Buttigieg Shoots Himself in the Foot with Announcement
Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana and presidential candidate, has called once again for the abolishment of the Electoral College. Presidential candidates have won the Electoral College, twice in living memory, when they have lost the popular vote. The Hill explains:
“Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg doubled down on his support for getting rid of the Electoral College in an interview that aired Thursday on NBC News, calling the institution ‘undemocratic.’
’Twice in my young life I’ve seen the American people overruled by the Electoral College,’ Buttigieg said. ‘It’s time for that to go because it’s undemocratic.’”
The desire on the part of Buttigieg and other Democrats to get rid of the Electoral College is not as high minded at the young mayor likes to pretend. The two times he mentioned, in 2000 and again in 2016, Democrats have lost to Republicans.
Buttigieg and others who call for the end of the Electoral College and the selection of an American president on a purely popular vote exhibit a misunderstanding of the nature of the United States government. The United States is not a pure democracy, but a republic which has checks and balances, especially on popular will. Marc Schulman, writing in History Central, explains:
“Hamilton and the other founders believed that the electors would be able to ensure that only a qualified person becomes President. They thought that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as a check on an electorate that might be duped. Hamilton and the other founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others.”
Democrats would likely laugh at this reason. They have accused Donald Trump of being unqualified and being manipulated by a foreign government, namely Russia. Neither accusation is true, as the roaring economy and the Mueller Report has demonstrated respectively. Besides, those pointing their fingers at Trump demonstrate a lack of self-awareness at not noticing the monstrous mendacity of their most recent candidate, Hillary Rodman Clinton.
The other reason that the Electoral College is vital is that it forces presidential candidates to seek votes from smaller states, say Wyoming and Vermont, as well as the larger ones such as California and New York. If the United States were to abolish the Electoral College, then candidates would concentrate their campaigning in voter-rich states and would ignore the rest. Large swaths of the country would be effectively disenfranchised.
Real Clear Politics advances a third reason for keeping the Electoral College that is not often mentioned. The author of the piece notes the many instances in which a candidate won the majority of the Electoral College but only a plurality of the vote, due to the presence of third-party candidates. Bill Clinton in both 1992 and 1996 come to mind. Indeed, Hillary Clinton, despite having won more popular votes than Donald Trump, still did not get a majority due to the presence of Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates.
We would find ourselves faced with the choice of not two or three candidates, but as many as ten, each running on single issues such as abortion or gun rights, hoping they get a plurality. The country could set up a runoff system but that might make the choice even worse.
Of course, Buttigieg’s proposal will go nowhere, whether he or any other proponent for the end of the Electoral College would be elected. The Constitution would have to be amended in order for the thing to happen.
First, two-thirds of the Senate and the House would have to vote in favor of the amendment, which means that it would have to be supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Then three-fourths of the states would have to vote to ratify the amendment, including smaller states which would be expected to give up power out of either a high-minded appeal to “fairness” or the real reason, because Democrats are upset at the results of the 2017 election.
Thus, any call to abolish the Electoral College has the same seriousness as Joe Biden’s promise to cure cancer if elected, which is to say none whatsoever.