My last posting was a criticism of liberal efforts to abolish the Electoral College, and some readers might have wondered about my language, which was rather intense. I said Trump’s election has made liberals “crazy” and sharers of a collective “insanity,” and – slightly less emphatically – that the campaign against the Electoral College shows they “aren’t thinking clearly.” Since I broadly share the goals of the liberal opposition to Trump, and I was simply arguing the inadvisability of a certain possible strategy for toppling him, this choice of words might seem over-the-top.
Well, it isn’t. The fact that the editorial pooh-bahs of the New York Times chose to squander valuable space by advocating this misguided course of action, plainly shows that mainstream liberals are still in denial about what Trump’s victory means, or should mean, for them. They need to be called on it.
Most commentators on the election have stressed what Trump did to win – and the horrible, unbelievable, morally unacceptable nature of it all. Yet there may be equal validity, and for the left more use, in focusing on what liberals did to lose. There’s been some of that, which is good, but quite a few folks would rather forego the exercise. Post mortems can be brutal. We might find that we ought to change our ways, and change is never welcomed. We’d far rather bemoan the unscrupulous tactics of our enemies, than acknowledge our own errors and flaws.
When picking over the 2016 catastrophe, one particular fact stands out to liberals: if political success were to be measured solely by popular votes received, they’ve hit the jackpot already. Clinton led Trump by close to three million votes nationwide, but lost the Electoral College because she was edged out in three previously Democratic states – Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – by the relatively miniscule margin of around 78,000 votes out of almost 14 million cast. It’s obvious that if the Electoral College were to be magically dispensed with, the Democrats could confidently look forward to 2020 – without changing one iota of their party’s platform or their general approach to life. I can see why that would be an attractive prospect for them.
And I don’t underestimate how difficult it’ll be for the Democrats to win the next Presidential election under the Electoral College system. Even if they’re heavily favored in each of the three above-mentioned states, they’ll have to carry all three to reverse the result of 2016 – if the other states remain the same – and that’s a very tall order. Maybe it’s doable, but it isn’t a slam dunk by any means, and would undoubtedly require some major retooling on the Democrats’ part. That’s the rub.
To prevail in these states, or any of the other Trump states that could flip in 2020, the Democrats will have to step outside of their comfort zone. They’ll have to leave the big cities for small town America, and they’ll have to learn how to talk to working-class white guys with gun racks on their pick-ups and a dim view of fluid gender identities. Democrats might have to consider a Presidential candidate who isn’t from the bicoastal elites. They could even think about downplaying interest group self-expressiveness, to focus on a broad-based economic appeal.
For some Democrats, all of that would be painful.
They can’t help but live in the fantasyland where the big, bad Electoral College doesn’t exist – and where they can roll up such a humongous majority in a single state, California, that they’ll overwhelm all the Republicans can do in the other 49 states plus DC – which, by the way, is what happened in 2016. Clinton won California by 4 million votes and the nation by 2.8 million. In other words, folks, outside of this state, most of the people voted for Trump, by 1.2 million.
If California seceded, think what the rest of the USA would be like.
Anyway, the above factoid is among the many reasons that the other states won’t agree to a Constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College or to the National Popular Vote compact, so discussion of this mirage should cease. The Electoral College is a given for the 2020 election. The fulminations against it are merely a symptom of the refusal of some liberals to think realistically about the task ahead.
For myself, I’m rather glad the Democrats will only be able to capture the White House in the foreseeable future by an electoral strategy that forces them to reach across the politico-cultural divide that’s now ripping America in two. If Democrats could just turn out their base and prevail by a bare majority, I’m not sure that would be entirely a good thing for the country. Of course, I don’t think it’s a good thing for the Republicans to prevail without a majority, either. I wish some structural factor was obliging them to reach across the cultural divide, but that’s not happening right now.
Incidentally, now that Al Franken is out of consideration, I propose Doug Jones for President, if he wins in Alabama. I know nothing specific about him and I don’t see that details are critical; he seems nice. I just want to unseat Trump and the Republicans, and a candidate that speaks Southern would be an asset, I think.
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