Politics & Other Mistakes: An unpopular opinion about the popular vote


Oh swell, now I’m in bed with a racist.

There I was half-awake on a peaceful Saturday morning, musing about what a horrible thing it would be if a bill before the Legislature to bypass the Electoral College in presidential elections and rely instead on the popular vote becomes law, when I rolled over to find myself face to face with former Gov. Paul LePage.

“Actually, what would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do is white people will not have anything to say,” LePage whispered to me. “It’s only going to be the minorities that would elect (the president).”

Then, he blew me a kiss.

I awoke screaming from this nightmare, only to discover that the LePage quote is real, spewed out during one of his bizarre radio interviews. The ultra-liberal Maine People’s Alliance jumped all over that, declaring that not only was the former Republican chief executive a racist (true enough), but so was the entire Electoral College (which, in a bizarre twist, means the alliance agrees with LePage about it empowering white voters).

The National Popular Vote initiative works like this. Participating states (so far, there are 11 plus the District of Columbia) agree to give all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote nationwide. So, if in 2020, Maine voted for a candidate I’ll call “Donald” (just to pull a name out of thin air), but another candidate I’ll arbitrarily dub “Hillary” got the most votes at the polls all across the country, “Hillary” would receive all four of Maine’s electoral votes.

Even though we didn’t vote for her.

Aside from this unfairness, there’s the matter of Maine’s quirky system of awarding electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district. If “Donald” defeated “Hillary” in the 2nd District, “Donald” would be entitled to one electoral vote, reflecting the wishes of voters in the part of the state where most restaurants wouldn’t be caught dead serving kale. The new rules say that won’t happen; “Hillary” gets all the electoral votes. The anti-kale crowd can pound sand.

To give LePage his due, the overwhelming majority of those disenfranchised voters in northern Maine are white, while in the state’s 1st District … hmmm, the overwhelming majority of voters are also white.

In reality, the Electoral College protects small states like Maine from big states like California by giving us twice as much influence in selecting a president as our meager population would otherwise allow. Is this undemocratic? Yes, but we don’t live in a democracy. The college was the Founding Fathers’ (partially successful) attempt to make the choosing of the president as representative of all viewpoints as possible. It also protected us from what the Proprietary Pops called the tyranny of the majority.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t that majority composed almost entirely of white men?

It appears that, as usual, LePage has it exactly backwards. The National Popular Vote would allow the largest segment of the population – white people – to impose its will on every other ethnic group. The Electoral College is the institution designed to protect us from that happening.

That it doesn’t always work perfectly (see Richard Nixon, Warren G. Harding, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump) is no reason to abandon it for reckless experimentation in ceding presidential selection to the most populous states.

Most of which are full of sketchy white people.

Unlike one-person-one-vote, you can email me as often as you like at [email protected].