Elections, Electoral College, Metaphor, Personification, Stories, Trump, USA, Votes, Voting
As I watch the election coverage tonight, and I wonder how a President who has compromised our national security, broken countless laws, enriched himself at the public expense, and willfully allowed an infectious disease to kill thousands of Americans is still in the running, or even on the ticket at this point, I am thinking more and more about the way Americans think about the electoral college.
What first got me thinking about this?
It was the election maps deplorables began circulating after 2016, maps showing how much of America voted in favor of Donald Trump. Comparing the vast swaths of red turf against the lonely spots of blue on these maps, it was easy to think of Trump’s victory as fitting. How could the rest of us doubt his legitimacy if so much of America voted for him? This wasn’t even close.
Clearly, the vast majority of America wanted Trump as President!
Of course these maps show us territories, not people, a fact easily demonstrated by accounting for population using a 3D projection.
Once you do that, the story quickly changes!
If you are counting territory on a map, Trump’s win back in 2016 looks impressive as Hell. It’s a decisive victory. In fact, it’s a grand slam! How could any Democrat even show their face in public after such a one-sided slaughter?
Once you account for actual people, however, it’s easier to remember that Donald Trump didn’t even win the popular vote. He won the electoral college, but the majority of Americans who weighed in on the 2016 election actually chose the other candidate.
If the will of the American people had determined the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton would have been president these last 4 years.
The discrepancy between the popular vote and the actual outcome of the 2016 election kicked off a new round of discussion about the electoral college. Democrats had a new reason to oppose it. Republicans had a new reason to defend it. This of course means some of us were treated to a whole new round of sophomoric semantics over the difference between a republic and a democracy.
Which brings me to a fascinating argument in favor of the electoral college. You see this a lot from the right wing, the notion that without the electoral college, a few states would dominate our national politic. According to some of these folks, L.A. County alone would have more impact than many states. New York City would have more impact than quite a few states. The Electoral College is, according to this narrative, the only thing preventing ‘coastal elites’ from dictating every major political decision at the expense of the more rural states.
It’s a fascinating narrative, one with clear villains and clear victims. The story elicits a genuine fear for the states that would be oppressed under such conditions.
What’s particularly fascinating about this narrative is that its characters are geographical units. They are stretches of land. Without the electoral college, it is the Dakotas that will suffer, Montana, Wyoming, or even my own state of Alaska. Actual people appear in this story, only as the loosely implied victims of oppression by virtue of being within the rural states of our nation. The implication that anything is wrong only emerges so long as you remain focused on geography, forgetting how the electoral college actually skews the significance of individual voters to begin with.
As a citizen of Alaska, my vote counts more than that of the Californians in my family. Hell, it even counts more than those of the Texans! It is the electoral college which makes this possible, because it boosts the impact of smaller states, giving us more representation per person than than states with larger populations. This means each individual voter gets more impact out of a vote cast in a rural state than she does in a vote cast somewhere like New York. Without the electoral college, our votes could be given equal value, and if certain states have less impact in such a system, it would only be because our individual votes are actually given equal value. The present system gives some people more of a say over who becomes President than others. Equalizing our the votes of individual citizens effectively skews the significance of regions, even as it puts us on a level playing field with each other. So, the narrative which has us crying about mistreatment of rural sates has the ironic effect of making equality look like its opposite, and that only works if we mistake states for people.
So, what does this mean? It means the prospect of keeping or rejecting the electoral college poses a decision over which matters more?
The electoral college is an archaic system that dates back to the 1800, when slavery was rampant in the south and the battle for power was more between north and south . They should do away with this.
Thomas Cannon said:
I too am disheartened when I see so much red on a map of our country. I see the electoral college as taking away the power of my vote. If the majority of the vote in my state goes the other way, my vote doesn’t count nationally.
Robert Hearn said:
I’ll never forget an instance in 2014. I was in a CA airport returning from AK on July. Somehow a group of folks were talking about elections and I mentioned how much I didn’t like them. That often an election was called way before AK was even done voting. A man looked at me and said that wasn’t how elections worked and he suggested I should enjoy my little box. I was so mad, but kept my mouth shut after that. Looking at electoral votes is huge, as you said, Daniel. They can make a difference. Except of those electoral votes vote differently from what the people want..I’m still not sure how they work. I didn’t do well in US History..probably not enough boys in the class! However, as I just shared in a post I wrote, I voted. My vote may or may not change anything. But, it was a choice and I made it the way I felt it was needed. 45 has been so horrid for our nation. I agree completely with your words and hope my choice helped.
Excellent post 🙏♒️zip codes in the same way decide what college or university you can attend. My zip code 10460 is classified as a poor neighborhood and Everyone in it would receive EBT even if his name is Donald Trump! The electoral college and the Federal Reserve are some serious political and economic issues that need to be addressed.🙏♒️🐕🗽💪
Dennis Fitzgerald said:
Interesting reflection. The 2016 and 2020 elections will take a long while to understand but basically the hidden people have to be found and their concerns addressed.
More Americans would vote if we had a popular vote. Just like you said, one vote in Alaska = one vote in New York. Joe Biden won the popular vote by the population of: Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and N. Dakota combined just to put it in perspective.
Also I believe, more Americans would feel free to live in any state and not feel trapped by politics. No red or blue states declared by the electoral’s, but declared by the people. We would eventually see more diversity; I mean, maybe in a couple of generations when we inevitably have more mixed races and hopefully less systemic racism throughout the U.S.
Hopes and dreams I guess….
Weird and Wonderful said:
Trump changed my thoughts as a foreign person. Especially, after I looked at the different dynamics of thinking. Seriously, I did not even think that it was possible to change my mind on certain indoctrinations, but I have.
Garrett Livingood said:
Geography entails both a lifestyle and also cultural divide. Different areas have different needs. Bring back state rights and dissolve the feds.
Weird and Wonderful said:
Identity politics is not really my strong suit but I have noticed a shift in beliefs, which led me to write my short story. My short story took me a month to write, by the by!
Its based on England and Scotland. Pretty much you could do the same things with any country and their demographics but my short story is based on values. I am looking forward to writing part 2 but let me know what you think https://artymarty99.wordpress.com/2021/02/28/its-okay-to-cry-tribute-to-sophie-xeno/
Michael Overton said:
Revisiting this post has me thinking about how some “swing states” also exert outsized influence on our national politics, and how the electoral college actually harms voters in small states in ways they might not be thinking about: National campaigns concentrate on states with large numbers of electoral college votes, and targeted states they think they can “flip”, while mostly ignoring populations in smaller states or “strongly supporting” of the other candidate. Without the electoral college presidential candidates would have to campaign to *everyone*, not just target electoral college states.