political correctness, the politicization of the Justice Department and the I.R.S., an out-of-control E.P.A., his neutering of the military, his nonsupport of the police and his fixation on things like transgender bathrooms. Since he became president, his party has lost 63 House seats, 10 Senate seats and 14 governorships”.

  31. Charlie S says:

    Bruce says: “You made the statement saying Bush’s election was unconstitutional, I was asking for fact-based clarification.”

    > Constitutional or not I am certain those right wing appointees swung in favor of their own party whereas the time should have been taken to do a thorough recount which if was the case the vote would have swung towards Gore….is my understanding on this matter. If things weren’t so bitterly partisan and we had leaders that were focused on the people and what is right for this country (and the world) instead of their loyalty to the corporate state and the rich, and if they took campaign financing out of the erections, we wouldn’t have had this Bruce.

    Bruce also says: “As to who cares for the Constitution, let’s see now…I don’t see any conservatives calling for dismantling the Constitution. The left on the other hand, wants to eliminate the Electoral College, and dismantle or seriously modify the Second Amendment.”

    Which liberals are calling for dismantling the Constitution? My understanding is that both parties have wanted to eliminate the Electoral College not just the ‘left.’ And what proof do you have that the ‘left’ wants to dismantle the Second Amendment? Granted, I don’t like the way the democrats push for more and more restrictions on guns,but some of their concerns are legitimate. I mean who really needs an uzi anyway? Personally I feel it works against them when the democrats try to push for more gun control. Too often they’re trying to appease their constituency more than they’re trying to do what is right. (The republicans do the same!) Guns are not the problem as much as it is ignorance and mental illness I firmly believe. And I don’t believe the democrats are trying to dismantle the Second Amendment as the fear-monger Tories have been pushing on their own constituency for years. Now that Trump is in gun sales are down. This is no coincidence! There’s reasons for the fear-mongering fer shur….there’s money in it. I would assume that gun dealers are looking forward to a liberal winning the next presidential election.

    The conservatives are not the angels they’re made out to be (by their base of course.) Think ‘Citizens United’ as per one good example…where corporations now have less restrictions to spending their money on elections. You’ll jump in and say that this was also constitutional, and though it ‘may be’ look at what it has produced….the most money ever spent on Presidential elections, each one costing more than the one prior. In other words the more money you have the more sway you have in elections. And of course having an ignorant constituency don’t help matters. They do things that favor themselves Bruce… constitutional or not! It’s not about you or me.

    And who pushed for Citizens United? The conservative kook Brothers who have more money than you or I and everyone and their next of kin and all of their relatives right down the line back to the days of the real Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. It’s all about the little guy right?

    Hillary received 2.5 million more votes than Trump but he won the the Electoral College so he won the presidency. Is this fair? It don’t seem to be especially considering this choice was made by a select few hundred people. I believe they selected Trump due to a fear of what havoc might have come about had Hillary won. A just fear at that when considering how narrow-minded, rabid, cold, biased & mean-spirited many of them far right conservatives really are.

  32. john says:

    If you don’t like the electoral college way of doing it, get your House Representative to make a motion to create a amendment to the US Constitution. I believe you need 2/3 of the House to pass it & 2/3 of the Senate to pass it & then you need I believe 35 states to pass it. Good luck getting any of those accomplished.
    This thread is old & boring. Trump won, hillary lost, she needs to just fade away & let’s have fun for the next 4 years as Donald drives all you loons crazy! It’s going to be a blast!!!!!!!!

    • Dave says:

      Is it coincidence that the people resorting to name calling in these comments all seem to support the same candidate?

      • Paul says:

        These are not candidates any more. It’s over. It will be interesting to see if many people continue with this push to eliminate the EC? My guess is that like everything else this will pass. Things these days get all sorts of hype and then it is gone. People have lives to live they don’t have time for all this. If people stopped watching the news all the time we would be much better off. I suggest we pass a law restricting news coverage to one hour per day all media types.

        • Dave says:

          I’m a little disappointed that, instead of addressing the observation that (in these comments) the people who are resorting to name calling all supported one person over the other, you chose to nitpick semantics.

