The electoral college, set forth in the U.S. Constitution, is a great tool for reducing social conflict across regions of the United States. You might think that’s a crazy claim don’t we see maps of red and blue, and aren’t the red places the places supporting the Republican mostly in the South and Midwest? Indeed, and that pattern across regions is key to explaining how the electoral college defuses some social tension.
And if there’s anything of which we have a surplus in this largely stagnant economy, it’s social tension. Look what we’d have with a straight popular vote:
[I]t’s safe to say that if your state is polling 65% for a particular presidential candidate, neither candidate is likely to campaign there any time soon.
And that’s great news for social peace. We rarely hear too much about regional issues in the U.S. other than farmers vs. everyone else. But if the presidency was decided by majority rule, I’m sure we’d hear a lot more about regional differences. Could a presidential candidate get 75% of the votes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida by promising broad-based Gulf Coast subsidies and a few other goodies? Could a candidate get 85% of California’s and New York’s votes partly by offering housing subsidies for people facing high housing costs?
I don’t know: But if we got rid of the electoral college and had a popularly elected president we’d sure have a chance to find out.
And we don’t want to, either:
As it stands, presidential candidates are trying to appeal to the median voter in each state across a large number of states. That’s how you get to be president. This reduces regional tensions because candidates are never trying to get 90% of the votes in a state. When you’re pitting 90% of one region of the country against 90% of another region of the country, you’re substantially raising the probability of social conflict. Too many civil wars are based on regional differences for this to be no big deal.
It would be well to remember that those who wail and gnash their teeth about the distribution of power are always making exactly the same argument: Group A, whom we disdain, needs to be disempowered for the benefit of Group B, whom we embrace. My own stance on this is simple: Groups A through Z inclusive should be told to STFU and GBTW, because groups, other than the states themselves and We The People, have no standing under the Constitution. And I’m getting to the point where I would much rather everyone were vaguely dissatisfied with the system as it is than have some ecstatically happy at the expense of everyone else.