It’s not your Founding Fathers’ democracy

Roundup
tags: election 2016, Electoral College



E.J. Dionne (postchat@aol.com) is a columnist for The Washington Post.

Starting next month, the United States will have a minority government.

This assertion flies in the face of just about everything you have read, since the Republicans will control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. But the American system of representation, invented 229 years ago for 13 states that hugged the Atlantic shore, is more than ever out of tune with how the country’s citizens have distributed themselves, across now 50 states and between metropolitan areas and the countryside.

For the next two and probably four years, a majority of Americans will be governed by politicians largely elected by a minority of us. With the country already sharply divided, this is a problem that can no longer be politely ignored. Worse, a government put in place by the peculiar workings of an outdated system is threatening to pursue quite radical policies destined to arouse considerable resistance from the disempowered majority.

The first problem is the Electoral College. On only three occasions from the first presidential election in 1788 through 1996 did the loser of the popular vote become president. Two were unusual contests: 1824, when four candidates split the electoral votes; and 1876, when the returns from three Southern states were disputed, a special “Electoral Commission” was formed, and a deal was arranged to make Rutherford B. Hayes president. Benjamin Harrison’s election in 1888 was a more standard affair; his popular vote deficit to incumbent Grover Cleveland was modest, 89,293 votes (0.8 percent).

But the pace of anti-democratic outcomes is picking up. Since 2000, the loser of the popular vote has “won” two elections. George W. Bush became president in 2001 after losing the popular vote to Al Gore by 543,895. And this year came what ought to be — but, alas, won’t be — the result that should concentrate everyone’s attention on the dysfunction of our electoral rules. Hillary Clinton leads in the popular vote count by 2.7 million (2 percent), and her advantage is likely to grow. But Donald Trump is becoming our president. ...




comments powered by Disqus