The Electoral College met in state capitals this week to formally choose the next president of the United States. Most of the time, this ceremony is nothing but symbolism. For supporters of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the diehards in the #NeverTrump camp, however, it was an opportunity to lure away Republican electors in order to keep Donald Trump below the 270 electoral vote count that he needed in order to clinch the election.
Unless America’s democratic system wanted a popular mutiny on its hands, the defection strategy was always going to fail. And fail it did: only two of the 306 Republican electors refused to pick Trump. With the ceremony over, Trump can now officially put the title “President-elect” on his resume.
The editorialists at the New York Times are not happy about this at all.
In a December 19 editorial, the Times put forth a convincing case against the Electoral College system and in favor of direct democracy, under which voters would choose their president instead of the electors. “Yes, Mr. Trump won under the rules,” the editorial states, “but the rules should change so that a presidential election reflects the will of Americans and promotes a more participatory democracy.” It’s an opinion shared by 49 percent of Americans who were surveyed by Gallup earlier this year, and it’s difficult to argue that they don’t have a point.
Because the Electoral College is codified in the Constitution, a new amendment would be required to overturn the system. But just because the Electoral College is included in the nation’s founding document doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. Indeed, a lot of Americans don’t comprehend how the Electoral College is supposed to work or why the founders thought that the country needed to include a mechanism that protects government from the masses. Direct democracy is just a cleaner way of choosing a president; voting for electors who then pick the president sounds needlessly inefficient, bureaucratic, and duplicative.
Not to mention that the red state-blue state reality holds back a lot of voters from even pulling the lever on Election Day. Why would a Republican from California bother to show up at a polling place when the state he resides in is guaranteed to go blue regardless of the candidate that Democrats nominate (even Michael Dukakis won California)?
I’m therefore sympathetic to the Times‘ argument. There’s something fishy at work when the candidate who receives the most votes (Hillary Clinton won approximately 2.8 million more votes than Trump) loses the election because that candidate didn’t win enough votes in certain parts of the country. Yet having that argument come from the Times, the paper that crushed Trump on its editorial page nearly every day of every week during the campaign, makes legitimate concerns about American democracy sound like a losing team blaming the referee.
Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps if the roles were reversed and Donald Trump won the popular vote but still lost the election, the Times‘ editorial writers would show the same passion for amending the Constitution.
But that’s a stretch to believe. Any paper that writes that Trump cannot be trusted to do the right thing, is grossly unfit to serve as president, and incites violence against his opponents, would be more liable to sob in the fetal position than beg for a change in the Constitution had Hillary Clinton won. This is the same Times, just to remind you, that titled one of its editorials “How Can America Recover from Donald Trump?”
Switch the results of the 2016 election, and the likelier path for America’s most established newspaper would be to keep quiet and cast aspersions on Trump supporters lobbying for Electoral College reform as sore losers who need to accept the new dawn.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. But just like it would be beyond reason to think the Wall Street Journal would sympathize with a Democrat who got the short end of the stick, it would be equally naive to think that the Times would give a damn if a Republican presidential nominee found himself or herself in the same situation as Al Gore and Hillary Clinton. Relentless partisanship tends to tarnish your credibility, no matter what side you’re on.