Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Right-wingers are attacking Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats for seeking to abolish or circumvent the Electoral College. Charlie Pierce offers a history lesson:

That's true. A November 1, 2000, story in the New York Daily News was headlined "Bush Set to Fight Electoral College Loss." Premised on the notion that Al Gore, not George W. Bush, might win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote, the story quoted a Bush aide about the campaign's response if that happened:
"The one thing we don't do is roll over," says a Bush aide. "We fight."

How? The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. In league with the campaign - which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness - a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. "We'd have ads, too," says a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted.

"Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. "You think 'Democrats for Democracy' would be a catchy term for them?" asks a Bush adviser.
Maybe they wouldn't have been able to persuade Electoral College electors -- who are usually party stalwarts -- to switch their votes. But we know they would have tried, because they told us.

Which is why Dave Weigel is right about a hypothetical future election in which a Republican wins the popular vote and loses the Electoral College:

In 2000, if Gore had won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, and if the GOP perceived that Democrats had a structural advantage that made a similar outcome likely in future presidential cycles, not only would Republicans have been agitating to get rid of the Electoral College, they would have browbeaten Democrats and the mainstream media into supporting the move. They've always been good at that, while Democrats and the media have always been fearful of being attacked by the GOP. If they were unable to prevent the electors from choosing Gore, they might have refused to certify the results of the electoral vote. Even if they didn't go that far, they would have made abolishing the Electoral College the #1 topic of conversation in D.C. throughout the transition and the first few months of the Gore presidency, painting opponents of change as haters of democracy. They also would have treated Gore as an illegitimate president, hamstringing him from Day One, using the circumstances of his victory as an excuse. It wouldn't be long before angry consumers of conservative media were bombarding Democrats in Congress with furious messages demanding the end of the Electoral College. Support for the status quo would be portrayed as left-wing extremism. The Electoral College would have been gone or neutralized by '04.


Fast-forward to today. Here's Matt Schlapp -- head of the American Conservative Union and husband of Mercedes Schlapp, the Trump administration's director of strategic communications --, using the Electoral College debate to make fact-free claims of voter fraud enabled by "open borders" Democrats:

You know why the popular vote's been diminished, Sandra? It's because you literally have Democrats who want to have an open Southern border. They don't want to have borders in our country. When people get released into the interior of our country and they're here illegally, they then want to give them a credential like a driver's license, and then in Kamala Harris's home state of California they have changed all the voting rules so that it is very easy for people who are not on the voting rolls to vote. Or people remain on the voting rolls after they are dead, or after they're no longer eligible to vote.
People talk about that crazy senile Donald Trump insisting that he lost the popular vote only because millions of ineligible people voted for Hillary Clinton. It's widely assumed that he believes this because he's experiencing mental deterioration to go along with his lifelong ego fragility. Smart people laugh this off -- but here's a GOP operative saying the same thing, with, as Lis Power notes in the tweet, no pushback from the "straight news" interviewer on Fox. This will be a mainstream argument going forward not just against a compassionate immigration policy, but against abolishing the Electoral College. And a majority of white America will probably think it makes perfect sense.

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