The Colorado legislature is considering making Colorado the next state to award its Electoral College votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide. This is a blatantly partisan attempt to abolish the Electoral College through non-constitutional means. It should be stopped dead in its tracks.
Of all the delusions in American politics, none are more seductive than majority rule. Somehow, when Election Day arrives, if more people show up to press button A than button B, button A is the “Will of the People” and becomes Holy Writ. The fate of those who wanted B, or didn’t like either one, or were legally forbidden from showing up, or just wanted to live their lives in peace, none of that matters much. The people have spoken. More accurately, they’ve shouted louder than the losers. Not to mention the people who just wanted peace and quiet.
The latest symptom of our infatuation with majority rule is the “National Popular Vote” movement, or NPV. States who sign on for NPV agree to give their presidential electoral votes to whomever earns the most votes nationwide, regardless of the results within the state itself. The contract takes effect when states with at least 270 electoral votes (a majority of the electoral college) sign on. So far, 11 states and the District of Columbia, with 172 total votes, have agreed. Colorado Senate Bill SB19-042 would sign Colorado on to the deal.
It’s not hard to see the blatantly partisan nature of the NPV movement. Who has signed on? The District of Columbia, where no Republican has ever won an electoral vote. Connecticut has been heavily Democratic for the last seven elections. Hawaii has gone Democratic in all but two elections, the last over 30 years ago. Illinois? Democratic the last seven elections. Maryland? Republican three times in the last six decades, the last time in 1988. There is not a single state on the list that a Republican presidential nominee has carried in the past 30 years.
In fact, the Democratic dissatisfaction with the Electoral College is understandable. Of the five times where a president has been elected without winning the popular vote, the last four have been Republicans (maybe all five, I could make a decent case for John Quincy Adams). I suspect the only two that Democrats care about, though, are Bush in 2000 and the present occupant of the White House.
That’s why it’s no accident this bill is being introduced now that Democrats control Colorado state government. Believing the Electoral College a mere speed bump on their fast track to Californize our state, they should be careful what they wish for.
It makes sense that Democrats embrace majority rule. They have more registered voters, their central uniting principle has always been using the power of government to redistribute wealth. In a country that permits free individuals to create and distribute wealth through voluntary action, there will always be economic inequality. Combine that with the promise of “free” goods, and it’s easy to see why Democrats are more sympathetic to the power of pure democracy. It’s in their name, after all.
But sooner or later, the worm will turn. Senators and representatives are currently chosen by popular vote. The founders made it different for the presidency precisely to limit the power of the chief executive and to lessen the risk of mob rule. There is no reason to believe the election of a Republican populist through pure majority vote would be any less likely than a Democratic one. History shows us that political power is never exclusively wielded by people we agree with. That is one reason to limit its reach.
Majority rule is sometimes necessary when there are no better alternatives, but it hardly deserves the adulation Democrats heap upon it. Sooner or later, the majority will come for you. When that happens, you’ll be glad you live in a republic with a constitution designed to protect fundamental rights, regardless of how loud people yell.
The Electoral College is part of that: A constitutionally authorized instrument to protect against passions, the tyranny of the majority, and mob rule. If you don’t like it, amend the Constitution. There’s a process for that.
But stop pretending the National Popular Vote movement is some grand, noble cause that will fix what’s wrong with America. It’s a partisan power grab. Nothing more.
Barry Fagin is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.