Americans’ support for keeping the Electoral College system for electing presidents has increased sharply. Weeks after the 2016 election, 47% of Americans say they want to keep the Electoral College, while 49% say they want to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president. In the past, a clear majority favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.
Gallup has been polling the Electoral College for a half-century, and it’s the first time ever a majority of Americans have not supported replacing the Electoral College with a popular vote system.
What could explain such a sudden shift?
It’s likely the result of the immensely popular article Intellectual Takeout shared explaining the genius of the Electoral College and the foresight of Founding Fathers, who in their infinite wisdom created a constitutional system that tempers radicalism and encourages consensus candidates.
What? You’re not buying that? It has more to do with crass partisanship, you say?
Okay. That’s probably true. After all, Gallup notes that just 19 percent of Republicans now support basing the winner on the popular vote, down from the roughly 50 percent who favored the popular vote in surveys from 2004 to 2011.
The surge of support is nonetheless important.
It might have gone unnoticed to many, but support once again is building to get rid of that pesky Electoral College.
“After the Supreme Court decision in 2000, I continued to support the Electoral College because the original purpose was to tie the states together,” Al Gore explained last month. “I have changed my view on that. I do think it should be eliminated.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has introduced a bill to abolish the Electoral College.
Even worse, we lost George Takei.
Now, like all those new people who suddenly love the Electoral College, the majority of these calls to abolish the system that has elected 44 presidents (soon, 45) are likely motivated primarily by partisan interests. It seems that for Gore and company losing the presidency twice in one generation while winning the popular vote is just too much to handle. Time to change the rules, they say.
These calls should be resisted. Mr. Rosenthal presents several reasons why, and I’ll articulate two of my own.
First, if you think the cast of characters in the 2016 election was frightening and the election process a spectacle, just imagine what it would look like with the unfettered populism of a popular vote election. (You think President Kanye sounds ridiculous? Just wait.)
Second, the Framers of our Constitution fought bitterly over many things. The Electoral College, with its inherent federalism, was one of the few constitutional provisions that garnered near-unanimous approval. As Alexander Hamilton noted in Federalist Papers: No. 68:
The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system . . . which has escaped without severe censure. . . . I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.
Fortunately, for now at least, the Electoral College looks safe.
Jon Miltimore is senior editor of Intellectual Takeout. Follow him on Facebook.