The Electoral College was carefully designed to fulfill a similar purpose of the constitution, to apply a break on majoritarian tyranny. The framers understood that democracy and demagogue had the same root.
To the greatly disappointed Democrats who lament the second election in memory where their candidate lost while having a larger popular vote, I offer three thoughts to consider.
Expand your time horizon. A wise politician once warned that you should be wary of endowing any political power to any position unless you can envision that power in the hands of your worst nightmare.
That would apply to the executive power of the president, or the legislative creep of the Supreme Court. It all seems so palatable when they reinforce your preferred view, but you must remember that political power is a fleeting thing in America.
After the 2004 election Karl Rove spoke of a permanent Republican majority. Two years later the GOP lost the House, two years after that they lost the Senate and The White House. The Democrats assumed a mandate they did not possess, marginalized any opposition, passed the ACA with no bipartisan support and alarmed us with other extremely partisan agendas. Two years later they lost the House. Two years after that they lost seats in the Senate, two years after that they lost the Senate and more House seats, and two years after that they lost both houses of Congress and we have Donald Trump in the White House.
Fully one third of the Democratic House seats are from three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. While the Democrats may control these populous states and that may have given them the popular vote, note the trends. California and New York are losing populations and businesses to southern states like Texas. At the same time, demographic trends towards Hispanics and minorities are growing in many southern states and the GOP majorities will be threatened there if they do not attract a broader demographic base. You may live to respect the electoral college.
Secondly, it should be hard to ignore the color of the electoral map. The map is overwhelmingly red. The blue vote is largely focused in large urban coastal centers. Not only are the Democratic House seats narrowly focused the Democrats have weak political power among the states. Of the 50 states, only 18 have Democratic governors, and only FIVE have the trifecta of a Democratic governor and both houses of the state legislature. This compares to 27 states which have a GOP trifecta, and 18 states with divided power.
This explains why the Democrats have such a weak back bench. The states are the training ground for future national leaders. The alternative to the deeply flawed Hillary was a 75-year-old socialist. The Republicans had a broad bench of young elected leaders, whose names we can all still remember even though we are also trying to wrap our heads around the reason Trump was the ultimate victor. Rather than deplore the electoral college, however, the Democrats need to address their utter failure to relate to the vast majority of the country. This hurt them far more them the failure of the Republicans to reach minorities. While it has become politically correct to contemptuously decry white privilege, there is one privilege they retained and that is the vote.
The final thought is the power of contempt. It is a strong negative emotion. The voters remember the contempt of the Elizabeth Warren statement, “you didn’t build that.” They remember the statement from Jonathan Gruber about the need to lie about the ACA because of “the stupidity of the American voter.” They are tired of constantly being talked over, shouted down, degraded as anti-intellectual, anti-science, racist, and stooges of Fox and oil companies. They are concerned about the intellectual intolerance of the left on our college campuses.
It is intellectually lazy to demonize rather than understand. Unfortunately given the horrified responses to the election this lesson is not being learned. In spite of Trump’s clumsy and stupid statements that have incited such response, the voters who supported Trump are not the racist troglodytes they are made out to be. Effort to make it so just reinforces this ‘contempt’ factor that helped elect him.
The most productive aspect of the Trump victory may be a rediscovery of the Constitution and the incredible wisdom in it, including the electoral college, that we should be extremely cautious about overturning.