Constitutional Law Professor Drops Bombshell on 'Forgotten Americans' at Democrats' Electoral College Meeting

Jamie Raskin is a constitutional law and legislation professor at American University in Washington, D.C. and the director of the university's Program on Law and Government Leadership. He's also a member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland's eighth district who seeks to join the House Judiciary Committee.


Raskin is a major proponent of the national popular vote agreement discussed at the House Judiciary Committee's forum, "The Electoral College and the Future of American Democracy," which took place December 6.

"I see three basic problems [in] the way presidential elections are conducted today," Raskin began. "The campaigns themselves are not democratic; the institutions are not republican; the results are not majoritarian or even pluralitarian."

He asked the House members to "think about what democracy means from the standpoint of your district: One person, one vote, all votes count equally and the person who gets the most votes wins."

"That's how we elect governors, that's how we elect U.S. senators...council members, everybody, except for the president of the United States," Raskin pointed out. 

The professor obliterated the argument that the Electoral College levels the playing field between small and large states. 

"Can you imagine running for governor and saying I'm only going to go to two or three or eight of the congressional districts in my state? It just doesn't make sense," Raskin said. "But that's exactly what major party presidential candidates do every election."

For most Americans, the primaries were the last chance to catch a glimpse of a presidential candidate. 

"Consider 2016. There were never more than a dozen states in play, meaning the people living in 38 states, the vast majority of us, never saw any competitive campaigning in our states," Raskin told the House.

"We belong to the ignored and forgotten group of backdrop Americans whose political interests and desires are taken for granted."

As it turns out, the "forgotten Americans" in a general election are most Americans. 

"People living in three of the four of the country's largest states are bypassed completely," Raskin noted. "Texas, safe red; California and New York, safe blue ...no barnstorming, no rallies, no TV ads, no field offices, no campaigning except for fundraising events to harvest money to export to other states. That's not only undemocratic, it's bizarre."

The Electoral College works terribly for small states as well, and the proof is in both major party's campaigns. 

"In 2016 and our most recent five elections, 12 of the 13 smallest states, those with only three or four electors, have been total fly-over country," Raskin said, turning to areas neglected both by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the past few months. 

"Hillary Clinton did not spend any time, money or resources contesting the small red states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, Idaho or Wyoming and Donald Trump expended zero resources competing for the votes of Americans living in the small blue states of Rhode Island, Delaware, Vermont, Hawaii or the District of Columbia," Raskin said. 

Of the 13 smallest states, only New Hampshire attracts attention in both the primaries and the general election due to its rough equivalency of Democrats and Republicans. 

"The candidates don't go to big states or small states, they go to swing states, and within that lucky band of states, they go to the big ones," Raskin reminded the House.

Raskin looked back on what states really mattered to Trump and Clinton, despite the number of electoral votes allotted to those states. 

"Two-thirds of the general election campaign events staged by either the Trump or Clinton ticket this year took place in just six states: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan."

Almost every single appearance and event by the campaigns happened in just 12 states, leaving the vast majority of Americans on the sidelines.

"All told, the dozen smallest states in the country have about the same population of Ohio... [but] they actually have 40 electors, compared to Ohio's 18," Raskin added. 

Tens of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of staff hours were spent in Ohio, versus none in those smaller states. 

"The national popular vote agreement is the solution [to the Electoral College and low voter turnout]," Raskin noted. "[And it] arises from a movement of people in the states."

Raskin's ultimate goal is an amendment to the constitution to abolish the Electoral College. 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.