Like many liberals I have great, if not boundless, faith in our constitution. There’s been a copy in my briefcase for 45 years. It’s on my smartphone and tablet home screens, frequently consulted and read in its entirety many times, including several during my current gig teaching con law at the New Paltz campus of New York’s State University. In all those readings I’ve never noticed any reference to the popular vote in the selection of POTUS.
My first full review of the constitution was in 1968, getting ready to vote for the first time and also preparing to speak with 4th and 5th graders at Williamstown Elementary on School Street in Williamstown, Mass. The school had asked the Poli Sci department at Williams to send two majors to speak about the imminent election of a new president.
I kept the great thank you letters received after our presentations. Many mentioned the very complicated way we elect POTUS and the VP. My favorite said “thank you Lloyd for telling us all about the Electrical Collage.” Not one letter referenced the popular vote or protested that it was not utilized as in their own elections for class president and milk monitor.
Constant reference to Hillary’s popular vote “victory” is counterproductive on many levels. It delays the important work of finding, feeding and caring for a new crop of liberal candidates whose growth has been stunted by the 12 year focus on Hillary’s expected ascendancy. The popular vote has nothing to do with our constitution, the document that liberals will need as shield and sword for the next four years and beyond.
Hillary’s strategy was to win the Electoral College – never wasting time on the irrelevant national popular vote total. Indeed, in one projection, she reached and exceeded 270 electors with fewer popular votes than Trump. The progress toward 270 was chronicled daily in the media and on Nate Silver’s “538” website. Clinton’s 270 target (Trump’s was 269 because in a tie he would be elected by the Republican controlled House) shaped, or should have, where Clinton campaign resources were deployed. It focused not on safe red and blue states like Texas/Trump or California/Clinton but the roughly 15 swing states, including Wisconsin.
While the Badgers had voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in the previous seven elections, its Republican Governor Scott Walker was elected in 2010, survived an attempt at recall in 2012 and reelected in 2014. Russ Feingold, a liberal icon and my hero had been defeated in the 2010 senatorial election. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan is from Janesville, Wisconsin, where General Motors built Suburbans before closing the plant in 2009. Most important, Hillary had been soundly defeated by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary. There was no basis for complacency and every reason for Clinton to invest heavily in this Rustbelt swing state. Yet Hillary did not visit Wisconsin after losing the April 5 primary by more than 13 percent. Not once.
Food for thought liberals as we obsess about Comey’s crimes and Hillary’s meaningless popular vote total.