Hillary’s Plurality Under a Microscope
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Supporters of Hillary Clinton’s bid to become President can’t get over the fact that she won more votes than did her opponent. Her numbers exceeded Donald Trump’s by more than 2.8 million. “How can it be,” her followers ask, “that she can attract that many more voters and still lose?”
The answer, of course, is that popular vote totals aren’t the test for presidential candidacies. The Constitution says the votes that decide the winner come from the Electoral College. If a candidate wins by a wide margin in several large states but loses – even by tiny margins – in numerous other states, the victor is the candidate with the most votes cast by the electors.
The November 8, 2016 numbers tell us that Clinton was the choice of 65.8 million voters nationally. Trump was the preference of only 63 million voters. But that’s not the whole story. An analysis of the 2.8 million difference shows that it came from California, which is more and more referred to as the nation’s “left coast.” Clinton’s California margin of victory was 3.4 million. Exclude California from the nationwide totals and Donald Trump was the nation’s choice by more than 500,000 voters.
Even more, look at the areas in California that gave Clinton her largest margins:
Los Angeles County: 1,273,000 votes over Trump
Alameda County: 395,000
Santa Clara County: 346,000
San Francisco County: 278,000
Contra Costa County: 181,000
San Mateo County: 166,000
Sacramento County: 111,000
Orange County: 84,000.
These margins of victory alone add up to 2.8 million — the plurality gained by Clinton nationally.
Other than raising funds to be used elsewhere, Clinton and Trump avoided campaigning in California. Each knew who the victor would be so they went elsewhere. Therefore, we have to ask: Should eight counties (let alone one state) of California decide who shall be the nation’s President? Put another way, what about the states and the people who populate the Midwest, Rocky Mountain areas, South, and Southeast? Should the leftists and so-called progressives who numerically dominate other regions overwhelm the preferences of the smaller states?
Hillary Clinton is not the first candidate who won the popular vote but lost the election. As recently as the year 2000, Al Gore won the popularity contest but lost the presidency to George W. Bush. More than 100 years ago, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison.
The Founding Fathers who gave us the Electoral College system to choose a president believed that the states should decide the winner – not the popular vote. Clinton supporters will seek ways to circumvent this system. Their effort should be blocked. A hard look at the figures given above may be all that’s needed to protect the system that has served the nation so well since 1789.
Mr. McManus served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the late 1950s and joined the staff of The John Birch Society in August 1966. He has served various roles for the organization including Field Coordinator, Director of Public Affairs, and President. Mr. McManus has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs and is also author of a number of educational DVDs and books. Now President Emeritus, he continues his involvement with the Society through public speaking and writing for this blog, the JBS Bulletin, and The New American.
Will the Electors Follow Precedent?
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
Donald Trump is scheduled to be the nation’s next President. His election will be confirmed on December 19th when the Electoral College meets and confirms the decisions rendered in the 50 states on November 8th. But the question is: Will the electors follow precedent and confirm the Election Day results that showed Trump winning over Hillary Clinton by 306 to 232?
The Electoral College isn’t a college and there is no national gathering of the electors to make their choice. The selection of President is made when individuals (electors) pledged to vote for their political party’s candidate meet in their state and cast their ballot. If the voters in a particular state chose Trump, then the slate of Republican electors are expected to ratify that choice.
Some states legally bind each elector, although that requirement has never been legally challenged in the courts. Could the electors choose someone other than the choice made by their state’s voters on Election Day? The answer to that extremely poignant question is yes.
In 1968, a Republican elector in North Carolina refused to cast his ballot for Richard Nixon, the winner of the popular vote in that state. His vote for George Wallace was duly recorded. In 1972, a Republican elector in Virginia refused to vote for Nixon, the popular vote winner in his state. He opted instead for the candidate of the Libertarian Party. And his choice was also duly recorded.
Some states have taken steps to legally bind electors to cast their ballots as decided on Election Day. No challenges to those restrictions have made their way through the courts.
A Republican elector in Texas recently announced that he won’t vote for Donald Trump on December 19th. That elector, Christopher Suprun, claims that Mr. Trump is not qualified to hold the highest office in our nation and does not possess the proper “demeanor” to be president. He hopes other electors throughout the nation will follow his lead.
Mr. Suprun found immediate support from Harvard University law professor Lawrence Lessig, who distinguished himself as a backer of the movement to hold an Article V constitutional convention. A Con-Con, of course, can completely erase the current U.S. Constitution and invite a totally new one. In 2015, Lessig announced his own candidacy for president as a Democrat. But his candidacy went nowhere, and he soon abandoned the race.
Lessig now claims that the winner of the popular vote (Hillary Clinton) should be declared president by the electors on December 19th. Mrs. Clinton did win more than two million votes than Donald Trump. But Trump’s victories in numerous states added up to an Electoral College win – if the electors follow precedent.
The Founding Fathers didn’t want a popular vote to determine the winner of the presidency. They wanted the states to chose the president. Especially concerned were they about the smaller states having a voice. The electoral system they created does give small states an important say in who becomes the nation’s leader.
A recent report from DC-based Politico says that a team of lawyers has already been assembled to assist Republican electors who want to bolt the system and vote for someone other than Trump. If a sufficient number of electors ignores tradition and Trump does not receive 270 electoral college votes, then the choice of president goes to the House of Representatives, where the decision will be made according to a process little known by the American people. It appears in the Constitution’s Amendment XII adopted in 1804.
