In Defense of the Electoral College

I began watching a very well-made documentary called Safeguard, advertised as a non-partisan look at the Electoral College. The film makes a unified case for the genius of the Electoral College as a safeguard of democracy in our republic. All the experts cited seem to agree that without this visionary safeguard, which ensures a presidential candidate has achieved broad national consensus, state by state — beyond just the number of popular votes he or she gets — say a vast popular majority in only our largest cities — you could have the masses voting in unprincipled, non-consensus minded populist demagogue presidents who could do great damage to democracy.

The summary description of the documentary touts a nonpartisan view of why the Electoral College remains a brilliant and indispensable device for moving our experiment in democracy forward. As you hear a very reasonable-sounding historical discussion, you begin to notice something about the speakers’ credentials, they are always from schools and other institutions you’ve never heard of. I guess that could be a kind of tip off that they’ve gone a bit off the mainstream grid for experts on democracy.

Then, you see this guy, misleadingly identified as a nonpartisan former high government official:

Hans von Spakovsky. Defender of democracy and enemy of divisive partisan demagogues everywhere. Architect of the one ballot drop box per county voter suppression scheme for the 2020 election. The filmmakers identify him as the former Commissioner of the Federal Election Committee (years before Trump left the FEC without a quorum to do investigations), although he is currently a Charles Koch/Heritage Foundation employee and secret national Republican strategist for the re-election of the unpopular unifier Donald J. Trump.

Trump, we recall, won the presidency in the Electoral College by 78,000 surgically placed votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania [1]. He won these states Electoral College electors, legally and indisputably making him president, by less than one percent in each state, a total margin of 1.6% of the vote in those three states, combined.

Mr. Trump is, of course, the very man the Framers envisioned when they imagined future presidents of the United States of America. Who but von Spakovsky better to speak about the genius of the safeguard of democracy that is our Electoral College?

As the filmmakers tease in their trailer, without the Electoral College there would have been no Emancipation Proclamation — Lincoln became president because of the Electoral College! (Did he really? [2])


According to the final tallies, Trump won Pennsylvania by 0.7 percentage points (44,292 votes), Wisconsin by 0.7 points (22,748 votes), Michigan by 0.2 points (10,704 votes). If Clinton had won all three states, she would have won the Electoral College 278 to 260.     source

[2] the fruits of forty seconds of dogged research:

Despite minimal support in the South (Lincoln’s name was not on the ballot in 10 Southern states), he won a plurality of the popular vote (40%) and a majority of the electoral vote.
1860 United States presidential election – Wikipedia

Four candidates vied for the office of president of the United States during the 1860 election. When the voting concluded on November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln had received more popular votes in the United States than any of the other candidates and had won a majority of the electoral votes.
1860 Presidential Election – Education from LVA

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