There have been many people on both sides who advocate for getting rid of the Electoral College process when the candidate they support loses an election. Republicans and Democrats, alike, pick and choose when they think our election process is good for the country. Take a long look at history and how the citizens of this country pick their president and then remove the Electoral College. The history of this country would be very different. The current state of this country would be very different. It has happened just five times, but there have been meaningful elections that would have gone differently if we used the popular vote instead.
If we went with the popular vote instead of the electoral college, Andrew Jackson would have won his election bid in 1824. Jackson, a slave owner, did not advocate for the rights of African-Americans. Jackson also implemented the Indian Removal Act, forcing Native Americans from their own lands. Adams, who was actually elected in 1824, was a widely known opponent of Slave Power in government and supported increased education. Adams also negotiated with Britain and Spain to eventually annex expansion on our northern border and in Florida.
Tilden versus Hayes, another disputed election that saw the winner of the electoral college take office, would have created a different country. Tilden, who won the popular vote, had some similar political views with Hayes. They both wanted civil service and social reforms. However, Hayes was a big proponent of civil rights for African-Americans and fought for policies that helped to keep the rights of “freedmen” moving forward. No one can know if Tilden would have followed the same path but we do know that Hayes was a supporter of civil rights and the movement for more freedoms for African Americans. He lost the popular vote.
Harrison, who won the electoral college but lost the popular vote, was also a supporter of civil rights and fought, in vain, to enforce voting rights laws for African-Americans. His election was controversial due to some accusations of voting fraud but eventually won through the electoral college anyway. Cleveland, who ran as the incumbent, was also a supporter of civil rights and won the election against Harrison the second time. Harrison is not widely known for major successes or failures in his administration but he has been credited with improved protected trade rates, the creation of National Forests, and the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Finally, there is Al Gore versus George W. Bush in 2000. The Florida recount is widely recognized as one of the most controversial disputes of a presidential election. While I personally cannot defend Bush or Gore, I can point out the gleaming differences between them. Gore, a very left of center Democrat, advocates for increased awareness, spending, and policies to decrease climate change. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War but did not support the war. He enacted legislation during his terms in congress that made the internet available to everyday people. Gore publicly criticized Bush for his decision to send troops to Iraq. Gore, for most of his life, was opposed to the gay and lesbian lifestyle. He believed it was wrong. He did come out in support of gay marriage in 2008 but it could be said he did it to support the Democratic candidate for the office of the President. Gore supports more government intervention in our economy and is an anti-war advocate. His win of the popular vote would likely have resulted in a much different scene than we have now. However, with a Gore win, we would have seen voter fatigue for Democratic views and policies after eight years of Bill Clinton. It is likely that President Obama would not have won his election in 2008 following 12-16 years of having a Democrat in the Oval Office.
In contrast, Bush, who is also a veteran and whose father was a sitting U.S. President before Bill Clinton, represented the Republican party. He did not support climate change theories. Bush believed in less government intervention in the financial markets which has been attributed to the fall of the economy in 2007-2008. Bush took the country to war after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by garnering American outrage and anger over the ability of terrorists to attack on our own lands. Controversy around his decision to send troops to Iraq in response to the attacks are still being debated today. The war in Iraq and, subsequently, Afghanistan cost the country billions of dollars over the course of Bush’s two terms in office. He was able to accomplish a few other things while in office, however, that have helped the nation. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law which was created to close the gap between low-income disadvantaged children and more advantaged children in regards to education. This was also a push to make schools more accountable for the outcomes of students in their schools. In addition to this, Bush and the First Lady were huge advocates and funded the AIDS relief program, PEPFAR. Other credits for Bush are the Late-Term Abortion Ban, expansion of Medicare coverage to prescription drugs, and broad tax cuts for millions of Americans.
As controversial as each of these presidencies could have been or were, they are part of history. Our country would be, likely, a widely different place had these five presidents lost to the popular vote instead of winning the electoral college.
Currently, the majority of the population of this country reside in less than a third of the states. Those states, without the electoral college, would decide each president despite the will of the other two-thirds of the union. The United States is not a collection of people. We are a collection of states, each with its own set of laws and sovereignty. Every state must have a voice in the election of our country’s leadership or we lose our uniqueness as a nation. We lose our ability to fairly govern the country as a whole. If we did not have the electoral college, California, New York, and others who have a Democrat majority of residents in high concentrations would choose for you. The voter in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Iowa, Texas, and more than 20 other states would be ruled by tyranny of a few states. Is that the way we want our country to go?
What happens if the population of voters who lean the other way, not Democrat, start to outnumber those who live in the “elite states”? Will the elite then choose to reinstate the electoral college because they feel their voice no longer counts?
Right now, while you are angry and sad that your candidate did not win the election, the popular vote sounds like a good idea. This is not the country’s last election. Voters change. Ideals change. What will you do when you are in the minority and the popular vote that you fought so hard to enact turns against you? What will you do when your candidate would have won the electoral college but lost the popular vote?
This election is over. The results will not change. Nothing you do now will make Donald Trump lose the election for President of the United States in 2016. What you do now, however, could affect the outcome of an election in a way you did not foresee. In more than 200 years, this country has changed many times. Our voting demographics have moved from radical to conservative; Democrat to Republican and back again. Are you sure they won’t change again? Are you sure the popular vote will go your way next time? Think.