The electoral college is an excellent system

Those who demand direct popular election of the president should be advised that this is what we have — in 51 jurisdictions (the states and the District). And the electoral vote system quarantines electoral disputes. Imagine the 1960 election under direct popular election: John F. Kennedy’s popular vote margin over Richard M. Nixon was just 118,574. If all 68,838,219 popular votes had been poured into a single national bucket, there would have been powerful incentives to challenge the results in many of the nation’s 170,000 precincts.

Far from being an unchanged anachronism, frozen like a fly in 18th-century amber, the electoral college has evolved, shaping and shaped by the party system. American majorities are not spontaneous growths, like dandelions. They are built by a two-party system that assembles them in accordance with the electoral college’s distribution incentive for geographical breadth in a coalition of states. So, the electoral college shapes the character of majorities by helping to generate those that are neither geographically nor ideologically narrow, and that depict, more than the popular vote does, national decisiveness. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson won just 41.8 percent of the popular vote but conducted a strong presidency based on 81.9 percent of the electoral votes. Eighty years later, Bill Clinton won 43 percent of the popular vote but 68.7 percent of the electoral votes. In 2008, Barack Obama won 52.9 percent of the popular vote but 67.8 percent of the electoral vote.

The 48 elections since 1824 have produced 18 presidents who received less than 50 percent of the popular vote. The greatest of them, Abraham Lincoln, received 39.9 percent in 1860. So, on Monday, when the electors cast their votes in their respective states, actually making Donald Trump the president-elect, remember: Do not blame the excellent electoral vote system for the 2016 choice that was the result of other, and seriously defective, aspects of America’s political process.