Only four winners of the popular vote have failed to ascend to the Oval Office, and each time the beneficiary was Republican.
Manipulating the Electoral College is the magic bullet of the Republican Party and former Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s recent outburst belies any assertion to the contrary.
The debate has been raging, sometimes simmering, just underneath the surface of American political discourse since the founding of the country. However, with the electoral college win of Donald Trump, Democrats have been on the attack mode against it as of late.
Bernie Sanders spoke of “re-accessing it” in 2016, Bronx congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called it a “shadow of slavery’s power on America”. The New York Times editorial board called it a “living symbol of America’s original sin” in 2016.
When Congress reconvened after the latest election, one of the first bills introduced was to eliminate the Electoral College.
Written into the Constitution, the Electoral College originally gave slave states, with large swaths of disenfranchised and enslaved black populations, more electoral votes than other states. It allowed slave states to count their non-voting slaves, but only as 3/5ths of a white voter.
According to the 1800 census, and as published by Time, the state of Pennsylvania enjoyed a 10 percent advantage of free persons over the state of Virginia, but got 20 percent fewer electoral college votes.
The more states like Virginia bred or bought slaves, the greater the amount of electoral college votes they would receive. Conversely, the greater number of freed or escaped slaves that a northern state had, that state could actually lose electoral college votes.
That’s called putting grease in the game. Indeed, a really slick move to make sure slave states could manipulate the direction of the nation. This was made manifest post-Emancipation Proclamation.
Fast forward to 2016 and we see that Hilary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 2.8 million popular votes. Al Gore beat George W. Bush in the popular vote 2000.
Today, most Republican and conservatives would readily claim that the Electoral College is just fine and that the election of someone like Trump to the presidency is a testament to that.
Recently, former Maine governor Paul LePage, himself no stranger to race-baiting and demagoguery, came out and said what other Repubs have been dying to say but didn’t.
Once upon a time, even some of the most viciously racist public figures could act coy regarding the reasoning behind their particular brand of racism.
However, LePage went full-on white supremacist with his comment on conservative talk radio station WVOM, begging for the preservation of the electoral college as if all white life in America depended on it.
A dog whistle if there ever was one.
A proposal to elect U.S. presidents solely on the popular vote was recently considered in the Maine legislature. Said measure would lend Maine’s votes to the Electoral College Initiative.
LePage worried that white people, who make up more than 61% of the nation’s population and have accounted for all but one of the nation’s elected presidents sans Obama, are “gonna be forgotten people.”
“What would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do is white people will not have anything to say,” Paul LePage told a WVOM radio show Tuesday when asked about abolishing the system currently used to elect presidents.
LePage is asking sympathetic ears to help save white influence by continuing to uphold an institution that is dripping with black blood, and still gives large swaths of disconnected racists living in our nation’s interior more power than is otherwise warranted when considering population size, income, education and other factors.
Ohio Sen. Vernon Sykes is another elected official who supports the idea of popular vote.
“(We have) an Electoral College that says to this entire voting block of people, ‘You all are voting in high numbers, high turnout across the board… But in the end, that does not matter because we’ll have this elector, maybe they’ll do what you’ve done, maybe they won’t,’” he told PBS during a 2018 interview.
The Chicken Little manner in which many in the Republican party are reacting to the National Popular Vote initiative, which has been approved by 12 states, including New York, for a combined 172 votes, is telling.
The initiative will not be enacted until it reaches a combined 270 votes.
Only four times in history have the people voted for one candidate and the Electoral College picked another, and Republicans were the beneficiaries each time. And only one of the past three U.S. presidents came into office by winning the Electoral College and the popular vote, and that was Barack Obama in 2008.
(Updated: We removed a reference to the 1980 presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter for inaccurate information.)