Those on the fringe raise the specter of diabolical Russians hacking away at our democracy. More grounded Clintonians have less malevolent boogeymen — our Founding Fathers. As they see it, the election’s outcome should be blamed on a dysfunctional and archaic electoral vote system. Hillary won the national popular vote. She should be president. It is as simple as that. The Electoral College should go the way of Trump University.
They are right about one thing: Hillary did win the national popular vote. As votes continued to trickle in three weeks after Election Day, Clinton received 50.9% of the two-party vote to 49.1% for Trump. With about 135 million votes counted, Clinton has 2.3 million more votes than Trump.
Yet Clinton has only 232 electoral votes (in 20 states plus Washington, D.C.) to Trump’s 306 (in 30 states plus one from Maine), making him the president-elect. So Trump’s election without a popular-vote plurality is regarded as an injustice. Some Democrats claim a moral victory as victims of an electoral vote system that once again horribly “misfired.” Their claim, however, neglects two facts.
First, had the election been conducted with rules awarding the presidency to the popular-vote winner, the candidates and many voters quite probably would have acted very differently and the popular vote would not have been the same. Trump and Clinton would have campaigned in the “safe” states. Potential voters in those states would have felt more pressure to turn out and to vote for “the lesser of two evils” and not to waste their votes on third-party candidates. Some additional Clinton voters would probably have shown up, but gains on the Trump side would probably have been larger as more reluctant Republicans would have been pushed to return to the fold, particularly in big blue states like California, New York, and Illinois.
In short, a comparison of the national popular vote as cast and the electoral vote division is no simple matter. This is particularly true in our age of pervasive polling in which people should have a good idea about whether they live in a state where their presidential vote might make a difference.
Second, Clinton’s 2.3-million-popular-vote plurality over Trump depends on the votes in a single state: California. Clinton has more than a 4-million-vote plurality over Trump there. In the other 49 states plus the District of Columbia, Trump actually has a 1.7-million-popular-vote plurality over Clinton. So California single-handedly turns a Trump plurality into a Clinton plurality. ...
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