Liberal academics and politicians have blasted the Electoral College with moaning, groaning, and gnashing of teeth. Over and over again, they attempt to rewrite the history of America's unique presidential election process, claiming that it's nothing but a relic of slavery.
It's not that, of course. But some people believe that if they say something often enough, it becomes true.
Hillary Clinton's call to eliminate the Electoral College has been widely reported, but less attention has been given to a former member of her husband's presidential administration. Robert Reich recently urged listeners to "resist Donald Trump," but also to "make sure our democracy doesn't ever again elect a candidate who loses the popular vote."
The best method of making that happen, Reich believes, is the National Popular Vote legislation that is pending before many state legislatures.
Most Americans have never heard of NPV, but the California-based group has been operating quietly behind the scenes for years. NPV asks states to change the presidential election process through a simple contract between states, purportedly binding them to give their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote.
The plan goes into effect only when states holding 270 electoral votes (enough to win the presidency) have signed it. So far, ten states plus D.C. have agreed to these terms. They hold 165 electoral votes among them. Only 105 more electoral votes are needed.
If this were to happen, the Electoral College would exist on paper, but not in practice — a fact that Reich celebrates.
For anyone who has been following this issue, Reich's language is astonishing. His statements contradict everything that NPV has been telling legislators—especially red state legislators—for years. NPV has been steadfastly pretending that its proposal is pro-Constitution and pro-Electoral College. "Let's be clear," NPV lobbyist Laura Brod blasted several years ago. "The National Popular Vote legislation being voted on and supported by legislators across this great nation does NOT abolish the Electoral College." Other NPV lobbyists have routinely agreed. "[T]he idea that National Popular Vote ‘abolishes', ‘attacks', ‘neuters' or ‘subverts' the Electoral College, the Constitution or ‘intent of the founders,'" Jason Cabel Roe wrote, "is simply not true."
But in recent months, NPV supporters such as Reich have thrown this pretense out the window. Reich doesn't mince words. "We must make the Electoral College irrelevant," he says. "We must abolish the Electoral College."
He pushes for NPV because it is the easiest possible route to change. "Amending the Constitution is very hard," he complains, ignoring that this was precisely the founders' point in making it so. Reich prefers something easy, the Founders' intent be damned. If NPV is enacted with the support of just a few states, Reich concludes, then "it's done. We'll never again elect a President who loses the popular vote."
He surely wishes that were true. But it's not. NPV does not create a magical solution where "it's done," never to be dealt with again. To the contrary, states will be able to pop in and out of the contract.
For example, does anyone really expect Massachusetts to remain a signatory if it sees the writing on the wall and thinks that Donald Trump is about to win the national popular vote? And when the Bay State bails, other states would try to stop it. Someone would sue. The presidential election system would be in a constant state of upheaval. None of this is good for America.
Unfortunately, this small example barely scratches the surface. The logistical difficulties created by NPV are numerous and will end up overwhelming the system, as even the originators of the plan concede.
NPV proponents have known all of this for a long time. They've been putting up a good front for years, but elimination of the Electoral College was always their end game. They were just using NPV to "get past the initial inertia," as John Koza, the founder of NPV, admitted nearly a decade ago. They pretended otherwise, but they always knew that a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College would be the logical consequence of NPV.
Of course, given Reich's bold comments in recent days, perhaps NPV's secret is out of the bag.
Tara Ross is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders' Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule (Regnery Gateway).
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