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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Shams in Winner's Circle

by John Brummett | November 22, 2020 at 9:13 a.m.

Railing against the electoral college is futile, but one more time won't hurt.

A fact-based diatribe seems called for, in fact, by a recent and flawed

editorial defense of our antiquated loser-glorifying presidential installation system.

The futility stems from the fact that Republicans can't win the presidency fair-and-square by the people but they control enough states to rebuff any proposed constitutional amendment changing this antiquated loser-glorifying electoral college.

So we're stuck with a system designed in part to protect slave-owning states that, twice already this century, has taken the Republicans' second-place nags to the winner's circle, even as one had Al Gore's dust in its face and the other had a lot more of Hillary Clinton's.

One of those nags started a war on a lie. The other is still at work defiling our White House and undermining fact, truth, decency, decorum and democracy.

The Washington Post chose to call editorially the other day for the abolition of this embedded atrocity of an electoral college. That caused a closer-to-home newspaper near and dear to us to reply with a sneer and a scoff.

The near-and-dear editorial dismissed the second-place victories granted the Republican war-starter and democracy-underminer by saying that nobody said anything when Bill Clinton became president without a majority of the vote.

The basic, profound and compelling difference is that, in his race in 1992, which included an uncommonly popular third option in Ross Perot, Clinton finished ... now follow me on this ... in first place.

He got more votes than anyone else running, which George W. Bush and this democracy underminer called Donald Trump didn't.

Clinton indeed got only 43 percent. But that was more than the 37 percent George H.W. Bush got, and more than the 19 percent Perot got.

Exceeding 50 percent is not the point. The point is second place being called first place, producing twice recently the horrible presidents the wise American rejection portended.

The near-and-dear editorialists also raised that lingeringly odd argument that abolishing the electoral college would mean little states would never again see in person the presidential candidates.

Beyond the obvious question--who cares?--the fact is that 40 or 42 states of all persuasions don't see the candidates now. The candidates spend all their time in the eight or 10 states that are battlegrounds and thus decide the presidency. If the candidates know that a state's electors are a lock, then they won't bother, whether that state be California with 55 electors or Arkansas with six.

In a popular-vote system, all of us would matter the same--one vote.

The near-and-dear editorialists also profess to worry that, without the electoral college, the big states could get together and conspire to pick the president every time. But they could do that more readily now with the electoral college. They'd just rig their electoral college delegations. They wouldn't have to bother with their ... you know ... people.

Beyond that, California, Texas, New York and Florida are not going to agree on one person. California and New York might settle on Andrew Cuomo. But Texas and Florida would insist on countering with someone more pro-virus.

One curious right-wing argument against relying on the national popular vote to choose the president is that Hillary Clinton's national margin over the democracy underminer was solely provided by California. It is that there are full-fledged American people and then there are these lesser things called Californians.

That's like saying Pulaski Countians shouldn't count in Arkansas, which, actually, they don't, though not because of an unfair system, but because of the people statewide, who rule, as the motto says--in Arkansas, but not the nation.

Anyway, it turns out that, this time, Joe Biden beat the democracy underminer by 5.9 million by latest count, but only by 5.1 million in the state that the right wing says doesn't count.

In other words, Biden beat Trump in the 49 real-people states, too.

Still, consider: With a rearrangement of a mere 80,000 votes, Donald Trump could have been re-elected in the electoral college this time though defeated by the people by a margin pushing 6 million. That's like declaring whatever nag finished second to Secretariat by 31 lengths at the Belmont in 1973 the Triple Crown winner.

The near-and-dear editorialists advised that we should not blame the electoral college when the people can't name a clear winner. But the people did name a clear winner, by right at 6 million votes, meaning Arkansas times two.

For that matter, Hillary Clinton was a clear winner by 2.8 million votes. And Gore's victory was narrow, but clear, by 530,000 votes. If you want something unclear, look at a couple of Pulaski County state legislative races.

Meantime, begin learning to say President Biden. And get this: He's neither preposterous, nor second-place, nor Russian-endorsed.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.


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