Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Electoral College and Why Hillary Lost

The Electoral College voted on Monday and made it official: Donald Trump is our next President.

In the news, there still are moans and groans and gnashing of teeth: Hillary lost. She won the popular vote. Why doesn't that make her the winner? These people are now blaming the Electoral College and calling for its elimination.

This is wrong-headed. This is the United States of America. While in many ways we are one people, we are also an incredibly diverse people. People from different areas of the nation have different needs, opinions, experiences and points of view. We always have. When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they took this into account. The compromise they forged created the Electoral College. It allowed states with limited voter turn-out (no need to get into the why of that in this post.) to stand on an equal footing with states with a large voter turnout when it comes to selecting the President and Vice President.

In the 1790s, states like Virginia had a large population but, due to literacy and property ownership requirements, a small voting public. Other states did not place these restrictions on voting: Massachusetts had universal male suffrage and New Jersey, while requiring voters to own property, allowed women to vote. This is according to Original Sin: The Electoral College as a Pro-Slavery Tool by Paul Finkelman.

The problem of large voter states versus small voter states still persists today. The roll of the demographic dice has changed the names and moved states from one camp to the other. Different states still have different concerns and needs, as shown by the recent election.

Highly urbanized states along the east and west coasts are different form the other states. They have fared relatively well since the Great Recession. The old "Industrial Heartland," or more derogatorily, the "Rust Belt" states have not recovered half as well. The coal-producing states have seen almost no recovery and, with cheap natural gas, have seen jobs continue to diminish. The "Farm Belt" states have seen a continuing loss of jobs for the last fifty years, or more.

With a popular vote system, the needs of the areas that are hurting would get buried by the tsunami of votes from the urban states. The Electoral College ensures that smaller voices will be heard.

This gets back to why Hillary lost: she forgot the smaller voices.

  • She did not criticize the Obama administration for its failure to aid the Rust Belt, the Coal Belt and the Farm Belt. If anything, his policies made the Great Recession worse for these areas.
  • She did not offer a plan to increase employment in these areas, to offer a future for these areas' young people or to preserve the scattered small towns.
  • She assumed that she had the Union vote, without offering them anything.
  • She epitomized the problem of "Inside-the-Beltway Thinking"
  • She was guilty of assuming that urban women's concerns were the same as rural women's concerns
  • She did not put forth a meaningful plan to deal with the rural opioid addiction problem, which is very different from the urban drug addiction and substance abuse problems.
  • She did not discuss the critical health care shortages in the Rust, Coal and Farm Belt areas.
  • All of her comments about immigration centered on those who went to the cities. She ignored those who toil in the shadows on farms, cultivating and harvesting crops that cannot be machine harvested.
  • She did not offer meaningful immigration reform. This would have drawn votes from those trying to bring their friends and families into the country.
  • Her points on jobs centered around large corporations and urban jobs. She left out the small corporations, family businesses and sole proprietorships that are the backbone of the Coal and Farm Belt economies and are, nation wide, the biggest generators of jobs.
  • Worst of all and through it all, she acted as if she was entitled to become the Democratic nominee and to become our next President.

As a result, she lost the "small voice" vote leaving the state-by-state vote totals looking as follows (as reposted from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/elections/live_results/2016_general/president/map.html:

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