Trump Impeachment Perfect Reason To Abolish Electoral College

On January 6th, an attack on the very foundations of our democracy occurred. It’s something that we have been bombarded by every day since, unable to escape the omnipresence of the fallout. It was easily one of the darkest days in American history.

Former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial for his involvement in the attack was set to begin yesterday with four hours of arguments from House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team. The arguments, which centered around whether the impeachment of the former president was constitutional, were basically a formality as it was clear the trial would continue even before the day began.

House managers did not see their arguments as a formality, as we now know.

For 13 minutes yesterday, we all had to relive the events of January 6th, held captive by a video House managers played at the beginning of their time. In the video, Trump’s speech that incited the insurrection attempt was spliced with scenes of his supporters breaking through barriers and attacking police at the Capitol.

Some of the most harrowing footage was that of a crowd beating Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick as he lay on the steps of the building. He would later collapse and die from the injuries sustained in the attack.

While many questions remain about what happened that day and who will be held responsible, I think the real question we must ask ourselves is what allowed for it to get to the point that it did.

If not for the lies about the election spouted by Trump and his sycophants, there would not have been such an insurgency. If not for the ability to challenge a single state’s election results, there would be no ability to claim fraud where there was none. If not for the importance placed on a single state in a nationwide election, the entire voice of the country would have been heard in a popular vote so decidedly lopsided.

The reason Congress even convened on January 6th was to count Electoral College votes in an entirely ceremonial session.

With not a single tangible legal victory out of the over 60 suits filed after the election, Republican Senators and Congressman used their platforms in the antiquated process to appeal to the very people who were on their way to do them harm. It was the objections by those members of Congress that gave the crowd coming their way enough time to infiltrate the Capitol.

The outdated institution of the Electoral College is at the root of what allowed the Capitol attack to happen.

The Electoral College is a compromise from a time when states were seen as individual entities in a loose confederation and when slavery was a widely accepted reality of life.

The original text of the Constitution on representation in Congress, and by extension the Electoral College, read:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

“All other Persons.” The Three-Fifths Compromise was designed to ensure that Southern states would not be punished by the fact that a large portion of their population were slaves and by their own definition were seen as property and not people. Given the suffrage rights provided to free Blacks in the North, this was seen as an unfair advantage and was rectified by counting slaves as three-fifths of one person.

Again, a product of an antiquated time.

The process of electing the president was not even decided until nearly the end of the Constitutional Convention, having gone through numerous debates and iterations throughout the process. It was so haphazardly decided upon that major flaws in the system were exposed during the 1796 election, when Thomas Jefferson was elected as vice-president under his opponent President John Adams.

After the gridlock between Jefferson and Aaron Burr during the 1800 election occurred, where the House of Representatives ultimately decided who would be president on the 36th ballot, the 12th Amendment was ratified, which laid out the process for electing the president and vice president more clearly.

In his August 1823 letter to George Hay, James Madison wrote of the Electoral College, “The present rule of voting for President…is so great a departure from the Republican principle of numerical equality…and is so pregnant also with a mischievous tendency in practice, that an amendment of the Constitution on this point is justly called for by all its considerate and best friends.”

“As the final arrangement of it took place in the latter stage of the Session, it was not exempt from a degree of the hurrying influence produced by fatigue & impatience in all such bodies.”

The Electoral College process has gone largely unchanged for over two centuries, with date changes and additional electors being the only major changes. One would expect that such stability would be a hallmark of an effective system, but this is no longer the case.

As the country has steadily moved away from the political center over the past four decades, the importance of individual states in elections has become more pronounced. Now, instead of smaller, less populous states being overshadowed and disadvantaged, it’s actually larger states who are feeling the brunt of the consequences.

Each state is given electoral votes equal to the number of senators and representatives in Congress, meaning every state will receive at least three votes. This ends up meaning that each elector in small states represents a much smaller portion of the population than those in larger states.

For example, in the 2020 election, one Electoral College vote in Wyoming represented about 193,00 people whereas in California one vote represented over 700,00 people. Essentially, it would take nearly four voters in California to equate one in Wyoming.

Able to accumulate smaller states that represent less of the population, but are given larger shares of the Electoral College vote, Republicans have been able to be elected as president three times in the past eight elections despite winning the popular vote only once in that same time.

It’s the same system that allowed Donald Trump to contest just a handful of states after the most recent election in trying to overturn the final results for the entire nation. Had he won his objections, he would have been reelected despite receiving 7 million less votes than President Biden.

It was the continued ability to claim close state results had robbed him of his second term that whipped his supporters into a frenzy. It was the knowledge that flipping a tiny percentage of the vote would disenfranchise millions of other voters and let him keep power.

It was very fitting that “Stop the Steal” was the motto of the Trump vote lie, as he was trying to do just that.

The call for a popular vote to determine the winner of the presidency has grown over time, with it being a steady roar these days. The most common argument against it is the tired excuse of “We’ve always done it this way. We can’t mess with tradition.”

It was tradition for Black people to be sold and bought as property. It was tradition for women not be allowed to own property or vote. It was tradition for people of color to be sent to segregated schools and not be allowed to marry Whites.

Traditions should not be the benchmark for keeping a system in place that would allow a handful of voters in a single state to determine the outcome of a national election that is so obviously lopsided.

Lest we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our recent past, we must move past the corruptible manner of choosing the executive that even the Founders knew was rushed and flawed. Failure to do so can only be seen as insanity.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jonathan Fuentes

Jonathan Fuentes

Having recently moved to Morocco, Jonathan has editorial experience with publications in the US and Southeast Asia and hosts the "Too Foreign For Home" podcast.