It would take 38 Republican electors to block Donald Trump from being named President on December 19th. Christopher Suprun, the balky Republican elector from Texas, is number one in the movement toward this goal. Will there be 37 more? Or will Donald Trump be confirmed as President on December 19? Chances that enough electors will create a presidential crisis are slim. But so were the chances that Donald Trump would do as well as he did on Election Day.
Electoral College 101: December 19th Vote
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
After the votes of the people in the recent election were counted, the projected Electoral College totals showed that Donald Trump should win the presidency by 306-232. But partisans of the “Never Trump” movement and others can’t bring themselves to accept the Trump victory. They are hard at work trying to persuade Electors to vote for someone other than the GOP’s victorious candidate.
A bit of a refresher course is needed here. The Electoral College system calls on voters nationwide to cast their ballots, not for President, but for a political party’s slate of electors who are pledged to the party’s candidate for president. A citizen’s vote for Trump, Clinton, or any other candidate is actually a vote for the slate pledged to that particular candidate. Whoever wins the popular vote in each state will expect that their party’s slate of electors will choose him or her when the Electoral College meets.
According to the system under which the nation has operated from its early years, each state shall have the total number of electors equal to its number of senators (fixed at two per state) and House members (varied according to population). Congress sets the date for the Electoral College to meet and the date chosen for 2016 is December 19th. On that date, electors will meet in state gatherings to confirm the winner of their particular state’s electors. They will duly forward the results of their vote to the President of the Senate. But many of the GOP electors are now receiving fervid pleas to ignore their pledges and vote for someone other than Trump.
Should a sufficient number of electors choose to ignore the pledge they made when they agreed to be an elector for their party and its candidate, and their number shrinks Trump’s lead of 306 to below the 270 majority needed for victory, the Constitution (see Amendment 12) calls for the House of Representatives to hold a completely new and remarkably different election. In it, each state would have one vote and only the top three candidates from the November election can be chosen. Each member of the House shall have a vote and the state itself shall have one vote in this unique selection process. Whoever receives a majority of the 50 state votes will become President. A similar procedure would select the vice president but only the top two from the November election would be eligible.
Having to rely on this process for choosing a President is unlikely. However, should a sufficient number of electors refuse to honor their pledge to vote for the candidate who was chosen, first in the grueling primaries and then in the general election, they would face an eruption of disillusioned and angry voters. And if the eventual House of Representatives vote for president should choose someone other than Trump, those who voted for him in the general election will feel betrayed by our nation’s governmental system.
Anti-Trump activists are determined. Should they succeed in denying Donald Trump his hard-won victory, chaos would surely reign. We can hope that this never previously relied upon process shall not be needed.
Stand Behind the Electoral College
by JBS President Emeritus John F. McManus
As she has done in the past, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) immediately called for changing the way Presidents are chosen in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. She abhors the Electoral College method and wants the popular votes of all Americans to determine who is president. A Clinton backer, she laments that Clinton won approximately one million more votes than did Donald Trump. But Trump comfortably exceeded the required 270 Electoral College votes (306 to 232).
The California Democrat knows that her proposal will likely go nowhere because it can’t be enacted without an amendment to the Constitution. That is a very unlikely prospect requiring passage in both houses of Congress plus ratification by 38 states. Smaller states will jealously guard the power they have been given with the Electoral College system. Boxer isn’t alone in calling for the change. If her wish had been realized a few years ago, Al Gore would have won the presidency in 2000 and Hillary Clinton would have won in 2016. Each of those defeated candidates won more popular votes but lost the all-important Electoral College vote.
Historians tell us that the method of choosing a president resulted from a compromise agreed to by the delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Understanding why the Electoral College system was chosen has to begin with awareness of the founders’ off-stated abhorrence of democracy and its required majority rule. Also needed for understanding their decision is the fact that it is the states, not the people, who were given the power to choose a president. Then, as now, the smaller states were protected from being overwhelmed by the large-population states. And it should be remembered that the states created the federal government, not the other way around.
The Boxer proposal certainly has its supporters. They want majority rule (the main feature of democracy) to determine who inhabits the White House. But the founders spoke harshly of both democracy and majority rule, and their attitude is obvious in their choice of the Electoral College system. James Madison stated, “… democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
Alexander Hamilton cited his knowledge of history showing that “ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny.” John Adams declared. “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” These are the early American leaders who created a Republic and its Federalist system with power remaining in the states, not in the hands of a self-serving majority.
Opponents of the Electoral College always claim that it is unfair to deny the winner of the popular vote the presidential prize. But they never note that if the president were elected by popular vote, the candidates would campaign far differently. If the president is to be chosen by popular vote, candidates would spend far more time in what are deemed the “safe” and larger states where either a Democrat or a Republican is expected to win easily. The Electoral College system elevates the importance of so-called swing states, even those that have fewer than ten Electoral College votes. If democracy’s majority rule is the method for choosing a President, there would likely be a remarkably different popular vote total for each candidate. But, without doubt, the candidates would ignore small population states such as New Hampshire and Iowa with their small number of Electoral votes.
There’s very little chance that the Boxer proposal will catch fire and be added to the Constitution. The founding fathers were correct and the Electoral College they designed is an excellent way to choose the nation’s leader. It should be left in place.