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Republicans Were against the Electoral College before They Were for It

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tags: Electoral College



Robert Alexander is a professor of political science and founding director of the Institute for Civics and Public Policy at Ohio Northern University. He is also the author of Representation and the Electoral College. Follow him on Twitter: @onuprof

While energy to change the Electoral College is fueled by Democrats today, not too long ago it was Republicans who took issue with it. Ironically, on Election Day 2012, Donald Trump famously tweeted that "the electoral college is a disaster for a democracy" and "this election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!"

He then tweeted a call to action: "Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us."

Since his election in 2016, Trump has sent mixed messages, both praising the Electoral College and claiming that he would prefer a national popular vote over the current system. The Wall Street Journal reported that he discussed possibly abolishing the Electoral College in a meeting with congressional leaders shortly after taking office only to be dissuaded from pursuing it by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

It turns out that he is not the only prominent Republican to call for a national popular vote. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush indicated support to abolish the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote -- the latter two voting for an amendment to do so when they were members of the House of Representatives in 1969.

In 2014, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also called for a national popular vote. And just a year ago, former chair of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele and Saul Anuzis, the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, made the case that Republicans should ditch the Electoral College in favor of a direct popular vote.

After a second convincing Electoral College victory by President Barack Obama in 2012, some were convinced the Electoral College needed to go if Republicans were to be competitive in presidential campaigns.

Conservative columnist Myra Adams pointedly asked in a headline: "Can a Republican Win 270 Electoral Votes in 2016...or Ever?" Other notable headlines and news articles after the 2012 election included these doozies: "Do Democrats have a permanent Electoral College advantage?," "Why Ditching the Electoral College Would Benefit the GOP," and "Republicans Want to Reform the Electoral College to Help Themselves."

Stopping short of abolishing the Electoral College, a number of Republicans considered efforts to change how electoral votes were awarded in several key states.

Just months after the 2012 presidential election, Republican lawmakers in Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio considered whether they should move away from the winner-take-all method of awarding their electoral votes to the district method of awarding their electoral votes, similar to the approach used in Maine and Nebraska.

The overarching rationale was that adopting the district method would guarantee the party Electoral College votes in a number of Republican-leaning congressional districts that they would not be able to rely on if they continued to use the winner-take-all system. Former Republican National Committee Chairman and later Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus endorsed the idea shortly after the 2012 election. Although these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, they illustrate that laws pertaining to the Electoral College are not necessarily held as sacrosanct by many in the GOP.

Read entire article at CNN

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