Huffpost Media
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Michael Russnow Headshot

Media Pundits, Stop Talking About the Same Thing: Do Something Useful and Plot to Castrate the Electoral College

Posted: Updated:

Okay, media honchos, so the presidential race is over, mercifully decided quickly with Obama the winner by a substantial margin. Out of 125 million voters, he beat McCain by eight and a half million, a percentage of 53 to 46 of the electorate who took part. In the Electoral College the margin is 365 to 162, with Missouri and its eleven votes still undecided.

After a cursory analysis of all the states it's clear that if some of the razor thin victories (Florida, Indiana and North Carolina) and even the relatively close victories (Virginia and Ohio) were reversed, Obama still would have won -- but here's where I'm headed -- he would have won, but just barely. Even with a very large popular victory, though arguably not quite a landslide.

It's conceivable that had Obama beaten McCain by three or four million -- still quite a chunk but half as much as he accomplished -- McCain might have won the presidency by adding votes here or there, and such a possibility should not be acceptable.

Amazingly, with all the frenetic emotion of the 2000 election nothing was done -- certainly not accomplished -- no effective media outcry -- to abolish our outmoded and increasingly stupid Electoral College. Whatever purpose our founding fathers had in mind has long since gone asunder, just as counting blacks as 3/5 of the population and having our U.S. senators appointed by state legislators.

We have checks and balances in our government -- that's why we have the Senate and the House of Representatives -- but in a federalist government such as ours it makes no sense nor is it particularly honorable to cede the will of the popular vote to the Electoral College.

Al Gore rightly won the 2000 election, as did Grover Cleveland in 1888 and Samuel Tilden in 1876. They each won more votes than their opponents, yet Gore and Tilden never got the White House key and Grover Cleveland temporarily had to turn his over to Benjamin Harrison. In the only turnaround case yet in American history, Cleveland got it back four years later when he bested Harrison again and also in the Electoral College.

Even with a tiny victory, such as that won by Al Gore, the fact remains he beat George W. Bush by half a million votes. Not a huge percentage, but that's a lot of people who were in effect told their votes didn't count.

Media strategists have explained that a constitutional amendment wouldn't work, because fairness is not what politics is all about. That having been granted the right to such disproportionate power in the selection of our president, small states will not quickly hand it over. Since it takes three quarters of the states to ratify an amendment, it would take a heavy dose of ethical soul searching to get the state politicians to do what is morally right.

Which leads me to another solution bandied about, wherein the larger states would agree to assign their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. States have the right to distribute their electoral votes in the manner they see fit, as Nebraska and Maine have demonstrated this year giving some of their votes to the winner in each congressional district.

Maryland (10 votes), New Jersey (15), Illinois (21) and Hawaii (4) have already enacted the National Popular Vote Bill that would give their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote if states with a combined majority of the electoral votes do likewise. Consider the following:

Florida (27 votes) is a swing state, and so is Ohio (20). North Carolina (15), Virginia (13) and Indiana (11) have demonstrated things are clearly changing. Texas' vote (34) was much closer than in past years, as was Georgia's, whose fifteen electoral votes have made it a formidable force. Missouri (11) is still a nail biter. If these states, along with those cited in the paragraph above, joined California (55), New York (31), Pennsylvania (21), Michigan (17), Massachusetts (12), Washington State (11), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (10), and Colorado (9) it adds up to 372 votes, more than enough to elect the president of the United States.

Republican leaning states would have as much to gain as Democratic states, because in a close election the tide could turn either way. And even if some states were stubborn and, for example, Texas refused to participate, it's likely that a consortium of smaller eastern states such as Connecticut (7), Rhode Island (4), Delaware (3), Vermont (3), New Hampshire (4), Maine (4), and D.C. (3) would join in, plus possibly Oregon (7), too and their collective 35 votes would more than cancel a possibly non-compliant Texas' results.

Let's do it, media pundits. And what better time than with electoral rage not being at the forefront? Let's plan for the future calmly, recognizing that whatever purpose the Electoral College served its time has passed.

The American people have every right to choose their president. Our system no longer makes sense -- if it ever did -- and should allow our future presidents to be elected based on the simple fact that more voters preferred them than their opponents.