The Sunday morning news shows offered some much-needed amusement following the thorough elephant stomping my beloved Gators suffered in the SEC Championship game Saturday afternoon. At least it was expected this year. For some deeply psychological reasons, that made it easier to take.
Before I expand on the Sunday follies, I’d like to divulge the defense mechanism that my son and I engage to cope with such disappointing defeats. It’s simple, we have several teams and sports we follow, so at least one of the favorites is bound to win just enough to keep us happy. By winning on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers salvaged an otherwise miserable sports weekend. They could even make the playoffs this year if they hold together for their final four games. Fingers are crossed. Now, we need the FGCU eagles, both Gator basketball teams, and the Miami Heat, among others, to save us from a highly possible and historically common collapse of the Bucs.
Back to my Sunday morning amusement. Almost all the talking heads obsessed somewhat apologetically about the national popular vote won decisively by their favorite presidential candidate. Of course, they ignored the overwhelming electoral defeat at the hands of the much derided rival candidate. Does this seem analogous to my coping mechanism? I suppose it’s like looking for the silver-lining.
My amusement at this untethered rationalization is just this. The national popular vote is profoundly meaningless. (Oxymoron intended.)
Who received the most votes in a national election makes as much sense as claiming the Gators won the SEC Championship because they possessed the ball for 35 minutes compared to only 25 minutes for elephants from Alabama. You see, neither team was trying to possess the ball to win the game just as neither candidate was trying to win the national popular vote. You can’t change the rules after the game is over. Different rules would result in a different game and a completely different election outcome. We will never know who would win a different game or election. It was never contested.
In a national popular vote election, how often do you think the candidates would hold rallies in New Hampshire? Rarely! They’d be vying for every possible vote in the population centers. It wouldn’t make any difference that California, New York, or Illinois would support one candidate over the other, because in a national popular vote contest, state election victories would be irrelevant. There would be incentives for wooing everyone in those big one-sided states. On the other hand, the voters in New Hampshire, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, etc. could be largely ignored by the candidates. Campaigning in those states represents a colossal waste of time. Most importantly, how much incentive would the candidates have for focusing on the interests and needs of these small states? Very little, indeed. We’d soon experience the Tyranny of the majority, something our Founders and our Constitution strived mightily to prevent.
We live in a republic, the United States of America, for which our American Flag stands tall and proud. Elections are held in the states by the states for the people of the states. We elect a president for all the states by an indirect method, called the Electoral College. It takes into consideration both the number of states won and the size of each state. The candidate that wins most votes in a state or the District of Columbia gets all the Electoral votes of that state (with two usually unimportant exceptions). The margin of victory in each state makes no difference. Winning by one vote out of 10 million in a state is the same as winning by 3 million votes. How much time did the candidates spend in the three biggest states of California, New York, and Texas? Almost no time at all, because the candidates knew they had a majority of the popular vote, and getting more would make no difference. Ironically, in this election each candidate ended up with about ten million votes they did not need. For the losing candidate, nearly all of these surplus votes were in California and New York where they did no good toward securing an electoral victory.
A national popular vote election would result in different campaigning patterns by the candidates and different turnout by the voters. It’s a different election and it never occurred. I find it absurd to surmise what might have been, and amusing to witness the obsession of the disappointed losers.