9 Quotes About The Electoral College That Will Make You Look At This Election Differently
Now that we're closing in on the general election, you might think that we're just two weeks from choosing the next president of the United States of America. That has, after all, been the point of the seemingly endless primaries, summer of attack ads, continuing allegations, and now — I think it's now safe to say — truly troubling debates. The point was to affect the voters who choose the president, but in this country, it doesn't work that way. Instead, it's all up to the Electoral College. What's that? I'll explain with the help of these nine electoral college quotes, which weigh the pros and cons of this centuries-old system.
Essentially, as Joe Miller for FactCheck.org explains, the Electoral College was invented by the Founding Fathers to protect the country from direct democracy. They were worried about any one group of people — or "faction" as James Madison called them — gaining too much power. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton said that the point was "that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications." Sound applicable to this year's election? Well too bad, because the Electoral College has become all but a formality — although it's a formality that plays a big role in the campaigns' political strategies.
These nine quotes about the Electoral College will help you better understand it:
1. Almost No One Has Anything Good To Say
In general, it's not very popular. Here's Kevin Bleyer's take:
No one likes the Electoral College, except perhaps those who were elected because of it. No one likes gerrymandering, except those doing the gerrymandering. No one likes the filibuster, except those doing the filibustering.
2. That's Probably Because We Have A Bad Recent Example
In the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush, but still lost the election. The Supreme Court's ruling in Florida gave Bush that pivotal state, and doomed Gore to lose the Electoral College. That odd scenario - where the candidate with the most votes loses - has happened three times in U.S. history.
3. Or As Al Gore Put It...
Four years after losing the Electoral College to George W. Bush, Vice President Gore had this to say to the 2004 Democratic National Convention: "You win some, you lose some. And then there's that little-known third category."
4. Nicer Than What This Senator Had To Say
Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota had this sarcastic take on the matter in his book Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them:
Some of George W. Bush's friends say that Bush believes God called him to be president during these times of trial. But God told me that He/She/It had actually chosen Al Gore by making sure that Gore won the popular vote and, God thought, the Electoral College. "That worked for everyone else," God said.
5. But It Really Sucks When You're Gore Or Nixon
Al Gore, being the vice president, had to preside over the Electoral College role call, accepting the results that sealed his fate as the loser. The same thing happened to Nixon too, as Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy explain in their book The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity:
As a final indignity for the defeated warrior, Vice President Nixon had to preside over the roll call of the Electoral College. "This is the first time in 100 years that a candidate for the presidency announced the result of an election in which he was defeated," he told the assembled members of Congress. "I do not think we could have a more striking and eloquent example of the stability of our constitutional system." He got a standing ovation.
6. That's Among The Reasons People Hate It
Author John Ridley put it pretty succinctly: "Much as banks don't care where your money's coming from, the Electoral College is all 'don't ask, don't care' when it comes to votes."
7. It Was On Bloomberg's Mind
This year, Michael Bloomberg didn't run for president because he wasn't sure he could win (or beat Trump), but both times he thought about running, he weighed the the Electoral College. This is from 2007:
Last I looked — and I'm not a candidate — but last time I checked reading about the Constitution, the Electoral College has nothing to do with parties, has absolutely nothing to do with parties. It's most states are winners take all.
8. Maybe There's An Upside For States With Immigrants
Consider this point from Edward Greenberg's The Struggle for Democracy:
A less well known impact of immigrant populations is the increase that destination states gain in Congress where apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives is calculated on the basis of a state's entire adult population regardless of legal status. And, because each state's electoral college vote is the sum of the number of its representatives in the House and its two senators, high immigration states play a larger role in presidential elections than they might if only adult citizens and legal aliens were counted in population surveys.
9. But The Cons Seem To Win...
George C. Edwards III wrote a whole book on why the Electoral College is so bad. He's been outspoken since, writing for the Washington Post about what's wrong with the system, but this quote says it best:
For two centuries supporters of the Electoral College have built their arguments on a series of faulty premises. The Electoral College is a gross violation of the cherished value of political equality. At the same time, it does not protect the interests of small states or racial minorities, nor does it serve as a bastion of federalism. Instead the Electoral College distorts the presidential campaign so that candidates ignore most small states – and many large ones – and pay little attention to minorities.
So with quotes like that, maybe it's time to take another look at it after this election is over an finished. But better not to play with the rules in the middle of the game.