The New York Times is right, it's time to get rid of the Electoral College.
The NYT editorial board argued in a Monday editorial for "the basic fairness" of awarding the presidency to the candidate with the most votes, and noted that "overwhelming majorities" of Americans agree.
Who could disagree? Mostly conservatives, it seems. But is there any doubt that if the situation were reversed, with Hillary Clinton winning the Electoral College and Donald Trump winning the popular vote, it would be Republicans rethinking the wisdom of the Electoral College and Democrats defending it?
(Neither I nor the NYT editorial board are calling for a retroactive Electoral College abolishment. Trump won fair and square based upon the current rules. As Trump himself pointed out, if the rules were different, his strategy for winning would have been different, and he still could've won.)
Most of the defenses of the Electoral College point to the "wisdom of the Founders." But these arguments fail to recognize that the Electoral College doesn't do what the Founders designed it to do.
From the start, the Electoral College was odd, created out of a compromise. During the Constitutional Convention, there was a debate over whether the president should be selected by Congress or a popular vote. The Founders didn't want the popular vote because they feared direct democracy and they didn't want Congress to choose because they didn't want a president beholden to Congress. So, they created the Electoral College.
They also believed that a popular vote would favor the large states, so the Electoral College (and the Senate) were designed to favor small states. Proportionally, voters in small states have greater influence in the Electoral College and the Senate.
But we now know what the Founders never anticipated — the Electoral College doesn't favor small states, it favors swing states. Candidates campaign the most in the states where the election is closest. As a result, voters in those swing states receive more attention from candidates than voters in non-swing states.
Even if it were true that the Electoral College favored small states, why would that be a good thing? Here again, things haven't turned out as the Founders anticipated. They thought some of the biggest political divisions would be between large states and small states. But that's not true today. Montana voters and Rhode Island voters don't share similar issue concerns because they're both small states.
I don't agree with the NYT editorial board's solution, which is to support the National Popular Vote interstate compact, in which states agree to award electors based upon the popular vote outcome. This could undo the will of voters in certain states, and I don't think more unfairness is the way to deal with unfairness. Instead, we should amend the Constitution.
We shouldn't blame the Founders for their lack of foresight. Their experiment was so new, they couldn't anticipate everything. They understood this and it's why they added Article V, to be able to amend and improve the Constitution. And early on they did just that, changing how the vice president is selected (Amendment XII). Since then, few changes have been made to the structure of our government, with most amendments expanding who can vote. Exceptions were when we changed how senators are selected in 1913 (Amendment XVII) and limited the terms of presidents in 1951 (Amendment XXII).
Our nation was born out of a belief in human rationality — that we don't have to be shackled to a king because we have the ability to govern ourselves. Our Founders were bold enough to envision a better way. But today we have shackled ourselves to our Constitution by our unwillingness to improve it.
Our Founders also understood that they didn't create a perfect document. It was written by men, not by the hand of God and handed down to us from atop Mount Sinai. So let's not pretend the Electoral College is sacred and shouldn't be changed.
Our future presidents should campaign for, and win, the most votes. Let's make it so.