Some Additional Thoughts on the Faithless
The number of faithless electors was both historical and trivial.
I have seen a lot of “ha ha! Clinton had more faithless electors than did Trump!” online this morning. But, I would note that this makes sense as the Clinton electors had nothing to lose: Clinton wasn’t going to be president barring a catastrophic outcome for Trump. In some ways, Trump’s two defections are more of a repudiation, but even there the electors knew that it would take almost twenty times as many defections to actually matter. The only way it would have been a true “ha ha!” moment would have been if Trump had had 37 faithless electors, all of whom voted for Clinton. Then even one faithless Clinton elector would have thrown the election into the House.
In reality these seven are naught but blips.
Indeed, while seven faithless electors will give political science professors an historical novelty to discuss in class, we are still talking a minuscule number in the grand scheme of things and not anything that make any difference in terms of the perception or functioning of this institution.
Prior to 2000, I thought that an electoral college/popular vote inversion would result in voters being shocked about an institution they paid little attention to and that would lead to serious calls to change it. But, of course, that proved to be incorrect. The bottom line is that a) we have an unhealthy reverence for anything that we can attribute to the Founding Fathers, b) those same Fathers made changing the system almost impossible, and c) the winners of any system have no incentive to change that system.
Indeed, it has been instructive to see the “ho hum” attitude that many are displaying to the fact that Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes and over two percentage points. Not that it is a shock, but this underscores that our alleged abiding commitment to being the “Greatest Democracy in the WorldTM” is not what we often act like it is cracked up to be. This is not exactly a “shining city on the hill” moment.
As much as I think that the EC should be replaced with a popular vote system, I cannot see a pathway that leads to its demise save a situation in which the Republicans also fear winning the popular vote and losing the EC as well. The thing is: the electoral advantage in terms of actual voters belongs to Democrats: consider that from 1992 to the present (almost a quarter century), the Republicans have only won the most popular votes once, and that was in 2004. They lost in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012, and in 2016. And yet, in that same time-span, they have won the presidency twice. Why? Because of the electoral college. They do not have any incentive to get rid of it.
Indeed, even a significant disruption of the EC in a given election is unlikely to be sufficent incentive for the party to seek change unless such a disruption is seen as a permanent/irreversible change to the functioning of the institution. Note that a disruption to the EC in terms of changing the outcome predicted by the popular vote requires someone infiltrating and altering a highly partisan process, that is the selection of the electors themselves.
Even with the massive 700% increase in faithlessness (as compared to the last 100ish years),* the bottom line is this, the system worked as expected: party loyalists chosen through a partisan process voted as their party expected.
*That is 7, instead of 1. And yes: read that sentence with sarcasm infused therein.
Game, set, match.
Obviously from people far more concerned with their team winning, than the good of the Republic.
What’s amazing is that these very same folks wanted to investigate the Clinton’s and the Obama’s for any little phucking thing…all of it ultimately a big nothing donut.
Now these very same people want to ignore Russian hacking of our election, and Trump pressuring people with the power of his office, to patronize his properties, in order to directly profit his corporation.
If I believed in god I would thank her that these nimrods were not alive in the 18th century. For certainly if they had been this great Republic would not have lasted a full 240 years before turning into the banana republic it is now.
That actually happened, albeit briefly, in 2012. For a period of time in October of that year, Romney was leading the national vote but trailing in the states he needed to win. (At the time I heard a Republican acquaintance of mine grumbling about the EC.) Obama ended up winning both the EC and the popular vote by a significant margin, though his EC win was relatively stronger. To win the election, Romney would have had to pick up at least one state where Obama’s margin of victory was larger than his national margin. Nate Silver calculated that even if Romney had won the popular vote by 1-2%, he probably would have lost the EC.
Of course that’s all academic, but it does suggest that even today with the urban/rural divide between the parties, the way the EC skews the vote isn’t always to the GOP’s advantage.
We are sclerotic. Our system is creaky and increasingly ridiculous and impossible to defend in intelligent company. People revere the founders as a sort of secular religion, as though they were gods handing down eternal verities rather than men trying to cobble together compromises over issue which no longer have any relevancy.
Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since the Enlightenment and we have abandoned those virtues in favor of something much easier: virtue signaling. So much less work than identifying core beliefs you’ll support even to your own disadvantage. Both right and left have abandoned belief in free speech and now seek to limit speech. Were we to hold a constitutional convention the end result would be naked partisanship utterly devoid of concern for the United States, let alone any of the beliefs enshrined in the constitution.
So here we are, too senile to recognize a need for change, and too bloody venal and narcissistic and stupid to manage change if we ever decided to try.
Since 1948, or since FDR, the Democratic candidate for President has won over 50% of the vote a whopping total of FOUR TIMES. And Hillary Clinton lost the White House because she actually got a smaller percentage of the vote than either John Kerry in 2004, Al Gore in 2000 or Bill Clinton in 1996.
But by all means, keep sucking on that popular vote binkie. There clearly aren’t any serious underlying problems that need to be addressed.
I never said anything about an absolute majority (although I would prefer a system that required such). Either you are moving the goalposts dishonestly, or you don’t understand–if so, I will gladly expand.
What’s your point…she still got almost 3 million more actual votes than Dumb-Don.
Btw, your childishness is getting grating as is your assertion that you understand some underlying problem that you never articulate.
It is really easy to pretend if one has a deep understanding that no one else gets.
I must say that while I would be more than happy to have an intelligent conversation with persons of opposite opinions, I am getting tired of comments from people who just want to be pissy.
Indeed Michael. As if anything in our history is more politically convenient, cynical, and amoral than the Great Compromise, but nevertheless, if you attach a founder’s name to something today, it’s sacrosanct for over half the country.
Personally I think the Founding Fathers would be disgusted by modern America, since they took serious action to make the nation they wanted instead of worshiping the past. You know, taking responsibility for the world they live in instead of arguing (falsely, then AND now) “it’s always been that way so it always should be”.
If anyone here were arguing that the EC should be abolished simply in order to help Democrats win elections, your comments might make some sense.
As it stands, even in this forum attitudes toward the EC don’t fall strictly on party lines. We have conservative commenters (like Hal-9000) who oppose it, and liberals (like Pch101) who support it. And as I alluded to earlier, I’ve pretty consistently opposed it regardless of which party it may happen to advantage more.
You don’t have to drag everything we discuss here down to the level of a partisan pissing match.
Steven, I’m not optimistic that any change is possible. There’s simply too much inertia built into the amendment process to much to overcome. Unfortunately, we’ve all been instilled a certain reverence for the founding fathers and the Constitution, despite the fact that they are all imperfect.
With partisanship the way it is, neither side (especially the Republicans) is willing to give up any small advantage such as the EC and gerrymandering.
In light of this, I’m actually fine if Trump or Ryan decentralize more to the states. If federal responsibilities are reduced and federal taxes correspondingly so, each state can decide how much to tax to support important state institutions such as universities and invest in health care and transportation networks. That avoids sticky things like California subsidizing Alabama. We may yet see a regionalism phenomenon based on wealthy regions looking to secede, similar to Catalonia and Padania.
@Michael Bailey: Gracias.
I do love the downvotes in favor of pissy comments!
So in summary, Republicans are mean spirited lemmings who don’t care how they get power, just as long they can get it. In other words, same old same old.
What really could stand revising is the number of electors so that voting power is not so diluted. Rural areas have grossly disproportionate say in the electoral process, and it violates democratic principles of one person one vote that empty states like Wyoming have greater voice than people in California or New York. Of course, Republicans are going to argue that it should remain as it is.
@Pch101: Well, more accurately, human beings tend to favor power over principles. It just so happens in this case the cluster of humans favored by a particular power imbalance are Republicans.
It’s moments like these that I would argue suggest a return to core principles. We are fighting sides, teams, not principles. Us against them. It is all-but impossible to attract support when things are tribal rather than principled. If you stand for free speech you may draw others to that same position; if you support free speech only when it’s your own speech, no one is rallying to that banner.
For some years now I’ve harped on the lack of a mission for Democrats. A lack of narrative. The GOP for its part stuck for too long to an ideology that had become a cover for pure self-interest. Now Trump has stolen their cloak-of-bullshittery, and made covert swinishness into public, unashamed swinishness. Neither side sticks to its professed principles, and Democrats are blind to their own sins because the Republicans are so much worse. But being ‘better than those a-holes’, while good enough for the plurality of voters, was not enough to win. And ‘better than’ does not paint a picture of the future.