          • Paul says:

            I can comment on that part if you think it is something we should consider. Interesting observation but of course no general conclusions about the larger group that supported (past tense) either candidates can be drawn from this small sample size. Or are you saying that perhaps we can – and all the supporters of one particular candidate were nasty name callers and the supporters of the other were much better people? That seems to slip back to things like the “basket of deplorables” comment that did (IMHO) hurt one candidate. Personally I think she would probably put more than half in that basket. Many of my liberal friends would put them all in there not sure why she would hedge?

  33. john says:

    if the shoes fits it wear it with pride. I guess you fall in the loon crowd!

    • blyon says:

      Excerpt from a Maureen Dowd opinion piece in the NY Times:

      ” If your preferred candidate loses, there is no need for mass hysteria, canceled midterms, safe spaces, crying rooms or group primal screams. You might understand this better if you had not received participation trophies, undeserved grades to protect your feelings or even if you had a proper understanding of civics. The Democrats are now crying that Hillary had more popular votes. That can be her participation trophy”

      • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

        What is the relevance of this to the Electoral College discussion?

        • blyon says:

          This is not a discussion of the electoral college. That is a cover for the real discussion: whining about Trump winning and Hillary losing. Clearly, this discussion would not be happening if Hillary won the electoral college and Donald won the popular vote.

          • Boreas says:

            Phil’s question was what does Maureen Dowd’s opinion have to do with the EC – or the price of milk, for that matter?

            • blyon says:

              Did you read the comment? Maureen’s comment on the Electoral College is completely relevant to this discussion. She said that Hillary winning the Electoral College is her “participation trophy”. In other words, no need to change anything, which I happen to agree with. And os some have pointed out, if you want a change, amend the Constitution. If not, this is just mental gymnastics born out of loss.

    • kathy says:

      Pardon me but leave “loons” out of this . They are a very discriminating breed who prefer solitude and wilderness to urban noise ,people and developed area. They avoid any of the above right or left discussion or rant.

  34. Paul says:

    The other way to go would be to go back to more of the original plan. What we are on now is not really the original founders plan but more of an 1815 sort of plan. There should be far more members in the house and there should be far more electoral votes. The original plan did not contemplate that the country could grow as large as it has so they kept making changes to slim down the house so that it could actually fit into the building! The other one would be to just go with how they do it in Maine rather than the winner take all thing. That is legal if the state wants to do it. A nation wide popular vote sounds like a great idea but it is almost impossible to manage in a country of this size.

    • Boreas says:

      “A nation wide popular vote sounds like a great idea but it is almost impossible to manage in a country of this size.”

      Why? The popular vote was basically decided weeks before the EC finally elected a winner.

  35. john says:

    Not to throw anymore coal on the fire for those that want to do away with the electoral college & go to a popular vote, but if you take California & New York out of the mix, Donald ended-up with 3 million more votes than hillary! California & NY account for 1/3 of you House membership for the democraps too.
    And when you think about the New York, it’s not the state that votes democrap, it’s just the city, Donald carries the rest of the state.

    Not a comment to get rid of the electoral college or go with the popular vote, just a observation!

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      I think that point has been made before. It’s no stronger through repetition. Again, why should the vote of people who live in “large population centers” count less than people who live elsewhere? You seem to be avoiding that question.

      • john says:

        They don’t count any less, but then again they don’t count any more. You seem to be of the mind set that if you win the big city votes, screw the rest of the country, because that’s all hillary did, she won the big urban city votes & nothing else!

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          But they do count more. That’s the reason for this debate.

          • Boreas says:

            Phil,

            Never mind – he’s a skipping record. I am as well.

            Nobody wants to change the rules of the game as long as the status quo works for them. After all, Trump whined heavily all through his campaign about the rigged primary/electoral systems. We didn’t hear many objections from his followers during the campaign. Their candidate knew the systems were broken – and apparently they agreed – what suddenly made these same systems rock-solid following the election? Bernie followers certainly figured out the system was broken soon enough. 4-8 years from now, it is entirely possible many the participants in this argument will have changed their position 180 degrees. People will continue to flip-flop until the systems are updated and/or trashed.

