When I woke up Nov. 8, I felt in my bones fewer Americans would vote for Republican Donald Trump for president than Democrat Hillary Clinton. On that technical point I was right, but in a practical sense it didn’t matter. My mistake was in thinking this then meant Clinton would be president.
Here’s how the final Election Day vote counts stand as of this writing:
• Clinton: 63,644,402 votes (232 Electoral College votes)
• Trump: 61,959,749 votes (306 Electoral College votes)
Now, I’m going to list some quotes and I want you to see if you match them to the author:
• “The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy.”
• “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”
• “Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.”
• “This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!”
• “Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble ... like never before.”
• “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!”
• “More votes equals a loss … revolution!”
If you said Trump, you’d be right. He posted those thoughts to his Twitter account the night of Nov. 6, 2012, at a point when he apparently thought President Barack Obama was winning in the Electoral College vote against Republican Mitt Romney despite losing the popular vote. In the end, Obama won both with 65,915,795 votes (332 Electoral College votes) to Romney’s 60,933,504 votes (206 Electoral College votes).
When Trump was asked about the Electoral College by CBS News’ Lesley Stahl on Nov. 13’s “60 Minutes” (filmed Nov. 11), he first said, “I’m not going to change my mind just because I won,” before proceeding to change his mind. (I’ll leave it to you to guess why.)
“I would rather see it where you went with simple votes,” he said. “You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win. There’s a reason for doing this because it brings all the states into play. Electoral College and there’s something very good about that. But this is a different system. But I respect it. I do respect the system.”
If the popular vote projections hold, then it will mean for the second time in 16 years the will of the people will have been overridden by the Electoral College. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore had 543,895 more popular votes than Republican George W. Bush, but I’m sure you remember how that turned out. Amazingly, Republicans have lost six of the seven last popular votes (2004 being the lone exception) yet have won the presidency once again.
Back when Trump and I were on the same side of this issue, I wrote in my Oct. 24, 2012 column, “The Electoral College dropout,” the Electoral College was conceived at the Constitutional Convention to appease the slave-holding states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Because slaves weren’t counted as people, these southern states rightly feared northern control over the process if direct elections were allowed. The Three-Fifths Compromise was dreamed up, in which 60 percent of the slaves would be counted for representational purposes, and the Electoral College was born.
There’s not much short of a constitutional amendment that will permanently fix this problem. (California’s Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein introduced Senate Joint Resolution 41 on Nov. 14 to do just that.) There is also the concept of faithless electors, Electoral College representatives who go against the majority of voters in their states, but that scenario is unlikely.
“Just one elector so far has wavered publicly on supporting Trump,” reported The Associated Press’ Kimberlee Kruesi and Bill Barrow on Saturday. “Texas Republican Art Sisneros says he has reservations about the president-elect, but not because of the national popular vote. He told The AP he won’t vote for Clinton under any circumstance.”
Call it what you will: Donald Trump has nothing resembling a mandate.