Mr. Crawford, thank you for your considered response. I’m sorry you felt like you’ve been stuck in the shallows, but perhaps your arguments can drag us into deeper water.
The answer to your first question is obvious because you allude to it further on — depth vs. breadth of support for a national candidate = legitimacy. If votes are concentrated by one defined characteristic, whatever we choose it to be, that is deep; but if it is characterized by a diverse set of interests, that support is broad. It just so happens that historically politics in America has been defined by geography. We have 58 elections on which to test that, so it’s silly to deny. Whether we think that makes sense or not is irrelevant (it does due to regional economic and cultural interests). It defines our national politics (refer to the graphic!). The question is what does it imply for our democracy?
And there you have decided that democracy for you means 50%+1 of the national popular vote. But that does not define democracy, that defines a simple majoritarian rule for evaluating a result. From a statistical pov it is a random result with the delegitimacy that imposes on the 50%-1 “minority.” Translating “one person = one vote” into a simple majority rule is fraught with negative consequences, but let’s not swim there now. Suffice to say, I doubt the 50%-1 would accept the result, so there goes the “broad public perception” and democracy.
If you can perceive my arguments, the history of the EC is fairly irrelevant except in ways it has reinforced or weakened the strength of a union of 50 sovereign states (and they do religiously guard their sovereignty). I sense that you believe state organization is irrelevant today because of the homogeneity of the culture. But that view wholly disregards how our politics is divided into overlapping constituencies and how our governing institutions are organized. It’s also starkly contradicted by the actual voting results of 58 national elections (empirical science is so inconvenient?) The “central issue” was decided long before you or I came along and to deny sovereign states is to redefine the USA. So refuting the history of the EC is merely flagging a strawman.
It’s ironic that you cannot perceive that the fundamental flaw of the EC that you cite — that it reduces legitimacy — contradicts your entire argument and reinforces the one I have made here. I have made no value judgments concerning the results of the 2016 election, only addressed the statistical significance of the results. The national will or “consent of the governed” is an abstraction that our voting process seeks to make concrete. So democratic voting provides us with little more than a statistical inference of the will or consent of the people. Trump won? So cry me a river. We want the losers of a democratic election to look in the mirror, admit they got some things wrong, adapt and come back in four years with a better plan and win. This hasn’t quite happened, has it? And the purpose of writing an essay like this is to explain why.
You have explicitly made clear that you don’t like the particular result of one election. “The people voted for Ms. Clinton.” Well, some of them did. So, should we care? Only if there are objective, universal, principled arguments one can make against the Electoral College. They can be made, but you haven’t made any here.