        • Boreasfisher says:

          Looks to me that Hillary won Keene, Essex, North Elba, Westport, and perhaps some other towns in my region. Hardly no rural support for her or do you consider those places urban
          centers?!!.

  36. Charlie S says:

    John says: “Trump won, hillary lost, she needs to just fade away & let’s have fun for the next 4 years as Donald drives all you loons crazy! It’s going to be a blast!!!!!!!!”

    We’ll see how it goes John. I’m back and forth with Trump but generally I have my doubts. I mean look at who he is appointing.He’s going against what he preached to his choir. I did not like Hillary and am glad she is not in… but Trump? He’s a billionaire! And when is he going to take that goofy cap off of his head?

    We’ll see how this pans out.I don’t feel good about all these ingrained ultra right appointees he’s putting in. It’s all about a power grab nothing less, the effects of which will come to haunt us for years to come if the arrogant conservatives get their way. These are the same people who deny a warming trend is taking shape on planet Earth yet we have data supporting each year has been warmer than the year prior for the past 15 years. Polar bears are losing more and more ground ever so rapidly because the ice is going away in the arctic.They can be extinct in less than 50 years! Glaciers are disappearing. Record floods! People who deny reality scare me John.

    • Boreas says:

      I agree. I think the EC elected a different Trump than the one who ran for president and lost the popular vote. I am amused by the number of people who still feel he is on their side.

      • blyon says:

        Yeah, Trump is really doing badly so far. Not even president yet and he has saved 800 jobs at Carrier, got a promise for 50,000 more jobs from Japan, got a promise for reduced costs from Boeing on the new Air Force One and has appointed a stellar cabinet, the best I have seen in my lifetime. And the stock market (which was supposed to crash if he was elected) is tottering on 20,000. Polar bears extinct in 50 years? Really?

        It seems to me the real reason for this “debate” on the electoral college is that Hillary lost and it’s not simply an intellectual “debate” on the merits of the electoral college. Can anyone say honestly this discussion would be taking place if Hillary won the college and Trump won the popular?

        • Boreas says:

          “It seems to me the real reason for this “debate” on the electoral college is that Hillary lost…”

          I don’t think so. The EC and primary system should have protected us from someone like Trump winning. And others simply don’t like bigots.

          He isn’t president yet. He has made a few publicity stunts with low-hanging fruit, but he isn’t governing yet. He doesn’t seem to be interested in intelligence updates (I wonder why) or draining the swamp or other campaign promises. I will gladly give him all the credit he deserves if the unemployment rate and economy is better when he leaves office. But he hasn’t shown me anything yet.

          • blyon says:

            “Protected us from someone like Trump”. Right, this is an intellectual discussion about the electoral college. I was born at night, not last night.

            While some on this discussion have kept it intellectual, you have managed to make it clear this is all about Hillary and the liberal platform.

            I suspect you will be very disappointed when funding on “global climate change” is stopped and we pull out of the Paris accord.

            I doubt you will ever give him credit, regardless of what he does. It’s just the liberal way.

            • Boreas says:

              Hillary wasn’t my candidate. Sorry to disappoint you.

              “I doubt you will ever give him credit, regardless of what he does. It’s just the liberal way.”

              After Obama’s cleanup of the last GOP president’s financial mess (who also was an EC winner/popular vote loser) against everything the GOP could do to obstruct the government for 8 years, that is quite a statement. Not much credit given by the GOP there. But then, if all one reads is fake news, they may have missed that.

              No, as I have said, If Trump delivers, I will give him all the credit he deserves. But with his appointments so far, I don’t think I’ll need to worry much about eating crow. But I will still be railing against the EC and pushing for primary reforms.

              • Paul says:

                “Obama’s cleanup”? You can’t be serious? Which is it – he was obstructed from doing anything that he wanted to do or he was able to to do lots of things that saved us?

                Getting out of that recession (despite its size) could and should have been much faster. Improvements in the market are what improved the economy there was nothing really that the government did.

                You gotta get over this idea that the government has so much influence of the economy, I don’t care who is in office and to what party they belong.