We Democrats have been handing weapons to our enemies. And it’s because we don’t have a story, we don’t have a direction, and we can’t even be said to consistently support the beliefs we tout. We are fighting a side; we are not fighting for principle. Freedom of speech, assembly, worship and movement. Truth. One-person-one-vote. A single people united by a creed, not a people divided by race or religion. Equal justice under the law. A nation that holds itself up as an exemplar to the world. You know, all that stuff both sides are supposed to hold sacred?
The GOP is now an alt-right party, a white supremacist and kleptocrat party. Our response should not be to mirror them and engage in tit-for-tat, but to stand for something larger. To fashion a view of a better future consistent with our core national values. We need a story with more narrative thrust than ‘we defend minorities.’ We should not retreat an inch on defending minorities, but if that’s the only story we have to tell, we’re not going to gain ground.
@Steven L. Taylor:
As loathe as I am to even remotely support the pissy MBunge, I do think he may have a point with the absolute majority argument.
Accepting your clearly argued premise that it is extremely unlikely the US will move away from the EC any time soon, the best remaining option is to render the EC moot. Democrats should focus on widening the gap on the popular vote which in turn increases the likelihood that the EC will fall in line.
Obama has the right idea with his recent comments:
There is a path forward for the Democrats that doesn’t entail electoral redesign:
1) Do more to make the Democratic case at the county and state level. Win statehouses and governorships.
2) Hang the dumpster fire the Trump administration is certain to be around the Republican’s neck at every opportunity
3) Repeat until you win big
@Scott F.: Oh, there is a path forward without EC reform, to be sure.
By all means, we should abandon constitutional institutions, intended or not, that circumvent the tyranny of the majority and the imposition of regionally popular candidates.
In any case, the Democratic party has been playing by these electoral college rules for longer than the Republicans so you’d think they would be more familiar with those rules. In any case, the electoral college was organized to ensure more equality of impact between the state republics in our little republic of republics. And it is a historical fact that large, diverse, democracies don’t survive so there is incentive to keep the democracy local rather than a heterogeneous mass of hostile parties.
@JKB: The thing is this: yes, there is such a thing as tyranny of the majority, and so we have things like (but not limited to) the First Amendment to protect us.
There is no good argument for allowing the minority of voters to elect president as a means of protecting liberty.
Trump is in the process of remaking the party in his image. If Erdogan, Putin, and Xi are examples, it will take many years to properly consolidate power and plant loyalists in all the key institutions. Populism is only a convenient messaging tool to create a rabidly loyal but ill-informed base easily susceptible to propaganda.
It remains to be seen if the Ryan wing or the Trump wing will eventually emerge as the winners.
In terms of formulating a proper strategy for Democrats, I suggest going to where the Republicans are not and presenting themselves as a viable and truly different alternative. If the Trump side wins, tack to the middle and pick up moderate Republicans. Become the unapologetic neoliberal party (a la FDP in Germany or Lib Dems in the UK), with a focus on efficient/clean government, lower regulation/taxes, free trade, social liberalism, tolerance, and pro-science/evidence. I posit that Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush are closer to Hillary Clinton in temperament and policy than they are to Trump. Therefore, the losers from the fight against Trump can be absorbed into the new Democratic Party. Side note: how lovely would it be to have Bush and Clinton as part of the same party! Trump can have all the blue collar and lower-educated crows. The Democrats will win the upwardly mobile, successful, and elites.
Alternatively, if Ryan/Bush win and expel Trump, the Republicans will undoubtedly reclaim the mantle of traditional conservativism and recreate their uneasy alliance between business conservatives and cultural/social conservatives. In this case, Democrats should tack hard left and pick up Bernie/Trump voters (I argue that these two are closer in policy than they are to the mainstream) with unabashed populism and anti-elitism.
Politics in the US is all about two big tent forces pushing, prodding, and giving way in order to craft enough of a coalition to govern. Just like nature, politics abhors a vacuum, and if the Democrats don’t react appropriate to the GOP civil war, a new party will emerge that better captures unrepresented voters.
@Steven L. Taylor:
If the situation was reversed with Clinton as the winner of the electoral vote but loser of the popular vote by a wide margin, then I think that the Dems would be more conciliatory and their supporters a bit more subdued. They would understand that the win was fragile and that they could not claim that the country was unified behind them.
