Impeachment against President Donald Trump is probably warranted, but impeachment itself is an act that most of the country would like to avoid when it can, in a general sense. Impeachment is a highly political process that tends to divide a nation, even when calls for it are not only proper, but also necessary.
It’s clear that the president acted in ways that need to be addressed with a forceful response, but it’s possible that impeachment proceedings could have been avoided entirely had we addressed one of the most bizarre aspects of presidential elections. To put it bluntly, we can put much of the blame for what’s happening today on what happened in November 2016 — not by blaming the voters, but rather by resting some of the fault for what’s going on right now in Washington on the Electoral College.
Sure, one can make the argument that, even if the 2016 election had a different outcome — if the popular vote had been allowed to select Hillary Clinton to serve as president instead of Donald Trump — we’d still have had years of congressional hearings and investigations led by Republicans in the legislative branch.
The constant bickering between parties wouldn’t have likely subsided — nor would Trump’s Twitter use, for that matter.
But questions of impeachment (and other big issues) wouldn’t have come about had the people’s choice in 2016 been respected, at least not in the way we’re presently seeing them under Trump’s time in office. Emoluments clause violations, blatant instances of obstruction of justice, attempts to get foreign governments to help him politically, secretive and possibly illegal hush-money payments to mistresses, migrant kids being separated from their parents and placed in cages, racist comments and questionable uses of anti-Semitic terminology…these are just a shortlist of problems that this president has presented to us, which could have been side-stepped had the election’s outcome gone in a different (and more popularly desired) way.
We knew how Trump would behave — but the Electoral College didn’t care
Yes, Trump deserves fault (or praise, depending on your point of view) for how he chooses to behave while in office — putting the blame on the U.S. electoral system alone would be improper. But when Americans were given a preview of what kind of president Trump would be during the 2016 campaign season, most said “no” to that idea. Because of the Electoral College, however, that repudiation was soundly ignored.
It’s not that we the people weren’t warned about how Trump would govern, or that we were unaware that he’d become a controversial president — rather, it’s that our voices and opinions at the ballot box weren’t respected.
Even with the present state of affairs in mind, there are some who are still adamant in their defenses of the Electoral College. Most base their arguments on a supposed defense of “small states” against larger ones, or cities versus rural areas. The so-called “campout” argument among fans of the current electoral system we employ posits that candidates will just stick to the big states in order to win more populated areas, and thus the presidency.
Two maps of the 2016 election.
The first shows the results at the precinct level.
The second shows the results at the individual level. (One dot/vote)
Just thought it was worthy of examining in the context of the Electoral College conversation. pic.twitter.com/hPzEh85mvu
— Mo Elleithee (@MoElleithee) March 22, 2019
Contradicting the “camp-out” argument
John York, a policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, recently wrote an op-ed in favor of keeping the Electoral College intact because politicians would “ignore ‘fly-over country’ to concentrate on currying favor among a handful of mega-cities” if we got rid of it, he said.
That’s just untrue, as it goes against simple logic. According to the CDC, the top 500 populated cities in the United States account for just a third of the nation’s population. Meanwhile, rural communities account for about 21 percent of the population.
It’d be foolish for any presidential candidate to ignore these rural communities, especially when they account for a fifth of the population. Remember, the last presidential election’s popular vote was separated by a difference of about 2 percentage points. Even if we got rid of the Electoral College, it’d be reckless for a candidate to ignore this key segment of voters.
Ending the Electoral College would mean a change of travel plans for candidates (for the better, it turns out)
It’s more likely, if the Electoral College were abolished, that candidates would have to increase creativity in their campaigns, appealing to these voters in ways that don’t require them to think about which states they’re going to, but rather what types of communities they spend time in. More scrutiny might be given to a candidate, for example, if they only traveled to cities or certain high-populated states, and ignored rural or less-densely populated places.
Even if we account for metropolitan areas rather than cities alone, the strategy of courting to a majority of voters would require more travel to do so than we’re presently seeing under the current system (if we’re presuming candidates travel to these areas to push people to the polls).
According to the Census Bureau’s population estimates, to reach a bare majority of American citizens, you’d have to win the endorsement of voters from 38 different metropolitan areas. These areas include suburban cities, and yes, some rural areas as well. Additionally, these metro spots exist within at least 24 separate states in the Union, possibly more if you consider some overlap with neighboring states.
That’s nearly twice the number of states that the two parties traveled to within the general election in 2016: in that year, 19 out of every 20 campaign stops were in just 12 states.
So travel would theoretically expand if we got rid of the Electoral College, at least doubling the number of states candidates would want to go to in order to woo over a majority of votes. But remember: this is to get the bare minimum number of people to vote for you. It presumes that 100 percent of voters in those 38 metropolitan areas would select you as the candidate.
Understanding this isn’t a probable outcome, it’s far more likely that candidates would travel even more extensively than those 24 states. And again, any candidate who traveled solely to metropolitan areas would have a doomed outcome, especially if their opponent were to court those voters instead.
It’s time to abolish the Electoral College
The end of the Electoral College would be a good thing for every American citizen (save for those who benefit from undemocratic outcomes). For starters, it would allow us to select the president in a direct manner, with each person’s vote equal to that of another voter’s from across the country. This, in turn, gives the president more legitimacy.
What’s more, it will help us to avoid outcomes like the one we’re witnessing today. Most voters knew that Donald Trump was a poor choice for president. Adherence to the outdated Electoral College meant we had to endure having him in office anyway…and look at where that’s brought us so far.
A popular vote system wouldn’t necessarily make things perfect. But were it in place during the last election, we probably wouldn’t be dealing with the politics (not to mention the bickering) that are set to come about within the upcoming impeachment hearings.