For the fifth time in history (1824, 1876 and 1888) and the second time in the last 16 years (2000 & 2016) the winner of the popular vote will not win the presidency. This has once again sparked discussions about the purpose and need for the Electoral College.
Fox anchor, Bill O’Reilly, believes that eliminating the Electoral College is a deliberate, devious tactic being proposed by the left to marginalize the white working class by stripping them of their political power and giving it to minorities.
“Very few commentators will tell you that the heart of liberalism in America is based on race,” O’Reilly said. “The left wants power taken away from the white establishment and they want a profound change in the way America is run.”
A message which undoubtedly resonated well with Fox’s 98.9% white, predominately conservative viewers. But is there any legitimacy to O’Reilly’s claim?
The Electoral College was formed in 1787 ostensibly to equalize the voting power of the more numerous, but less populous smaller states with the more populous but fewer large states. However, there’s another more ominous, rarely mentioned reason for the Electoral College, slavery.
In 1787, there were still only 13 states. However, 8 of the 13 were slave-owning states. Several had populations almost equally divided between whites and blacks. Therefore a presidential election system based solely on population would be to their detriment since slaves would be included in the count although they were unable to vote. Any formula for determining state electors had to count the voting whites and exclude the non-voting slaves.
James Madison delivered the perfect solution: “The Three-Fifths Compromise.” With it, slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person. This increased the representation of the slave states in Congress without factoring in the slave population completely.
The current system is both flawed and biased. Mr. O’Reilly claims that without the Electoral College, larger–more liberal–states will determine the presidency. And he’s correct. What he doesn’t say is that with the existing formula, the exact opposite–less populous, but more conservative states–have been doing this very thing since 1787 (for 229 years).
Presidential electors are allocated by adding two senators to the number of representatives each state gets. While conservatives constantly complain that their constituents live in forgotten “fly over” states, the current formula means that smaller, more conservative states have proportionally more power in electing the president than larger more liberal ones.
In 2016 Donald Trump won 66 electoral votes from 14 small states, with a total population of about 26,300,000. Hillary Clinton won 55 electoral votes from California, with a population of 37,254,000. The math is clear. Twenty-six million people substantially outvoted thirty-seven million people.
Yet O’Reilly says,
“The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with.”
It’s interesting that Mr. O’Reilly is saying that the system designed to preserve the superiority of European Americans over African Americans will now cause the superiority of African Americans.