                • John Lounsbury says:

                  I can’t support the argument that the recovery from the Great Recession should have been faster. This recession was not a business cycle recession (aka ‘cyclical’) as all others were since WWII. It was a debt deflation recession (aka ‘secular’) last seen in 1929-1932 and 1936-1937. The extraordinary monetary policy of the Fed prevented a repeat of the Great Depression, but we have had a depression nonetheless. And it typically takes up to 2 decades to recover from a secular depression so we are not out of it yet. Corporations and households are still carrying excessive debt and that will take possibly another decade to resolve – unless, of course, we have another crash and then we will experience some delayed ‘depressive’ effects.

                  This is my last contribution to push for 200 comments.

                  • AG says:

                    I actually agree with you… But the Democratic spin machine – of which much (though not all) of the mainstream media is definitely left leaning – says that we did full recover and have gone back to boom times. That’s why I can’t stand political extremes on either side of the divide. Rational people get drowned out.

                • AG says:

                  The whole talk of “cleanup” doesn’t fit really. Everyone talks about “unemployment” – which is not a good measure. The better measure is the labor participation rate. Unemployment acts as if people don’t exist once the benefits end. Also – the middle and lower middle classes shrunk as a percentage of the population. I’m not saying Trump will do better because I honestly have no idea. But this “recovery” is lights and trimmings with a rotten tree at the core – pun intended. The low skilled manufacturing jobs will never come back – no matter what Trump says – but Obama didn’t do too well with “cleanup” either.

              • blyon says:

                I doubt very much that you will give President Trump credit for anything, ever. Me on the other hand, although I do not care for Obama’s policies, I give him ALL the credit for his drone program that has eliminated many bad actors from ISIS and other terror groups. I can put aside the fact that he has killed many, many innocent civilians in the process. The liberal media tends not to report this much (is it fake news when things are NOT reported?)

                Did you mean “fake news” like Hillary Clinton dodging bullets or that she is named after Sir Edmund Hillary? Or that she did not have a private server?

                As a Bernie Supporter (I’m guessing you are based on what you said) I’m sure you are glad that the Wikileaks exposures showed the complicity of the Hillary campaign and the DNC in making sure your candidate had no chance. Otherwise, you never would have known.

                I don’t know who selects the topics for this blog, but I suggest the following: a discussion on the possibility of fracking in the adk park. Pros/Cons and Facts. Especially the economic consequences.

                I suspect after Jan 20 the US will be back in the energy business. I suspect that President Trump will have a pen and a phone too.

                • AG says:

                  Putting aside the killing of innocent civilians by drone strikes??? But see that’s the problem. All that does is create future “terrorists”. Nor can anyone then say what is happening in Syria is wrong. Because the Russians and Assad can simply say it was “collateral damage” – as was the case when we went into Iraq. This is not hard to figure out. “We” are supporting Saudi Arabia in Yemen. I don’t need a Phd in foreign relations to figure out we can expect more “terrorists” from Yemen. Believe me – they don’t look at Bush or Obama’s policies differently. Mainstream media here doesn’t report on the conditions on the ground (BBC – which we can get here SOMETIMES does)… Which is why we repeat the same things over and over and over. As to Trump – he doesn’t get this is not a normal army so you can’t go bomb them into oblivion. I actually think the best strategy is to retract militarily and be more careful about who is allowed to come in. I think it’s better to be safe than sorry as to who gets to come in. But the idea that “Bombing them over there” makes us more safe is absolutely ridiculous. That’s why most of the recent attacks here have been “homegrown”. People who have been radicalized here – because their distant relatives and friends “over there” report to them what’s going on. They get angry – and boom – we get another attack or another attempt.

                • Steven Langille says:

                  I don’t know how we ended up with Fracking in the Adirondacks, but to give you some information. The Adirondacks are part of a geologic formation called the Laurentian Shield, that is Igneous rock(volcanic) not sedimentary like the Marcellus Shale of southern New York. There is no Natural Gas or Oil there. The only use of Fracking there, would be to increase water well production.

  37. Paul says:

    The problem is the traffic in midtown Manhattan caused by all the stuff going on at Trump tower. It’s crazy, all gridlock, you can’t get anywhere. As a cab driver I had there last week told me – get used to it. It’s gonna last at least 4 years even if he spends some time in DC.

