It’s almost as if the New York Times editorial board was taken over by fools from Media Matters, Salon, Slate, and Think Progress. It is the only rational explanation for their unhinged rant against the electoral college in their Monday edition. It is bereft of any facts about the actual creation of the electoral college. Instead, it relies on revisionist history, claiming the electoral college was birthed due to slavery:
The Electoral College, which is written into the Constitution, is more than just a vestige of the founding era; it is a living symbol of America’s original sin. When slavery was the law of the land, a direct popular vote would have disadvantaged the Southern states, with their large disenfranchised populations. Counting those men and women as three-fifths of a white person, as the Constitution originally did, gave the slave states more electoral votes.
This kind of thinking is lazy in that it doesn’t seek to make an argument, but instead, projects on to others the motives the Times editorial can use to shame people into agreeing with them. “The Electoral College exists due to slavery. Why on earth would you continue to defend such a system?” They don’t rely on facts or logic. Their goal is to tug at emotional heartstrings and hope people won’t pay attention to their complete lack of historical coherence.
First, at the time constitutional convention, only five of the thirteen states had wholly or partially abolished slavery by law (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania). Massachusetts was the only state to have abolished slavery altogether. In fact, in 1788 when the Constitution was ratified, New York passed a new slave law, confirming that all current slaves at the time, were slaves for life. So this notion that there was some compromise with the “southern states” is hogwash. Furthermore, if you read the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention (James Madison’s journal is fascinating reading), you will not find any discussions related to the electoral college and electing the President that happen within the context of the convention’s debates over slavery.
The Times then moves on to the popular vote argument:
Conservative opponents of a direct vote say it would give an unfair edge to large, heavily Democratic cities and states. But why should the votes of Americans in California or New York count for less than those in Idaho or Texas? A direct popular vote would treat all Americans equally…
The votes in Calfornia and New York do not count for less in Idaho or Texas thanks to the electoral college. If a candidate wins Calfornia (55) and New York (29), they receive 84 electoral votes. Texas (38) and Idaho (4) account for half of that total with 42. Of the five most populous states (California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois), three are gimmes for Democrats — Calfornia, New York, and Illinois. Combined they account for 104 electoral votes – 39% of what a Democrat needs to get to 270.
The process of protecting smaller states from the whims of the larger, more populous states is precisely why the electoral college exists. Contrary to what the editors of the New York Times think, we are not one large nation where the federal government reigns supreme. We are a republic made up of semi-sovereign states. That sovereignty is what protects states like Wyoming and Montana from states such as New York and California. The people living in these different states both have their sets of values. The electoral college protects a state like Wyoming (the minority) from a state like California (the majority) in that the country is not governed by the say-so of the most populous states in the union. Under the electoral college, all states have a voice.
If the Times wants to advocate for abolishing the electoral college, they should do so without such a poor knowledge of history. The tactic of pointing to slavery as a means of attempting to upend everything they hate in the constitution (the electoral college, the second amendment, etc.) is a cynical ploy that unfortunately targets people who have a far worse knowledge of history than the NY Times Editorial board. They know this. They rely on that ignorance to fuel anger. Once emotion is involved, reason goes out the window.
That is not a recipe for success, but one that promises disaster.