The Electoral College was created 229 years ago as a check and balance against popular sovereignty. And, with its formal endorsement of Donald Trump for the presidency, this absurd anachronism has once again completed its mission of desecrating democracy.
As of Monday afternoon, the actual vote count in the race for the presidency was: Democrat Hillary Clinton 65,844,594, Republican Donald Trump 62,979,616. That’s a 2,864,978 popular-vote victory. Yet, when the last of the electors from the 50 states and the District of Columbia had completed their quadrennial mission early Monday evening, the Electoral College vote was: Trump 304, Clinton 227.
So-called “faithless” electors split from Trump and Clinton, casting votes for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former secretary of state Colin Powell, Ohio Governor John Kasich, former congressman Ron Paul, and Native American elder (and Dakota Access Pipeline critic) Faith Spotted Eagle.
The Electoral College’a voting for Trump was accompanied by shouts of “Shame!” in states across the country. “These unprecedented protests made clear that Donald Trump lost the popular vote and has no real mandate,” explained the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s Adam Green. “Today’s show of resistance reminded the political world that Trump does not represent the will of the people—and it will embolden Democrats to fight Trump as he sides with big international corporations at the expense of American workers.”
By most reasonable electoral measures, Clinton’s clear popular-vote victory should have made her president. But the Electoral College guards against reasonable measures. Because of decisions made more than two centuries ago by a small group of white men who were not enthusiastic about democracy, Trump’s Electoral College advantage trumps Clinton’s popular-vote win.
It does not work that way in other countries. It does not work that way in contests in states across the United States, where the candidates who secure the most votes win governorships and mayoralties, seats in the US Senate and House of Representatives, and positions on city councils, county boards, village boards, town boards, school boards, and drainage commissions.
But it does work this way for president. As a result, American presidents can be “elected” without winning the most votes—or anything akin to a mandate.