Donald Trump realizes that democracy is a threat to Republicans — and his reelection
In a pair of overnight tweets, Donald Trump dismissed winning the popular vote as “easier” than carrying the Electoral College—despite having previously stated that the Electoral College is stacked in Democrats’ favor. Then he took it a step further, declaring that the Electoral College is “better for the U.S.A.” and that when it comes to a popular-vote based election, “we can’t let that happen.”
The threat that Trump feels he has to stop? Democracy—specifically the horrible idea of one person, one vote. According to Trump, running the election on the popular vote would mean that “the Cities would end up running the Country” while “Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power.” Which is completely untrue. Rural areas, smaller states, and the Midwest would have exactly as much power as their population deserved, rather than being allocated a lopsided power that values people living in some states much more highly than others, as the Electoral College does today.
Since losing the popular vote by over three million, Trump has constantly found ways to claim that simply did not happen. His first position was to claim that Hillary Clinton had cheated, and Democrats could not have racked up so many votes without either turning in tubs of fake ballots or registering millions of illegal aliens. That’s the position that had Trump create a commission on vote fraud under the ever untrustworthy eye of former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—a commission that broke up early, and ignominiously, with its own members stating that Trump and Kobach never really planned to investigate anything, and no evidence surfacing to support Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud that led to “three to five million” fake votes for Clinton.
Trump’s second position was always a little fuzzy. He made numerous statements about winning the popular vote being easier, and that if he had spent more time campaigning in places where he was beloved, it could have run up the totals so that he walked away with that prize. Trump never actually followed through on that thought by admitting that he lost the popular vote. He just emphasized that it was so much easier than racking up a win by clipping off a handful of votes in states that carried a critical weight in the Electoral College.
Now Trump is making it clear that the idea of every American getting an equal vote is anathema to Republicans specifically because it would mean an end to valuing some Americans more than others. There are two reasons this is the case: One is racism. The other is that the idea of conducting the election via popular vote just might happen.
Changing the system at the national level so that votes are actually awarded for votes rather than according to a system that was set up specifically to protect the interest of rural slaveholders would seem to require a constitutional amendment. And with Republicans realizing that their survival as a viable party—at least at the presidential level—is heavily dependent on keeping every American voter from having an equal share in the outcome, that’s a fight that’s sure to be long and difficult.
But there’s a way to effectively bring the same results much sooner, and that process is moving ahead with surprising speed. The National Popular Vote Compact is legislation, signed at the state level, in which states agree to give all their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Because the way in which states allocate their electoral votes is constitutionally awarded to each state, if enough states sign on to this agreement, it would effectively nullify the Electoral College and end the system that makes some states a whole lot less equal than others.
The magic number is 270. That’s how many electoral votes it takes to secure victory. So if states containing that number of votes sign on, it really doesn’t matter what’s done in the rest. On March 15, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed the National Popular Vote bill, making Colorado the twelfth state to pass the National Popular Vote interstate compact. On March 18, another bill to join the National Popular Vote Compact passed the Delaware legislature. Colorado’s legislation put the total electoral votes of states who had signed on at 181. Delaware would add three more. Another bill is sitting on the desk of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, waiting for her signature. That would be five more.
There are still several states where action looks possible in advance of the 2020 election. Oregon, Nevada, Maine, and Virginia all look like possible additions in the next year. That would put the total at 206 electoral votes. Securing the final 63 votes means taking in some of those same states where Trump eked out a narrow margin in 2016. Pennsylvania would need to sign on. So would Michigan. But the votes to take the compact over the top are definitely obtainable, if not this cycle, then certainly in time for the 2024 election.
And that is, of course, why Donald Trump was tweeting about the popular vote on Tuesday night. It was just a random thought. His tweet says, “I now realize the Electoral College is far better.” Because it shields him and his party from having to face an America where each person has an equal say. The reason that idea is so frightening to Trump and the Republicans is also written right into his tweet. When Trump says “the Cities would end up running the Country,” he’s blowing hard on the same “urban voters” dog whistle that his white nationalist fanbase is all tuned-up to understand. He means black voters. He means immigrants.
It takes very little interpretation to see that what Trump’s tweets mean is that keeping the Electoral College is vital to maintaining an unequal control over the country by his white power base. And on that he’s absolutely right—far, far right.