The Corner

Opponents of the Electoral College Try a ‘Tea Party’ Strategy

Much of the country is understandably focused on the revolution in Egypt, but an equally life-changing — if more stealthy — revolution continues here at home in America. Its proponents are attempting to win support by latching on to the highly successful Tea Party movement. But their cause is the precise opposite of what the Founders would have envisioned.

As I’ve previously written on NRO, the National Popular Vote movement is an effort to effectively eliminate the Electoral College without a constitutional amendment. NPV goes into effect when adopted by states holding a majority of electoral votes (270); to date, six states plus D.C. (74 electoral votes) are committed to the plan. Already this spring, NPV’s bill has been introduced in nearly a third of state legislatures and is moving in Alaska, Connecticut, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont. A state-by-state update is here.

NPV’s efforts in South Dakota reflect its new “Tea Party” strategy. It has convinced some Republicans from this red state that NPV is good from a conservative, Tea Party perspective: Allegedly, a national direct election will eliminate the focus on swing states, enabling conservative voices across the country to be heard. The nation leans center-right; thus, a national popular vote for president will reflect this sentiment and allow more center-right candidates to be elected. Or so NPV claims.

There are several problems with this analysis. First, it is wrong to eliminate the Electoral College based purely on temporary, partisan gain. Our Constitution contains safeguards such as the Electoral College so that freedom might be protected over the course of decades. The founding generation would never have understood tampering with fundamental law to protect one person or party at one point in time.

Second, it is a big leap to assume that conservatives will benefit the most from a transition to direct elections. Arguably, the short-term partisan gain will be for the Democratic party. Candidates who are striving for individual votes campaign most efficiently when they focus on big cities and densely populated areas — currently a Democratic strength. At a minimum, Tea Partiers should admit that arguments for conservative electoral strength sound somewhat insincere coming from a California-based organization, funded by liberals.

Finally, Tea Partiers should be wary of the roundabout manner in which NPV is seeking its goal. I have defended the benefits of the Electoral College and believe it should be kept. But if it is to be eliminated, respect for the Constitution requires use of the formal constitutional amendment process. Yes, such a process is difficult, but changes to fundamental law should not be made without great thought and widespread agreement. NPV instead relies on a handful of states to change the presidential election system for the whole country, with minimal debate and even less agreement.

The Tea Party has proven itself to be a powerful political force, so it is not surprising that NPV is adapting its pitch accordingly. But Tea Partiers will serve their country best if they continue to be wary of anti-constitutional ideas such as NPV.

— Tara Ross is the author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More