Elite Democrats are finally coming out against one of the most profoundly anti-democratic institutions in the U.S. political system — the electoral college — and it’s about time.
It’s not that Democrats as a whole have ever believed in the electoral college. But until now, the ones with the highest profiles and largest megaphones have tended to treat it with resignation. Sure, it’s a ridiculous feature of the system that was intended in the first place to circumvent democracy, but what are you going to do? Amending the Constitution requires the agreement of three-quarters of the states, and the Republican-run states would never sign on because the electoral college gives them an advantage? So why even talk about it?
But today’s Democratic Party is ready to talk about it, because the party is pretty well fed up with resigning itself to the indefensible, even if undoing it would be a challenge. And at a time when Democrats have an ambitious democracy reform agenda, they can’t leave the electoral college out of the discussion.
So it was that on Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for an end to the electoral college, in addition to advocating a constitutional amendment to protect voting rights. Pete Buttigieg told this blog, “It’s gotta go. We need a national popular vote.” Beto O’Rourke said “there’s a lot of wisdom” in getting rid of it. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) told Jimmy Kimmel, “I’m open to the discussion.” In the coming days, the other candidates will probably be asked about it, and I would be surprised if nearly all of them don’t agree.
Naturally, Republicans are horrified at the thought. And why shouldn’t they be? In two of the past five presidential elections, their candidate got fewer votes but managed to win because of the electoral college. But because they can’t just say “we like it because it gives us an advantage,” they have to come up with something that sounds like a nonpartisan rationale.