Political Leaders Must Push For A Popular Vote Presidency

12/13/2016 03:55 pm ET Updated Dec 15, 2016
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

We’ve had a month to digest the shocking results of 2016’s presidential race, and, in spite of Election Night “unifying” remarks by Donald Trump saying “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” the past month proves the old maxim “actions speak louder than words.”

Trump taunted Hillary on his so-called “Thank You” tour and appointed mostly right-wingers of his newfound party, who’ve supported watering down programs he pledged to maintain, including Social Security and Medicare. Plus, an attorney general once denied a judgeship for racist statements, belying Trump’s declaration “We condemn bigotry and prejudice in all its forms,” during a December 1 speech in Cincinnati.

However, most importantly, while Donald Trump will legally be declared president when Electoral College votes are announced in congress January 6, he was by no stretch of imagination the choice of Americans. Despite his typical embellishments and those of his surrogates, who continue to echo his false statements that the country preferred him, Hillary Clinton, at last count, is ahead of the TEP (technically elected president) by 2.8 million votes.

What does this mean? It means, due to an archaic system called the Electoral College, five candidates who received more votes became the losers, one of whom, Grover Cleveland, was the sitting president. All of them, by the way, conveniently Democrats.

It means 2.8 million more voters than those supporting Trump rejected his racist and reckless and often mendacious remarks. Yet because our forefathers created a compromise deemed plausible 230 years ago to entice all thirteen colonies to “form a more perfect union,” a candidate backed by fewer voters might win. Such a president has authority to appoint heads of agencies who promulgate and enforce or abolish policies. Presidents also propose budgets and legislation, veto or sign legislation and appoint federal justices for life, notably to the Supreme Court, all of whose decisions impact the entire nation.

A nation whose collective voters didn’t back Trump’s policies. Who didn’t want Roe v. Wade overturned, racist and religious bigotry, preferred the Affordable Care Act, even as the popular vote winner suggested improvements, believed in environmental protections, supported women’s rights, civil rights and the right to earn a decent minimum wage. A nation that will now be subjected to societal changes to which a greater number of its citizens do not adhere.

Those voters live everywhere, not just in coastal, more liberal states. There were lots of Democrats elsewhere who supported Hillary Clinton, from her lowest percentage state Wyoming (56,000) to supporters in the largest Trump state Texas (3.9 million), the latter of which she lost by nine points, an increasingly narrow number, considering Gore lost it by 21%, Kerry by 23%, Obama by 12% in 2008 and Obama by 16% in 2012. Typically Republican states like Arizona and North Carolina went for Trump by only 3.5% and in Georgia by just over 5%.

Obviously, there are many who supported Trump in California (4.45 million) and New York (2.6 million). Why should any of these voters not be counted to cumulatively choose who’ll lead us, ratifying the course those candidates propose?

Five times this travesty happened, and twice in the last sixteen years. Yet nothing has changed. Even after 2004, when Democrat John Kerry almost had turnabout fair play with George W. Bush, because if 60,000 votes were reversed in Ohio Kerry would’ve won, though Bush beat him by three million.

Traditionalists insist the Electoral College should be kept, perpetuating the folly that it’s fairer and protects smaller states from domination by larger ones like California and New York. They maintain campaigns will focus upon huge states, which is preposterous, because votes in such states, which exclude non-liberal Texas and often Florida, don’t have enough to determine an election. And in any event, why should voters in Idaho, Alabama, Kentucky and North Dakota have more influence in the selection of the one office all Americans choose than citizens in Illinois, Massachusetts and Oregon?

In fact, with a national popular vote, candidates will have to campaign everywhere to eke out votes they’ll need in close elections. Democrats will go to Montana, and Republicans will campaign in New England. So, it’ll probably increase participation, because it’s likely some proponents of candidates in states which normally go the other way don’t bother voting. In this manner, everyone will believe their vote truly matters.

Clearly, a constitutional amendment isn’t feasible, because, while we’d hope smaller state honchos are fair, power corrupts, and they know they exert disproportionate influence over national results. To get two thirds of a GOP-controlled congress and three quarters of states GOP-led in 32 legislatures to effect this change is nearly impossible.

However, since 2007 the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact added ten states plus Washington D.C. It mandates, irrespective of a state victor, all the electoral votes go to the national popular vote winner if it is ratified by states totaling 270 votes. To date, it’s been passed by Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Hawaii, Washington State, Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Rhode Island, New York and D.C. These governments comprise 165 electoral votes, thus states with 105 more are needed for it to come into fruition. At present, Michigan and Pennsylvania (which Trump barely won) are considering it in legislative committees.

Two such elections in sixteen years must rally national leaders to persistently rectify this abomination. Editors and commentators must champion changes. Trumpets must blare, Drums must beat, marchers and protesters must peacefully parade. To presume we must keep a system created to protect slavery in southern states, which dominated our early congress, ignores progress centuries have given us, slavery’s abolition, women’s suffrage, ending segregation in the military and schools and permitting gay people to serve in defense forces, the latter of which predicted as dangerous to morale twenty years ago, has since proven groundless.

I’ll keep hammering away at this in spite of acknowledging a TEP who’ll take office. I accept the legality of his presidency, but not the way it was accomplished and pray this undemocratic system ends by 2020.

Michael Russnow’s website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com

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