Throughout history, majorities have used the power of government to disadvantage minorities. This is one of the many reasons why Americans should resist calls to abolish the Electoral College and instead elect the president on the basis of a pure national popular vote.
The Electoral College obliges candidates to form coalitions. A national popular vote does the opposite. In fact, with a true national popular vote, the emergence of dissident parties becomes more likely, potentially leading to a minority of the population (which obtains a plurality of votes) choosing the next president. This would elevate extreme opinions with staunch followers versus seeking a larger consensus.
The Electoral College prevents such results by making our presidential elections not a popular nationwide election, but a race that involves separate state elections, thereby preserving and protecting the influence of minority groups while building consensus.
A wide range of groups – ranging from gun owners to environmentalists and others – are gaining more influence under the Electoral College, and so are racial groups.
In 1979, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., president of the Black Leadership Forum, testified before the Senate to express “the strongest opposition to the proposal to abolish the Electoral College,” warning that “valuable, albeit limited, political influence , blacks Americans would be reduced in the event of direct elections.
He warned that a presidential candidate like segregationist George Wallace could “flourish without the restrictive influence of the general-purpose constituency system.” Simply put, in the Electoral College system, no serious political party can embrace truly racist appeals, which is why the two main parties also spend so much time accusing the other of racist actions.
If you doubt the importance of minority voters, think about how much time the recent Republican National Convention devoted to minority speakers and appeals to minority communities. Even though Republicans have historically not garnered a large chunk of minority votes, in the Electoral College system these voters are still in demand.
The same is true for other groups which on their own may not constitute a majority, but which are of great value to politicians as part of a coalition, such as pro-life citizens or members of the coalition. ‘a syndicate.
These and other important questions are addressed in Safeguard: An Electoral College Story, a documentary that the Oklahoma Public Affairs Council helped fund. It clearly shows why those who care about minority rights should be the Electoral College’s most ardent defenders.
Jonathan Small is chairman of the Oklahoma Public Affairs Council (www.ocpathink.org).