Let an expert ‘splain the Electoral College to ya

Some of my friends here see the late election as further proof that we need to reform, or do away entirely with, the Electoral College.

Well, they just haven’t had it explained to them right. Here, let me get an expert to tell you why you’re wrong:

Don’t think for a moment, though, that Mr. Trump needed the Electoral College to win! No, no, no. He’s a Karate Man, and he would just have changed his whole strategy around:

I share these with you because they are the only two Tweets today by the man who was just elected to head our nation.

I share them because… yeah… this is just the way we expect a president of the United States to spend his time and communicate with the world — like an insecure 10-year-old boy whose chief concern is that people don’t think he’s as awesome as he really is….

24 thoughts on “Let an expert ‘splain the Electoral College to ya

  1. Doug Ross

    Think about this.. you spent more time writing your blog post than he did writing two tweets. Let’s say he’s a slow texter… do you think he spent more than 2 minutes on this? Shouldn’t we care what the next President thinks of a plan to amend the Constitution?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug, Doug, Doug…

      It shows that of all the things he should be thinking about, what motivates him to Tweet to the world is the fact that there are people out there saying he shouldn’t have won because he lost the popular vote.

      Yet again, the thing that moves and motivates him is responding to criticism, particularly criticism that seems to diminish him in some way, such as saying he’s not a real winner or that he has small hands…

  2. Juan Caruso

    While George Soros underwrites civil unrest and violence (according to two lawsuits currently), the most a politically savvy ex-editor can do is show us pedestrian-level sour grapes? Feh!

    1. JesseS

      Eh, Soros is better explained with Dunning-Kruger than the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill.

      Like the Kochs he has more money than the Lord, wants to throw it at stuff he believes in while also (likely) imagining he is in the top 12th percentile on subjects he doesn’t really understand as well as he probably thinks he does.

      If I can praise Bill Gates for anything it’s generally tackling problems that are simple to understand (polio == bad) and can be dealt with by throwing boatloads of cash at it.

      On the other end of it, imagine if Noam Chomsky had several billions at his finger tips? Smart guy, rhetorically brilliant, unshakable voice in his field of study, unbelievably idealistic, and politically dumb. He’d probably start some counter CIA organization that unwittingly gave his worst political adversaries a leg up.

  3. Lynn Teague

    I find it interesting that some are posting a map on Facebook that shows the distribution of about half of our population in a few areas, mostly coastal, claiming that this shows why the electoral college is needed, to insure the power of the vast lower density areas. I frankly don’t understand it. Are they claiming that unoccupied dirt should have political power? Prairie dogs? The electoral college is a long way from the ideal of one man/one vote. It concentrates all power to decide in the hands of a few “swing states.” As many have pointed out, many of Clinton’s votes were wasted because they just ran up the totals in states where she already had enough votes to get the electors. Others were wasted because they were cast in a state certain to go for Trump. No one’s vote should be insignificant.

    1. Doug Ross

      ” It concentrates all power to decide in the hands of a few “swing states.” ”

      But taken in aggregate, those swing states are a great representation of the United States. Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina — those seven states are diverse but cover a broad spectrum of political views.

      If you REALLY want to change things, there are two better places to focus efforts:

      1. Change the primary system to rotate which states go first. Start with more populous states like California, Illinois, and New York. That may have ended Trump’s run early on.

      2. Open up the debates to more candidates… and have more of them – maybe 5. Instead of the 15% barrier that the two parties implemented to hold off third parties, make the barrier 3% or 5% for the first two debates then increase the threshold after that. As it stands now, the two parties get weeks and weeks of free coverage and three nights of extremely focused attention. Who knows what would have happened had Gary Johnson and Jill Stein been on the stage for the first two debates. The American people deserve more opportunity to see the other candidates.

      The beauty of both of my suggestions is that they don’t require any action by Congress. But since the two parties (and the media) are more interested in self-preservation than doing the right thing, they won’t change the system.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Lynn, I find such maps highly meaningful.

      If you live in those states out in the middle of the country (or this one, although SC isn’t as good an example, visually on the map), you might take umbrage at your state being referred to as “unoccupied dirt” populated only by “Prairie dogs.”

      I tried elaborating on that point back here to Bud, but apparently I was not persuasive — which doesn’t stop me from repeating it:

      States are places where people live.

      Suppose you live in Kansas.

      You vote Republican (come on and TRY to imagine it, bud). Everybody in your family votes Republican. All your neighbors, except one eccentric character on your block maybe, votes Republican. Based on your experience, pretty much all of Kansas is the same. And election results make it look even MORE that way than it is.

      You look around. In every state that you can reach within a day’s drive, it’s the same. Republican.

      But, because someone in their wisdom did away with the Electoral College decades earlier, in every single election in your adult lifetime, the person who has won the presidential election has been a Democrat, someone with relatively little support outside the sprawling metropolitan areas of New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and a few other cities. Every time, it’s been someone who speaks as though he or she holds you and people who see life as you do in utter contempt.

      And you don’t even know anyone who lives in any of those places, or would dream of living in those places.

      And you had every reason to think this situation would continue for the rest of your life.

