National Popular Vote (NPV) is an organization bent on nullifying the Electoral College. The liberal partisans who direct and fund it know it helps to have the appearance of bipartisanship. To apply this veneer, NPV has hired a handful of former Republican officials, like Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.
NPV was created and is funded by the inventor of the scratch-off lottery ticket, a liberal California computer scientist named John Koza. After Koza served as a presidential elector for Al Gore in 2000, he launched NPV with support from a host of liberal policy groups and foundations. Another early backer was Jonathan Soros, son of infamous liberal financier George Soros.
NPV lobbies for an interstate compact also known as National Popular Vote. The agreement binds states to ignore their own voters in presidential elections and instead appoint presidential electors based on the national vote. It takes effect if adopted by enough states that they control 270 electoral votes — a majority that would control the election outcome. If this happens, and if NPV is upheld by the courts, it would manipulate the Electoral College to produce a direct election for president.
While the Democrats running and funding NPV are desperate to show Republican support, their efforts evince a rather dim view of Republicans’ character and intelligence. Rather than sending out lobbyists to argue that NPV might be good for the country, they claim it will help Republicans win elections. Before the 2012 election, NPV lobbyists circulated a flier to Republican legislators purporting to show “how Obama wins under the current system while ‘losing’ by millions of votes.”
Just last month, writing in The Hill, Anuzis claimed that NPV “may prove the best, and only, way for President Trump and future GOP presidential candidates to succeed in an evolving political climate that easily could put Republicans on permanent defense.” Anuzis adopts a trope from some Democrats: Namely that there is a “blue wall” that puts Republicans at a disadvantage in presidential elections. This is part and parcel of the leftist claim that “history” and demographics are on their side — and hence, their ultimate triumph is assured. Election analyst Nate Silver explained why “There is no ‘Blue Wall’” back in 2015, and the most recent presidential election offers even more evidence of how fraught political fortune-telling is as a business.
In 2016, Donald Trump managed to win Pennsylvania and Michigan, states last won by Republicans in 1988. He also won Wisconsin, which was last won in Ronald Reagan’s historic 1984 landslide. And while Hillary Clinton won more popular votes, based on strong support in California, Illinois, and New York, in many other states she won underwhelming victories with less than 50%: Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virginia. Trump won similar squeakers in the aforementioned states plus Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, and Utah.
Any of these states could go in either direction in 2020. Both parties are in flux. Democrats are fighting over racial issues and whether to openly embrace Marxism and open borders. Republicans are still trying to figure out whether Trump is a one-off phenomenon or instead points toward a new direction. How the parties work out these disputes — in local caucuses, state and national conventions, and primary elections — will shape future campaigns.
Meanwhile, the Electoral College creates powerful incentives against regional politics. This is why Clinton lost — her support was too concentrated in just a few states. This is also why the Democrats lost two similar elections after the Civil War. The Electoral College forces political parties to reach out beyond their strongholds and to work to put more states “in play” in order to win not simply a raw vote plurality but an Electoral College majority. At the same time, parties must draw support from a base of “safe states” just to have a claim to relevance in national politics. All these states matter, in different ways, throughout the presidential election process.
NPV would open the door to regional politics and even regional political parties. It would allow small plurality winners and could entice spoiler candidates to run, or threaten to run. NPV contains no provisions for dealing with disputes or recounts. Each state would certify its own total, even though compacting states would be trying to tabulate a national result. In a close race, or if one side believed the other side was cheating, NPV is simply silent on what to do.
It is easy to understand why the Left prefers a direct election for president. With a base that is more urban than ever, the Electoral College will force the Democrats either to moderate to win back Rust Belt voters (or some other segment of the electorate) or to forfeit any chance of ever again winning back the White House. And with an ideology that suggests democracy may be the highest moral standard — or at least an agent of “progress” — any checks and balances that stand in the way are seen as regressive.
It is more difficult to understand why a conservative would support NPV. Then again, with ultra-wealthy backers like John Koza and Jonathan Soros, maybe it’s not that hard.