For many, the nation has been turned upside down and backward by the election of Donald Trump. While millions celebrated, millions including me were shocked that this modern-day P.T. Barnum (see my 2011 blog post “P.T. Trump”) will be the next president of the United States. What’s especially troubling is that Hillary Clinton lost even though she received 623,000 more votes*.
Social media is now filled with petitions to abolish the Electoral College, our antiquated form of electing presidents, so that the popular vote would determine who wins. But it’ll take far more than signatures and protests.
First, a brief explanation of the Electoral College: In 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided on a system of indirect election of the president. Some supported a direct election by citizens. Others favored having Congress choose the president. Still others thought that state legislatures should make the choice.
They eventually compromised. “Electors” chosen by each state would vote for the president. This way, ordinary citizens in each state would have a say, but the final decision would be made by people who were “better informed” about the candidates and the issues. Today, the candidate that receives the most popular votes wins all the state’s electoral votes. All states except Nebraska and Maine use this system.
However, it’s now been five times in U.S. history that the winner of the popular vote lost the election because his or her opponent got more electoral votes. It’s happened twice within the last five elections (Bush vs. Gore in 2000 and Trump vs. Clinton in 2016).
Many believe it’s time to change this system. It’s nearly impossible to do so because the required constitutional amendment means a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate, and the ratification of three-fourths (38) of the 50 states. There’s no way the current party in power supports this change.
If you were challenged to motivate Americans to demand that our president be elected by popular vote, how could you do it? Beyond petitions, how would you turn this issue into a national priority? Could it happen with a massive public relations campaign? Your thoughts?
* Source: CNN