As of this writing, both presidential candidates have over 60 million votes cast, but Hillary Clinton leads in the popular vote by less than 700,000 votes. While more votes, many more if historical counting trends are correct, will likely be added to the totals of both candidates, the general consensus seems to be that Clinton will win the popular vote.
This possibility, along with the fact that the Democratic nominee leads by less than 1 percent in the popular vote, isn’t lost on all the pundits, talking heads and especially the leftists who want to somehow discredit Donald Trump’s historic Electoral College victory. In forming their analyses and opinions, they’re more than happy to sneak in that “even though Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote” clause, as if it somehow invalidates Trump’s win.
The thing is, it doesn’t, not even a little bit. Here’s why.
From the founders onward, the American presidential election system has been based on a state-by-state system of electors, chosen by the people of that state, who in turn choose the president. The fact that no state, even the smallest, can have fewer than three electors means that those smaller states still get a voice even though in reality the voters of those smaller states actually are more “powerful” than the larger ones.
The system is unique to the world and born out of the blood, tears and politics of a different time. However, many still praise it because it serves as a check on the huge urban population centers “running over” the rest of the country, particularly rural areas, when it comes to national politics.
Those are the rules, and both parties know them backwards and forwards, inside and out. End of story.
Playing by those rules, however, means that neither candidate is actually “playing” for the popular vote victory. Want proof? How much time did either Clinton or Trump spend campaigning in California or New York? In the last week of the election, why did both candidates spend nearly every waking hour back and forth between Florida, Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina?
Obviously, the answer is because the candidates knew the rules and knew what they needed to do to win the election. In the same way the Electoral College gives more power to the voters in smaller states, it also gives a greater voice to people in so-called “swing states,” but that’s the system and those are the rules. Once every four years, the swing states get to be Anthony Kennedy. Maybe it’s not totally fair, but it’s life.
There are certainly advantages to shifting to a popular vote system, but there are disadvantages as well. We were founded as a republic, not a democracy, and our unique system reflects that. There is something pure about thinking the majority should “rule,” but the unique strategic dance we do every four years reflects the character of America every bit as much as each individual state and the cultures and traditions within those states.
If America were to shift to a popular vote system, is it possible that at least a few more Republicans or even closet-conservatives in California or New York might get out and vote since their vote would actually “count” toward something significant? Similarly, would a liberal in Wyoming (if there are any there) make his or her voice heard? If it all played out, what would the numbers be? We have no way of knowing.
In truth, this argument is similar to a boxer landing a TKO only to find out that he actually lost the match because the boxing commission changed the rules to reflect total punches landed. With his Electoral College victory under the rules as stated, the eventual popular vote result, whatever that might be, matters little if at all.
If anything, should Clinton win it, a popular vote victory is really more of a “participation trophy.” And given her liberal worldview, shouldn’t that be more than enough for Hillary after all?