Instead, we have these idiot Republicans acting as if they have achieved some sort of mandate. Their capacity for tone deafness and blindness to basic realities is remarkable. The fact that they can do this under the cloud of Putin just adds to the comedy.
Hey, I learned something today!. Never heard of Padania. Now I have. Thanks!
@Scott F.: I grew up in a very rural area of Illinois. I know those people he’s talking about and there’s basically no way for Democrats to reach them. THey are too wrapped up in their religious hatred of gays/trans (lessening though), abortion (before the last election kids were coming home from school saying Hillary wanted to murder all the babies), and people of differing faith (Muslims 90% of the time as no one has time to hate on the Mormons anymore). To them Democrats are always to blame for everything including the drug dealing welfare queens that they all swear they’ve seen all over the place yet can never name or point them out. The violent crime upswing in the biggest city in my county is because of “them blacks being sent here by the Democrats” and not the fact that the city is dying and has lost most of it’s good jobs resulting in a massive increase in unemployment/crime. This of course when they aren’t freaking out that Democrats are trying to ban their guns and Christianity (because THEY BE ALWAYS WARRING AGAINST IT!!!111). These are the kind of people that protest and threaten a planned business because the people behind it had connections with Wicca. “we don’t need no devil worshipers here” was one of the statements made by a leading figure in that mess…
How do you reach those people when they don’t want what you’re offering? They don’t believe in equal rights and some of them are still pissed about desegregation. They believe that Christianity is the official religion of this country and want it in everyone’s face. They want to ban all abortion and possibly birth control and then they tend to stutter and stumble when you ask them what the punishment should be for the woman getting an abortion. They refuse to pay for the kids that are born currently and yet call themselves pro-life. To them police never make a mistake but the federal government can never get anything right. etc etc etc.. How do you reach people who live in a different reality and WANT religious fascism (only if it’s their religion of course)?
A lot of these people are fine living under a bridge cooking a sparrow for dinner as long as they know that someone of color (black brown whatever) does not have a sparrow to cook….
By the way, Trump’s kids are selling access.
Not that any Republican cares. Hillary giving a speech to Goldman is evil, Trump literally selling access to himself as president, meh.
@Steven L. Taylor: I’m not sure that I can buy the notion that simply because New York Metro and LA Metro are larger than everywhere else winning 31 states represents “allowing the minority of voters to elect [the] president.”
that has relevance re: me?
@Rick Zhang: That’d be too much like having a strategy. They’d rather focus on how stupid Trump voters are and how the Electoral College needs to be eliminated because it worked against them –THIS time.
Frankly, 50% of their problems disappear by not having anyone named Clinton on the ticket. The other 50% is winning back suburban areas they lost by nominating a radioactive trainwreck candidate whose “turn” it was to be at the top of the ticket.
It would be nice to see the imbeciles that have been the authors of the DNC’s winning message,” Were not (as bad as) Republicans” run out of the party. Like Reynolds and myself has said–there is no vision or brand to the DNC. A hodgepodge of cobbled together policy positions is not a brand. No one is buying unless a one-in-20 year Candidate is selling.
For God’s sake-the Republican brand doesn’t need a super-salesman. If it did Bush I and II could never have been President.
@al-Alameda: If one is going to conclude “game, set, match” on an argument, it should at least be noted that the statistics used to justify the position are an excellent example of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.
@Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:
Well, for one thing neither LA nor NYC vote 100% Democratic, so your assumption is flawed to start with (indeed, as with most people the EC has so conditioned a winner-take-all mentality that they forget that there are varied opinions even in urban areas). This is a straw man that does not take seriously the basic idea of one person, one vote.
Likewise, your hypothetical 31 states are not monoliths, either.
If it was, in fact, that case that EVERYONE in CA had one view and EVERYONE in the midwest had another, you might have a point. But this is not the case and we need to stop talking like it is.
@Steven L. Taylor:
GAWD, this is so true. I have to tell people again and again “don’t apply EC thinking to a popular vote model, there are millions of GOP voters in California whose votes don’t count now but would with a popular vote.”