    • Boreas says:

      The cost to the taxpayers ain’t cheap neither. We could probably fund NIH research with the money spent on securing the T. Tower, not to mention his extended family.

    • AG says:

      New Yorkers are used to that. It will just be like having the UN in session more often. Or – has anyone been near the WTC..?? In any event – those are petty complaints. When Bill Clinton opened offices in Harlem – no one complained.

      • Boreas says:

        Every president does. But were the cost, disruption, and security issues the same?

        • AG says:

          You might want to look at US history. 4 sitting presidents have been murdered. Even more were shot/shot at. Attempting to kill a president is not new. For a variety of reasons security of everything is more expansive now. When was the last time you were in Penn Station??? In all seriousness – this is whiny and childish. No wonder this country is a laughingstock after this election – for a variety of reasons. One being that both candidates were so weak. Democrats love to talk about tolerance – so why then is there such security risk with Trump? Sounds like hypocrisy. Just like the guy who was thrown off the plane for harassing Ivanka Trump and her kids (yesterday or today?). He’s a stone cold liberal. So why the poor behavior? I’m glad I’m an independent… Not just in political party – but in thought and deed.

  38. Paul says:

    Sorry, I know that has nothing to do with the EC!

  39. JohnL says:

    This has been fun and informative. Thanks All. Merry Christmas!

  40. Ben says:

    I find it funny that people on here want to bitch about the electoral college & professes a love for a pure popular vote, but as pointed out above, if you took California & New York out of the mix Donald beat hillary by 3 million votes in the rest of the country. So weather it was electoral college or popular vote, the election went as best it could. The people have spoken & a majority minus those democrats in CA & NY wanted Donald to win. Maybe that rural voter that democrats have forgotten about all these years finally decided to vote for someone other than the “Its my Time” hillary party!

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      Sure, and if not for Texas, Clinton would have won the Electoral College. Like it or not, California and New York are part of the United States.

  41. JohnL says:

    Thought I was done commenting but I was wrong. Just read this article and it said a bunch of things that I hadn’t thought of, and hasn’t been brought out in this panel either. Please try to read it. I wish I had seen it sooner.
    http://hotair.com/archives/2016/12/21/lets-face-it-the-electoral-college-worked-exactly-as-it-should/

  42. Mike from Indian Lake says:

    And after all of this Trump is still the next President. You guys must be tired from all the typing. Make America Great Again and have a Merry Christmas.

  43. Charlie s says:

    Bylon spews: “Trump has appointed a stellar cabinet, the best I have seen in my lifetime.”

    Yep a stellar cabinet….
    Rick Perry.. that religious kook from Texas who had a loss of memory live on tv when it came to naming one of the three departments he wanted to dismantle,one of which was the Education Department.
    > Let us privatize our children.

    Scott Pruitt.. a bed partner with the fossil fuel industry who Trump picked to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, who has openly stated that he wants to dismantle the agency “in almost every form.”
    > Who needs clean air and water anyway?

    Stephen Bannon.. a documented outright racist.
    > The racist I have known saw God in George W. Bush.

    Rex W. Tillerson.. the president and chief executive of Exxon Mobil.
    > Let’s make America great again!

    Stand them up side by side and by no coincidence they look like thugs in a police lineup!

  44. Charlie s says:

    Bylon again: “I suspect you will be very disappointed when funding on “global climate change” is stopped and we pull out of the Paris accord.”

    Who with an acute mental vision wouldn’t be disappointed?

  45. Charlie s says:

    Bylon again: “Polar bears extinct in 50 years? Really?”

    Really Bylon! The scientist are saying this. I’m not a scientist and I’m here to tell you the earth has been warming up these years of late. Have you noticed?

    • blyon says:

      Yep, a stellar cabinet. Get ready for massive change. And THANK YOU Harry Reid for nuking the filibuster, thereby ensuring that all of Trump’s cabinet picks will be approved with a vote of 51 and not 60. Harry Reid, now there is a guy with Acute Mental Vision!!

      Don’t believe all the fake news about global climate change. Polar bears extinct in 50 years? Ten years ago Al Gore told us the polar ice caps would be GONE by 2015. Just because the liberals have made global warming part of the democratic party platform does not mean it’s real. It simply means they have taken it out of the scientific realm and made it political (they did this with a sleight of hand by calling it “settled science”).

