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The popular vote

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Hillary Clinton is probably going to end up about two million votes ahead of President for life -elect Donald Trump in the national popular vote, once all of California’s votes are counted, as nearly 3.7 million votes in that state still haven’t been tallied (BTW what’s up with that? If California’s EC votes were crucial to the outcome and it was a closely contested state would we have to wait days or weeks to find out who won the election?

One argument that you’ll hear a lot is this one, as stated in comments by Dilan Esper:

I said this before, but “winning the popular vote” is a great argument for abolishing the electoral college but a terrible argument for declaring Trump, W, or any other President illegitimate.

Campaigns work the way they do due to the electoral college. They choose which states to campaign in, to spend resources in, and to get out the vote in. If the popular vote were the metric, they would deploy those resources very differently. They would run up the score in heavily red and blue states, for instance.

That ISN’T saying that Hillary wouldn’t have won. She probably would have. But it would have been a different election, and we don’t know for certain that Trump wouldn’t have found a different allocation of resources that got him over the finish line.

I really don’t look forward to four years of “Hillary won the popular vote”, unless it ends in reform of the electoral college.

It’s true of course that the campaign would have been waged differently if it consisted of a national popular vote instead of dozens of winner take all EC state elections.  But this only makes the argument for the illegitimacy of a popular vote loser/EC winner stronger.

After all, if Clinton and Trump had each poured resources into California and New York, what would have happened? What would have happened is eminently predictable: more people would have voted, which means, given the demographics of those states, Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote would have been even larger. The only large state that wasn’t hotly contested and that voted for Trump was Texas, so if the election had been a national popular vote its safe to say that Clinton would have won the popular vote by an even larger margin.

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