During his first post-election interview, Donald Trump told Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes that while he understands the purpose of the Electoral College, he’d prefer the popular vote.
Yes, you read that correctly. Here’s the exchange in full:
STAHL: …you were running around saying the system is rigged. The whole thing is rigged. You tweeted once that the Electoral College is a “disaster for democracy.”
TRUMP: “I do.”
STAHL: So do you still think it’s rigged?
TRUMP: I think the Electoral College–look, I won with the Electoral College.
STAHL: Exactly–but do you think it’s rigged?
TRUMP: Yeah. Some of the election locations are; some of the system is.
STAHL: Even though you won, you’re saying that?
TRUMP: Well, I’m not gonna change my mind just because I won. But, I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes, somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win. There’s a reason for doing this because it brings all the states into play–[the] Electoral College–and there’s something very good about that. This is a different system, but I respect it.
Here’s the tweet to which Stahl was referring:
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
One of the least understood elements of our constitutional republic is the Electoral College. Every four years–and especially in times when someone wins the popular vote, but not the Electoral vote–a chorus of leftists calls for an end to the Electoral College. Indeed, social media lit up after Trump’s victory with people attacking the merits of our voting system.
Here’s why the Electoral College matters.
The Founders knew very well the damage an impassioned public could do if they were to move monolithically. This is known as the “tyranny of the majority.” In Federalist #10, James Madison wrote about the dangers of “factions,” and noted that if a faction were to encompass a majority, and that majority had the power of a simple, or popular, vote, they could do serious harm:
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction.
A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
His solution? A diffusion of power:
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source.
A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.
In the modern world, in which we are connected at all times to everyone else, an idea like the Electoral College may seem irrelevant. Factions can spread their ideas easily through social media, and by other means, so why continue to live under such a rule? Simply put, despite technology creating a means by which Americans can make an end run around Madison’s intentions, the United States has evolved in such a way that the Electoral College serves a different, but vital purpose.
The Electoral College gives representation to every state. If the United States elected its presidents by popular vote, candidates would only need to gain the votes of a few highly populated cities or states, such as New York, Illinois, California, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Smaller cities and states would be given no attention, and therefore, no representation. Issues critical to states like Wyoming or Indiana would be overlooked by politicians who would be much more interested in the needs of large, metropolitan areas. This would amount to a tyranny of geography, leading to factious resentment, and a potential collapse of rural America via neglect.
Additionally, the Electoral College reflects what we are as a constitutional republic. We are not governed by one entity, but by a series of micro-systems, each of which are checked and maintained by other micro-systems. The United States is a marketplace of intellect and ideas, not a monopoly led by a single power. The Electoral College is part and parcel of that.
Donald Trump may not prefer it, but the Electoral College is a critical component of our republic.
For your further elucidation, the following is a Prager University video in which attorney and author Tara Ross explains the Electoral College, and why it matters: