The USA’s Dysfunctional Electoral College
While Democrats imagine Biden’s victory proves the sanity of the USA, the truth is far more frightening
Most people are totally unaware of how slender Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump was. Most people look at the millions of people who voted and the number of Electoral College votes Biden has amassed. By either measure, Biden’s victory seems overwhelming.
Biden received 81,282,903 votes and Trump received 74,223,030 votes. Biden has (unless members of the Electoral College decide to cast their votes for Trump, as they are legally able to do and as some did during the 2016 election) 306 Electoral College votes versus Trump’s 232.
Everyone and their pet hamster are jumping up and down and squealing excitedly about the result. Democrats imagine this proves the “robustness” of the US system while Republicans imagine this proves the election was “stolen.”
Both groups are totally wrong.
Trump very nearly won a second term and lost only by the narrowest of margins imaginable.
Here’s what The Economist points out in an article published online on 10th December 2020: Four years ago Democrats groused that Donald Trump had secured victory in the presidential election through razor-thin victories in three states, meaning that 77,774 voters in effect swung the election. This time, despite a lopsided popular vote in the Democrats’ favour, the electoral-college margin was even thinner. The final, certified results show that had 43,560 voters, or 0.03% of the total, in three states (Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin) changed their minds, there would have been a tie in the electoral college. That would then have been decided by an even more arcane, less-majoritarian election in the House of Representatives, …(almost certainly)… in Mr Trump’s favour — making it the third time in 20 years that Democrats would have lost the presidency despite winning the popular vote.
You read that correctly: the most important election in the world in a nation of 332,000,000 people was decided by 43,560 voters. In other words, despite the surface appearance, Biden won as a result of 0.028% of the total number of votes cast.
Or to put it another way, thanks to the uniquely dysfunctional US Electoral College system, Biden could have lost the US presidential election despite receiving 6,972,753 more votes than Trump had those 43,560 voters swung the other way.
Biden could have won 9.39% more votes than Trump and still Trump would have won a second term.
As those who’ve read my previous articles will know, I’m no fan of representative democracy because it has no redeeming features and is riddled with deeply harmful systemic flaws. But even for those who naively continue to imagine that representative democracy isn’t entirely unfit for purpose must surely realize that the US Electoral College is uniquely terrible. It is in every way imaginable a complete distortion of representative democracy, permitting the loser to become the winner and systemically favoring the far-right Republican Party over the center-right Democratic Party in every US presidential election since the early twentieth century.
With a Supreme Court skewed 6:3 in favor of the ultra-right it is implausible to imagine that any change is possible and so the Electoral College will in the years ahead play its inglorious part in ensuring the election of a Republican president who will succeed where Trump failed and create a de facto dictatorship.
And when it happens, most Democratic voters will sit scratching their heads, wondering how it happened that the “greatest nation on Earth” could end so ignominiously.
It would be comical were the consequences not so dire.