If it wasn’t clear before the 2016 Presidential Election, it’s painstakingly clear now; the electoral college is a useless relic of the slave era that should’ve been abolished decades ago.
It’s worse than useless actually. In the last 20 years, the electoral college has gone from being functionally irrelevant, to blatantly anti-democratic; in two cases hefting the candidate with the lowest vote total to the highest office of the land (Bush (R) / Gore(D), Trump (R) /Clinton (D)). There are two main problems, both of which were intentionally built into the electoral college system. One, smaller states are over represented with regards to the number of electors. Slate.com notes,
Electoral votes are allocated to the states each decade to reflect population shifts, but every state is guaranteed three electoral votes before allocation kicks in, leaving the least populous states with the most disproportionate number of electoral votes and improving their vote power. That’s why the five states with the most vote power have only three electoral votes.
This means that the number of electors appropriated to a large state like California amounts to that state being penalized for being massive in comparison to electors being allocated purely proportional to it’s population. For example, under the current model, tiny Wyoming has 4 times the voting power of far more imposing states like Texas and New York.
The second issue, for anyone that cares about representative government, is the founders were aristocrats, and were not completely sold on the idea of democracy; at times referring to it as “mob” rule. This thinking, in part, created the impetus for the unabashedly oligarchic provision of choosing the president through electors instead of through the direct democracy of a popular vote. For all the potential abuses of such a system, Democrats have stumbled upon the poster child case for using this out dated provision. There were a handful of “faithless electors” in 2016 (more for Hillary actually), but on mass they chose not to intervene despite the compelling case against Trump that nearly writes itself.
Trump’s litany of bankruptcies, the evidence mounting of Trump being the first person to monetize the presidency, the business ties that will prove illegal the day he sets foot in office, the publicized cons and swindles, the flagrant disregard for any reality he finds inconvenient; his shady ties with Russia, not to mention Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million. If 2016 wasn’t sufficient for the electors to intervene, it’s hard to conceive of a situation where they could justifiably do so.
From a practical human perspective, it’s difficult to override the explicit will of tens of million of people, particularly when both sides understood the rules of engagement centuries before 2016. There’s also the problem of partisanship, more appropriately the appearance of impropriety even if electors act with clean hands and the best of intentions. States have taken steps to constrain the powers of electors, some going as far as recalling and replacing electors that refuse to vote the way the public directs (Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota are examples in 2016). Even if the other hurdles to electors using the nuclear option could be overcome, electors are made up of people that will nearly always vote for their candidate. It’s part in parcel to why they’re chosen in the first place. This means for all intents and purposes the section of the electoral college that has done a kick ass job at electing republicans against the popular will of the governed, remains in demonstrative effect, while the part that allows for a remedy is permanently off the table. It’s not that the electors should’ve chosen someone other than Trump, electors should not have played a role in the 2016 election in the first place: neither to allow Trump to win in the face of the popular vote or to allow the authorization to overturn the election if they didn’t like the result.
Republicans provide a striking historical contrast in addressing what they consider to be systemic unfavorable policy. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first and last president to serve more than 2 terms as President; being so popular he died in office. In 1947, soon after his death, Republicans moved to institute the 22nd Amendment, placing a two term limit on serving presidents. Regardless of how it was couched, this had nothing to do with public interest and everything to do with improving Republican chances of getting elected. There is no doubt in my mind, if Gore won the 2000 election due to the electoral college instead of Bush, in near unison, conservatives would’ve ran from one camera to the next breathlessly screaming bloody murder about the “injustice”.
The presidential election of 2012 serves as a comical case in point. Early in the night when the totals were unclear, Trump believed Obama won the election but lost the popular vote. Apoplectic, he stormed onto his favorite medium (Twitter), thrashing his gonads against bars of his virtual cage, attacking the very provision that in just 4 years will install him as president, calling it a “disaster”. Agreed!