Surprise! Trump Loves The Electoral College Now

Donald Trump's Twitter fits are nothing new. He's been at this for a long time. He was especially active on the platform during election night of 2012 when, apparently camping out on the border of Confusionland and Misinformationville, Trump thought that President Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney without winning the popular vote. Along with calling for a revolution, Trump informed Twitter of his belief that "the electoral college is a disaster for a democracy." Four years later, after winning the election without winning the popular vote thanks to the institution, Trump has decided that the Electoral College is "genius."

One of Trump's most consistent campaign messages, from the primaries through the general election, was that the system is "rigged" against him. That Trump went on to win by the same scenario that caused him to promote a revolution four years earlier is maddening in itself, but he's taking it to the next level by defending it now. Why is he suddenly got the warm-and-fuzzies? The simple answer is that things are only unfair if they don't benefit Trump, and anything that benefits Trump is fair. But he provides another reason for declaring the Electoral College "genius" that hurts my brain just as much: "It brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!"

OK, it's true that the Electoral College gives an advantage to states with the smallest populations. That's because each state has at least three electors — one for each senator, and one for each representative (some states, like Wyoming, only have one representative in the House). How this pans out is that one Wyoming electoral vote represents roughly 143,000 members of the state's voting-age public, while one electoral vote from California accounts for about 500,000 people. And that's one feature of the Electoral College system that allows a candidate to win without winning the popular vote — people's votes don't weigh the same. It could be argued that the Electoral College does more than bring states "into play," then; it stacks the deck for some and against others.

Then again, there's another factor determining the real "weight" of votes from different states. Because 48 states distribute electors on a winner-take-all basis, we have "safe" red and blue states — states that will almost certainly cast a plurality vote for a particular candidate. These states, regardless of size, then become completely or mostly ignored by candidates, who concentrate their attention on "swing" states where they stand a better chance of securing a plurality rather than wasting time where they aren't likely to get a single elector. As reported by National Popular Vote, two-thirds of campaign events during the 2012 general election cycle took place in only four swing states. In this regard, the Electoral College system puts a whole lot of states out of play.

Trump referred to this fact himself in another tweet Tuesday, saying that he didn't bother trying to win in more highly populated states because he supposedly knew he didn't have to. Had he been trying to win the popular vote — this is actually what the president-elect wrote — he would have. He apparently preferred a tighter outcome and to win only thanks to the genius institution that is the Electoral College, which puts people in a position of top power that more people don't want there than do, gives unequal weight to votes from different states, and makes only a handful of states matter to candidates.