      How fair would you think that was?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Now, to argue with myself…

        In part, if I recall correctly (and anyone who has read the Federalist Papers in recent decades might correct me), the argument for the Electoral College is that the Constitution was a document that sought to bring together sovereign states — so of course the president should be elected by states…

        I acknowledge that the importance of knitting those states together sort of faded after 1865, even though some South Carolinians have tried to revive nullification VERY recently.

        That said, I still think it’s important to have a method of selection for the president that differs from the way members of the other branches are chosen, and that particularly differs from direct democracy. Maybe not this method, but something.

        And I also think a method that gave all the say to people concentrated in a few urban centers would lack legitimacy in the eyes of the people spread across most of the country. You may not be impressed by those maps, but I think they’re pretty devastating…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You might say: “Those maps are misleading!”

          Yes and no.

          But however you might reason against them — however many thousands of words you mount against one picture — the emotional, gut reaction is there. And however irrational you might see such things as being, we just saw last week how powerfully destructive emotionalism can be, and how it can swat aside reason like a fly…

        2. Bryan Caskey

          “I acknowledge that the importance of knitting those states together sort of faded after 1865, even though some South Carolinians have tried to revive nullification VERY recently.”

          To shift gears a bit…

          Speaking of nullification, it has been a recent topic of discussion that the mayors of various “Sanctuary Cities” around the country are going to do everything they can to be uncooperative with the federal government’s immigration enforcement.

          Now that’s not quite nullification, in that I acknowledge that it’s not the job of the local folks to deal with deportation, but they’re going right up to the line by openly saying they’re not going to cooperate. I wonder what other federal laws local cities and states might decide they’re not going to cooperate with. Anyway, food for thought.

          1. Doug Ross

            Take away any federal school funding for any local government that does not validate the legal status of the children’s parents. If you want sanctuary cities, do it on your own dime. Charity begins at home.

            Take away the carrot and you don’t have to use the stick.

      2. bud

        Still not even slightly persuasive. We’re stuck with president Trump because of thi illogical thinking.

        1. Doug Ross

          We’re stuck with President Trump because Hillary Clinton was a lousy candidate who lost states Obama won easily. The fact that she took higher vote totals in a few large cities from specific demographic groups doesn’t make her a better choice for President.

          She lost Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania! She knew the system going in. She didn’t campaign hard enough in the battleground states. She took days off multiple times to “prepare” for debates that likely didn’t matter. She relied on surrogates to do the hard campaigning for her. Trump outworked her for the past three months and it showed on Election Day. She lost more so that Trump won.

    1. Bart

      Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner! Sums it up perfectly. I will keep in mind that if the day comes and I have to go to court to either hire you or find out if you represent the other side. Would rather have you representing me instead of the other side.

      1. Harry Harris

        Argument by analogy often sounds good, but is seldom valid. It is often a way to simplistically advance a losing argument. It also requires scant mastery of germane facts.

        1. Bart

          But sometimes a simplistic analogy is the best way to bring things into focus for some who do not have a scant mastery of germane facts and may not understand how the electoral college actually works. I understand the facts involved and based on my understanding, I find Bryan’s analogy to be a perfect fit and reasonable.

        2. Bryan Caskey

          You’re right that analogies can over-simplify. But they’re meant to simplify a very complex issue – that’s their merit.

          Also, analogies bring a bit of humor to the debate. I used them very sparingly in legal arguments, but when you find a good one, they can often be a dagger because they can point out absurdity. If you listen to (or read) the SCOTUS oral argument transcripts, the questions from the Justices often move into hypotheticals and analogies in order to find out what the limiting factor is in a legal theory.

          For instance, in King v. Burwell this exchange took place:

          JUSTICE KAGAN: Can — can I offer you a sort of simple daily life kind of example which I think is linguistically equivalent to what the sections here say that Justice Breyer was talking about?

          So I have three clerks, Mr. Carvin. Their names are Will and Elizabeth and Amanda. Okay? So my first clerk, I say, Will, I’d like you to write me a memo. And I say, Elizabeth, I want you to edit Will’s memo once he’s done. And then I say, Amanda, listen, if Will is too busy to write the memo, I want you to write such memo.

          Now, my question is: If Will is too busy to write the memo and Amanda has to write such memo, should Elizabeth edit the memo?

          (Laughter.) . . .

          JUSTICE KAGAN: Because in my chambers, if Elizabeth did not edit the memo, Elizabeth would not be performing her function. In other words, there’s a — a substitute, and I’ve set up a substitute. And then I’ve given I’ve given instructions: Elizabeth, you write — you edit Will’s memo, but of course if Amanda writes the memo, the instructions carry over. Elizabeth knows what she’s supposed to do. She’s supposed to edit Amanda’s memo, too.

          After Carvin answered, Justice Alito jumps in with his own hypothetical to help show why Carvin’s answer was correct and to point out a flaw in Kagan’s analogy.

          JUSTICE ALITO: Well, Mr. Carvin, if I had those clerks, I had the same clerks – (Laughter.)

          JUSTICE ALITO: — and Amanda wrote the memo, and I received it and I said, This is a great memo, who wrote it? Would the answer be it was written by Will, because Amanda stepped into Will’s shoes?

          MR. CARVIN: That was my first answer.


          JUSTICE KAGAN: He’s good, Justice Alito.

    2. bud

      A more appropriate analogy: Hillary score 62 runs, all in the 1st & 9th innings, Trump scores 61 runs in the other innings. Since Trump won more innings he’s declared the winner.

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