Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
From George Washington to Donald Trump, there have been 45 American presidents and out of all the elections they have participated in, there have only been five times where the popular vote did not agree with the electoral college. However, because two of those elections have occurred within the last 20 years (Trump vs. Clinton, Bush vs. Gore), liberals believe we have a crisis on our hands that must be addressed.
Their plan to address this crisis is called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The idea is to get 270 electoral votes worth of states to sign up for it and then those states will promise to throw their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.
Democrats believe this will benefit them, but that is far from assured. Why? Because since the election isn’t decided on the popular vote, Republicans haven’t been competing to win the popular vote. For example, what sense would it have made for Donald Trump to spend major resources in California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois in 2016? He wasn’t going to win those states and everyone knew it, including Republican voters, millions of whom undoubtedly didn’t bother turning out because of it.
If the popular vote were to become the standard, Republicans would start spending major amounts of time and money in big liberal states and once that happens, there’s no reason to think that Democrats would have an advantage. In fact, if and when Texas turns blue, it would undoubtedly be to the Republican Party’s advantage to have the election decided by the popular vote.
However, deciding our elections based on the popular vote is a dangerous proposition for a number of reasons.
The first is that some form of democracy has been around for 2,500 years, but our Republic is the oldest surviving democratic nation on the planet right now. Despite that, we’ve never had a president refuse to transfer power or a coup. In fact, most Americans simply take it for granted that the military isn’t going to take over the government or that whoever wins the presidency will actually get to take office. Meanwhile, during that same time period, more than half the nations on earth have suffered a coup or coup d’état attempt. Given the importance of this and the long-running success the system created by the Founding Fathers has had, do we really want to make controversial and potentially destabilizing changes?
Keep in mind that this whole state pact is clearly and unambiguously unconstitutional, although that hasn’t seemed to mean much in the past decade or two. Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution says that, “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”
Imagine the nightmare that would occur if the Supreme Court allowed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to determine the winner of the election without the approval of Congress and the “winner” won the popular vote while the “loser” won the electoral college? This is an unlikely, but not impossible scenario and it could lead to a significant percentage of the population considering the president to be “illegitimate.”
It’s one thing to have some partisan dead-enders screeching about whether Obama was born in the U.S. or the Russians somehow magically got Trump into office, but what would happen if a significant percentage of Americans really believed this? Riots in the streets? Terrorism? Assassination attempts against the “illegitimate” president? It seems entirely possible.
Moreover, think back to the razor-close race between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000. They spent five weeks going back and forth, arguing about the legitimacy of “dimpled chads” while both sides accused the other of stealing the election. Even today, people are still angry about that election although unquestionably, if you look at the evidence, George W. Bush won. So, what happens if the popular vote decides the election and it’s EXTREMELY close. Then, we would have 50 Florida-style recounts.
Notice, I didn’t say “could,” I said “would.”
Because once we get in that situation, both sides are going to fight for every vote.
Imagine the impact of months’ worth of stories about controversial rulings and dodgy votes being counted dominating the news. Just that alone could be enough to make a president look illegitimate, but let’s imagine a worst-case scenario that is far from impossible. What if these endless lawsuits extended past Jan. 20th of the following year? In fact, let’s imagine that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact came into effect before the next election, which turned out to be too close to call and was mired in courtroom battles across multiple states on Jan. 20th, 2021.
What do you think the reaction would be if Donald Trump chose to stay in office and continue governing until a winner was declared? Again, are we back to riots in the streets? Terrorism? Assassination attempts against the “illegitimate” president? Granted, this could conceivably happen with one state under our current system, but it becomes much more likely with every state in the union involved?
Then there’s another possibility. What if a state or multiple states disagrees about who won the popular vote? You may think that couldn’t happen, but there have been controversial elections across the country that prove that isn’t so. The latest prominent example was Stacey Abrams who clearly, unambiguously lost the governorship of Georgia by 55,000 votes in 2018. To this day, everyone on the Left from Stacy Abrams on down insists that she really won.
Imagine a scenario like that after the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact took effect when multiple states decided that the “wrong person” was declared the winner of the popular vote. What do you think the chances are that say California or New York would unquestionably pledge their electoral votes to a candidate from the Republican Party in a highly controversial election? Imagine them declaring that the “real” winner was a Democrat and throwing the election to their side. Again, the potential consequences could be riots in the streets, terrorism and assassination attempts against the “illegitimate” president. Maybe even a coup.
With all that in mind, does this really make sense? Are we really so dead-set on taking the success and prosperity of America for granted that we’re willing to go down this dangerous road? Maybe we are. In fact, if Texas goes blue, you can be certain that it will be Republicans pushing this idea or something similar. But, as our Founding Fathers realized, it’s dangerous to our Republic and we should be very hesitant to take the sort of risk that moving to a popular vote model would create.
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