My preferred solution would require a constitutional amendment. I’d suggest an EC where each state gets one elector per 200K residents, or majority fraction thereof. A state’s electoral votes would be divided by percentage of popular vote in that state. If no candidate got a majority of the Electoral College vote, an runoff would be scheduled for the first Tuesday in December between the two top vote-getters. There’s no point in having Electors who have no agency in casting their votes.
@SC_Birdflyte: The runoff could be another general election – and in that case if you are just going to mimic the popular vote, why not go all the way and simply have the people elect the president directly?
OT, but has anyone seen the latest brainfart to come out of South Carolina?
Aside from all the First Amendment issues, tech people have pointed out that such a filter doesn’t exist, and can’t work unless you have control over the internet at least as much as what China imposes on its citizens.
And of course, Silicon Valley will come up with this blocking filter out of the goodness of its own heart, right? I think they’re more likely to say “bugger this for a load of soldiers, we don’t sell enough product to South Carolina for us to do anything like this, and certainly not if we’re not paid for. Guess each computer we sell to you idiots will have to be $5B. Too bad.”
But it certainly goes along with South Carolina’s history: declaring secession and then asking the U.S. Postal system to continue to deliver mail.
Lincoln could have saved us all a lot of time and aggravation if he had just let South Carolina go it’s own way.
I’m not sure why you think my opinion is somehow not justified or wrong?
I concurred with Steven’s observation that Republicans do not now have any incentive to get rid of, or reform, the Electoral College, therefore I opined, ‘game, set, match’
So, exactly what statistical analysis should I use to justify my opinion that Steven was right, that Republicans have no incentive to change the EC?
2,864,974 more Americans wanted Clinton to be President than wanted Trump to be President.
48.2 percent to 46.1 percent…a 2.1 percent margin.
For reference…the city of Chicago, the 3rd largest in the nation, has fewer residents than that.
Well played Mr. Putin and Mr. Comey.
BTW…i think a t-shirt that only had the number 2,864,974 across the chest would be a big seller.
You’ve demonstrated that you don’t understand the point of the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.
@Jim Brown 32:
I’m not sure I buy that. Most of my friends and contacts (yes, I know it’s an echo chamber) in California really liked Hillary. I was also vociferously anti-Bernie and anti-Trump. Joe Biden would probably have won the Midwest, but he’s also less exciting of a candidate than Hillary.
My preferred President is someone low key who oozes technocratic competence (think Germany, Singapore). Hillary has that in spades. She has smarts, impeccable credentials, years of government experience, a firm record of prosperity (under Bill’s two terms), and a cautious incrementalist approach to governing. It’s sad that her likeability has been destroyed by 20 years of slander.
Of the remaining candidates in the primary, I liked Jeb Bush, Lindsay Graham, and Marco Rubio and would rank all of them ahead of Bernie.
Then again, most of you probably think I’m mad.
@Rick Zhang: We all have our preferred leadership style. The style you just described, i believe, is now “out of style”–so to speak. The next election will tell–but I don’t think the winner will be a low-key technocrat.
I think it would be very bad if the EC became a partisan issue. However, even though it’s benefitted the GoP recently (though it came very close to benefitting the Democrats in 2004), I don’t see much evidence this is a partisan issue. The Democrats haven’t made EC reform a part of their platform, they haven’t campaigned on it and they haven’t started any kind of serious movement to change it. They are, for now at least, using it for tactical partisan advantage that is not likely to last.
Even the strongest long-standing opponents of the EC appear to have little interest in spending the time and capital to build a movement that would be required to build political support for change.
@Pch101: Indeed. I have tried to figure out his point. The issue at hand is not even whether or not we know for sure that that EC favors the GOP (although, I think there is enough empirical data to demonstrate that Dems have a numerical advantage in the country and, ergo, a higher chance of suffering an EV/pop vote inversion). Rather the issue is which party will perceive it has an advantage. Clearly the GOP does at the moment and therefore has no reason to pursue political reform.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I am assuming that he took a shining onto this particular logical fallacy and was eager to find a corner on the interwebs where he could enlighten others with it.
Unfortunately, he chose the wrong time and place because he didn’t really understand what it was.
It doesn’t really apply to this particular situation for the reason that you noted: Even if it was true that the Republicans don’t actually benefit from the electoral college, the mere fact that they believe that it benefits them would be enough to get them to support it. (And in any case, it should be clear that it does help them under the right circumstances.)