      Acute mental vision!! I like that!

      Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for the discussion. May you all live long and well, and prosper.

  46. Charlie s says:

    Paul says: “Again can you and/or Donald Trump explain to us how the system is/was broken (rigged)?”

    You’re joshing Paul arnt ya? When 0.1 percent have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and these 0.1 percenters are allowed to donate as much money as they want to political campaigns (thanks to those CONSERVATIVE Supreme Court justices) you gotta know there’s some kind of rigging going on with our erected leaders.

    The system favors the rich Paul not the little guy which is you and me and most of us….even all of those blind-faithers who voted for Trump and who think the savior has risen.

    • Paul says:

      So you and Trump think the elections are rigged? Boy did he take some heat for such a suggestion!

      • John Lounsbury says:

        It’s ‘rigged’ if you lose and ‘well planned’ if you win.
        That’s been the mantra for 228 years (and probably long before that, too).

      • Charlie S says:

        You said ‘the system’ Paul not the elections. The system is most definitely rigged and not necessarily in yours or mine favor.

  47. ben says:

    This is a old tired thread. Democrats will never get enough votes to change the Constitution and they’ll NEVER get enough states to ratify a amendment if they did get something out of Congress. It is what it is! Now, if Democrats want to continue to bitch & moan, maybe they should try to FIND A CANDIDATE who is not so f’ing flawed as hillary was! Maybe they need to find a way to reach out to the f’in rural voter who they’ve forgotten about all these years. Maybe they need to figure out that there is more to the United States than just the f’ing urban vote. Maybe they need to figure out why they keep loosing so many House & Senate seats since 2009, why they keep loosing some many state governor positions & so many state government Houses. Quit bitch about Donald this or Donald that & figure out whats wrong with your party. If not, it’ll be 8 years of Donald!

  48. JohnL says:

    Keep going. The count is at 186. I know we can get to 200. Come on Charlie S, you can do it.

    • Charlie S says:

      JohnL…. I like that we can impart our views,right,wrong or indifferent on this site. I have no bias against anyone here to set the record straight. Truly I believe we all have more in common with each other than we do with the powers that be on Capital Hill. I think it is healthy to express ones self freely and to have an avenue to do it……………..and I appreciate your humor thank you.

  49. Mike from Indian Lake says:

    Almost 200 posts and Trump will still be the next President. Love how smart you guys are. Make America Grest Again!

  50. Charlie S says:

    I am baffled as to what everyone means when they say ‘Make America great again.’
    Great for who or what???? Is the meaning in this phrase all-inclusive or is it only having something to do with a superego? This is a serious question to which I don’t expect a serious reply. Merry every day all not just one day a year!

    • Boreas says:

      You know – the America of our dreams, not one that ever existed.

    • AG says:

      See the opening sequence to the tv show “All in the Family”….. The mythical “those were the days”. What most Americans on the right and the left want doesn’t exist. They want the days when Europe was on the decline and destroying itself with world wars – and Asia was still struggling with it’s thousands of years of disputing. The natural resources of South America and Africa were there for the taking. That world doesn’t exist anymore… Europe is fairly stable again but has an aging population… She can afford her stability by having the US big up it’s defense bill via NATO. China has re-awakened after falling asleep for 300 years or so. They no longer want to be “the sick man of the east”. They want to return to the days of the silk road when they were the center of world trade and produced the most inventions. They are literally rebuilding a modern one throughout Asia and linking it to the Mid East and Europe… On this continent – the population keeps growing but so has acknowledgment that resources need to be managed. The days of going sea to shining see and just cutting down all the trees and digging everything out of the ground aren’t as palatable. South/Central America and Africa want real independence now. They no longer want to be proxies in a global world order. They want to chart their own paths…
      On a side bar – that is of course – those were days if you were white in this nation… For everyone else they sure weren’t “the good ole days…

  51. Mike from Indian Lake says:

    Thanks you smart guys make me laugh. Ok I hope I soelled everything correctly. Wait it’s spelled spelled. Ok boreas you anal fool. Making spelling great again!