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Rigged Electoral System

Reader Feedback: Rigged Electoral System—Joe Weinstein

Each week, the editor’s of LA Progressive pick what they regard as a particularly insightful comment from one of our readers, both to draw attention to one particular reader’s thoughts and to encourage more readers to weigh in with their opinions. This week’s pithy response comes from Joe Weinstein, who commented on Berry Craig's "That 'Rigged' System Made Trump President-Elect"

How things have changed! 60 years ago it was Sen. John F. Kennedy who defended the Electoral College against attempts in Congress to initiate change. In those days – and for many decades before and after – at stake for Kennedy et al was not the issue of blue Dems vs red Gops in choosing the president. Rather, in those days, both parties had influential liberal and conservative wings.

Exactly what is wrong with majority choice of the President even if most or all of the majority margin owes to a few big states?

What was at stake was preserving some power, via influence on choice of the President, for both parties’ liberal wings and allied minority ethnics (white as well as colored). The Congress – especially the Senate – was hopelessly biased (as it remains today) to power to small largely rural states – which in those days was the power base for conservatives in both parties: for the Dems in the South and (as today) for the Gops in the North.

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As Kennedy astutely recognized, the Electoral College played a balancing role then, by ensuring that presidential campaigns – and hence the two parties’ choice of nominees – would have to focus on winning the more liberal big states – which in those days were always in play between the two parties during presidential campaigns – and especially would have to focus on carrying the big prizes within those states – the largely multi-ethnic and liberal big cities.

As this bit of history suggests, antagonists of the Electoral College go too far when they presume that the current situation will last forever – where 3 of the four big states (CA, TX and NY) are hopelessly lopsided and therefore [given the Electoral College and the continued winner-take-all setup within states] not in play and therefore destined to lack influence.

At least as debatable are arguments for keeping the College – like those of commenter Seamen. Exactly what is wrong with majority choice of the President even if most or all of the majority margin owes to a few big states? Small states already get their power from the setup of Congress. Moreover, Seamen’s worry about multiple splinter parties throwing elections into the House could readily be addressed by requiring the winner to gain just a large plurality (say 40%) but not necessarily a clear 50% majority.