Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thoughts on the "abolish the Electoral College!" nonsense

This is a safety pin, also known as
a diaper pin. Think about that for
a second....
I have been really, really trying to not get too snarky about the election. After all, the guy I reluctantly voted for (Gary Johnson) did pretty well for a third-party candidate but didn't even get 5% of the vote. To be honest, if we lived in Ohio, what was thought to be a battleground state, instead of a sure thing for Trump like Indiana where we actually live, I would have been a lot more tempted to vote for Trump just to deny the White House to another member of the Clinton Crime Syndicate. 

Even still I have to say that while I expected people to be upset, the sheer hysteria and criminal behavior exhibited days later is incredible. The temper tantrum on display from people who clearly think that only they have the right to decide the direction of this country is ugly and unbecoming but not really surprising when you stop and think about it. Thanks to a combination of telling people in this country that they are entitled to whatever they want and the general historic ignorance in this country it is little wonder that people now are acting like the Electoral College is some nefarious plot created a century ago to deny Hillary Clinton that White House that we need to do away with.

We live in the United States of America. We are governed by a document called the Constitution. This document provides a very specific, very well thought out and very intentional method for electing a President. That method is the electoral college. It was created as a specific way to choose a President that protects the rights of people living in smaller states. It is helpful to remember that we don't live in "America". We live in "The United States Of America". Ours is a nation made up of individual, sovereign states that are joined together for a common purpose under a Republic. We don't live in a democracy. You don't vote on defense appropriations or to go to war. The representatives you elect vote on your behalf. The same is true for the election of the President, the only elected representative of the entire nation. We vote as a state to pick electors to represent our state at the Electoral College. That is what it is supposed to do and the teams for Trump and Clinton (and Stein and Johnson and etc.) all know this and plan (or should plan) accordingly. 

Complaining after the fact that your candidate "won" the popular vote but lost the electoral college is like saying this:

In a football game lots of stats are kept. One of those is total yards. It makes some sense, you have to typically gain yards to advance down the field in order to either cross the goal line or be in position for a field goal. So gaining yards is a critical component of a winning strategy in football. No one who is a successful coach plans on gaining fewer yards than the other team in their game plan. But gaining more yards is not the ultimate goal. That is because what counts is not total yards or time of possession or quarterback rating. What counts are points on the board via touchdowns and field goals (and safeties but those are rare). In fact it is not uncommon for a team to gain more total yards and still lose because of poor field position or turnovers or any number of factors. So in your game plan you focus on scoring points for your team and denying points to the other team. That is how you win and you plan your strategy accordingly.

The same is true in our Presidential elections. It was not a surprise to anyone that the way to win the Presidency is to get the majority of electoral college votes, at least 270 to win. There is a reason that Hillary Clinton spent lots of time in Ohio leading up to the election. Ohio has a population of around 11.5 million people. California which is a very liberal state has over 39 million people or more than three and a half times the population. So why didn't Hillary spend more time in California and less in Ohio? Because California's 55 electoral college votes were in the bag for Clinton like Indiana's were for Trump. She won over 60% of the popular vote there and that was probably the least she could get and she did so without even trying very hard. That was smart. Even if she had won 95% of the vote in California she couldn't get more than 55 electoral college votes. That is why she spent so much time in Ohio, which turned out to have been a poor decision because Trump won Ohio 52% to 43.5% which wasn't even close and therefore gets all 18 of Ohio's electoral college votes, but at the time she and her staff thought it made sense to contest Ohio because she needed those 18 electoral college votes and more to the point she needed to deny them to Trump. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your political persuasion she didn't spend as much time as she needed to in places she thought she would win like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and that cost her the election. I am not sure being in those states more would have helped given how unpopular she is but not showing up at all in Wisconsin was probably an error.

Again, this was not a secret process. So if Hillary's team said don't worry about Wisconsin, it is a sure thing and they were wrong (which they were) and she ended losing Wisconsin and their 10 electoral college votes by around 25,000 total Cheesehead votes, that is on her.

It is not a flaw in the system, which worked exactly as designed. It was an error in judgment on the part of her campaign team and that is on her and on her advisers (and I wouldn't want to be the guy/gal in charge of Wisconsin, their job prospects in D.C. are probably pretty dim right now...). 

Future Presidential candidates are planning strategies already for 2020 and they are not planning on getting a majority of the meaningless "popular vote". That is a means to an end but the end goal is to get to 270 in the electoral college. It works like it should and that is a good thing for people who don't live in New York and California. So stop whining about the electoral college and maybe instead pick a candidate who is not quite so unlikable and so obviously corrupt and dishonest.

As an aside, as of right now I show that Trump got 60,072,551 total votes and Hillary got 60,467,601 for a difference of 395,050. That sounds like a lot but it is less than 4/10 of 1% if the total votes cast so functionally the results in the popular vote were a tie. The cold, hard fact of 2016 is that two immensely unpopular candidates basically got exactly half of the votes each and Trump won based on a better result in the electoral college. The election is over, the GOP now controls the Presidency, the Senate and the House so the question now is what they will do with that power. If they screw it up, there is a mid-term election in less than 2 years and another Presidential election in less than 4. 
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