It’s no secret that America is deeply divided at present and the election just past has only heightened those divisions. But some of the people wringing their hands about the result have lost their perspective on it all.
The United States has been electing Presidents this way since 1789 and we’re still here. I have concerns about where our new President wants to take the country and I would have had concerns had his opponent emerged victorious. But some of the opinions I’ve heard and read demonstrate an unwillingness to deal with reality. So we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity to offer some badly needed perspective on it all.
Donald Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States. That is a fact. All the talk about changing the result in the Electoral College is total nonsense. It will not happen, nor should it happen. The Electoral College convenes in January. Perhaps one or two electors will not vote for the candidate they were pledged to, but considering the fact that most of them are dedictated party loyalists, the chances of a mass insurrection are nil. The sooner the public comes to grips with that notion the better.
The Electoral College serves a legitimate purpose. This election marks the second time in 16 years that the candidate who won the popular vote lost the electoral vote. All told, it’s the fifth time in our history that has happened. The first three were in 1824, 1876, and 1888.
Each time it does there are calls for abolishing the Electoral College and choosing the president via direct popular vote. But that vision is far from perfect.
The Electoral College was created as a mechanism for achieving balance between large and small states, one of a series of compromises that had to be achieved before our Constitution was adopted. And even today it serves a useful function. At one point in my life I would have championed the cause of its being abolished. But no more and here’s why.
The Presidency is the only elected office in which every American citizen eligible to vote has a say. But if he/she were elected by direct popular vote, voters the largest states (in terms of population) would have enough impact to override the rest of the nation.
Put another way, based on the 2010 census, voters in nine states, California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, could theoretically generate enough votes to tip a national election all by themselves. If I live in Iowa or Nevada, or South Carolina, I’d like to think I have some say in the process of electing a President.
To be sure, an election with a result based on the popular vote would require a different strategy by the principles involved. As it stands now, a relatively small number of states are actually in play. How would the popular vote have turned out if Donald Trump had spent a block of time in California or Hillary Clinton had done the same in Texas?
Some of those dissatisfied with the results of the election have been taking to the streets. It cannot be overemphasized that they have the Constitutionally protected right to do so, despite what critics contend. That right does not extend to inciting violence but it does include the right to peaceably assemble. If opponents of the incoming administration want to demonstrate every day between now and 2021, that is their right. And for Trump supporters to use the result of the election to justify threats against or harassment of those of different religious or ethnic backgrounds is nothing short of reprehensible, albeit not surprising.
Some of the people most displeased by the election result however were at minimum indirectly responsible for bringing it about, either by not voting at all or by voting for a fringe candidate that had no chance of electoral success. Doing either meant in effect throwing a vote away. If you voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson and are now upset that Donald Trump is the President-elect be assured the result was in part your own doing.
The wounds that were opened in the past election cycle will remain raw for some time. Whether Donald Trump can heal those wounds. Is open to debate; some of his positions on issues are deeply troubling and some of the people around him have expressed points of view that are truly frightening, particularly to those of certain religious and ethnic backgrounds. But he has earned the opportunity to try. And for those dissatisfied with his efforts, there is another election in 2020.
Rick Woelfel is a freelance writer based near Philadelphia. He has voted in 10 Presidential elections.