Saturday, October 27, 2012

Minority President

Although I don’t think it’s going to happen, the Villagers are positing that the election could be close enough that Barack Obama could lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College.  And they predict consternation if that happens.

One such Villager is Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post.

A win in the electoral college that is not accompanied by one in the popular vote casts a shadow over the president and his ability to govern.

If Obama is re-elected that way, “the Republican base will be screaming that Romney should be president, and Obama doesn’t represent the country,” McKinnon predicted. “It’s going to encourage more hyperpartisanship.”

Josh Marshall has a response: Spare me.

Now, the possibility of election without a national majority exposes a genuine glitch in our system. No doubt. It is also true that these are the rules we play under and there is little reason to think that we’d have just the same result if both candidates were trying to maximize raw vote nationwide. Think how many more votes both candidates would mobilize in New York, California and Texas — not to mention among African-American voters in hopelessly red states in the South. But mainly to those making these arguments I would make the following points: Get over it and most of all STFU.

When a president wins election but doesn’t win with a majority of the popular votes (vide Richard Nixon in 1968, Bill Clinton in 1992), he’s called a minority president and it’s supposed to force them into building a coalition with the parties because he’s perceived as not being a strong leader.  (In Mr. Obama’s case, “minority president” has a little more meaning.)  But that didn’t happen with Mr. Nixon or Mr. Clinton.  They took the oath.  They’re in the Oval Office.  They’ve got the launch codes.

The last president to lose the popular vote and win the election was George W. Bush in 2000.  Not only were the Republicans perfectly happy with that outcome — we heard a lot of “Get over it and most of all STFU” from them — Mr. Bush went ahead and governed as if he had won in a landslide.

It’s all a matter of perception.  Act like you won big and people will think you did.  As for the talk of “hyperpartisanship,” all I can say is welcome back to Earth and did you enjoy your four years in the Delta Quadrant?

I would much rather that Barack Obama wins both the popular vote and the Electoral College (and Nate Silver is saying his chances are good that he will), but if he is a minority president, I hope he governs like he beat the snot out of them.  The GOP will richly deserve it.

5 barks and woofs on “Minority President

  1. I looked into this same issue, and found that three times in our history (1876, 1888 and, as you mentioned, 2000) a president has won the electoral vote with a minority (not even a plurality) of the popular vote… and three out of three of those times THE WINNER WAS A REPUBLICAN. Each time (Hayes, Harrison and Bush), the minority winner took office and served as president. (source)

    So if I hear any howls of outrage or even whines of unfairness from a Republican if Obama wins that way this time, I shall clean out his nose with a pipe cleaner, and contemplate doing his ears, too. Like it or not, those are the rules. And they’re unlikely ever to change, because the system is to the advantage of small states, and there are enough small states to prevent a constitutional amendment from ever passing.

    (Bleep) ‘em if they can’t take a joke they’ve used themselves!

  2. Good point, Steve, but Obama is going to win. Nate Silver thinks the chances are good, and so do the bookies in Las Vegas according to what I have read. I am cautiously optimistic.

  3. I’ve long used Marshall’s argument to live comfortably with the EC. The problem with it is not that the wrong person can be elected, but the negative effects it has on the states and how it distorts federal lawmaking. Whatever the 1% who live in Iowa want, they get.

    It is very funny that McKinnon thinks that things could be more partisan than they already are. How exactly would that be? Presidential assassination attempts from within Boehner’s office?

  4. When Bush won you didn’t hear a peep about compromise because he lost the popular vote. The difference is that Democrats accept the result and get on with their lives. If Obama loses the popular vote the ranting from the Fox crew and the rabid right radio ranters will go on endlessly accompanied by letters to the editor etc. from their brain dead followers.

  5. I remember reading an editorial apology from the Bloomington Indiana Herald-Telephone paper because they demanded before the election that Gore give the presidency to Bush should Gore win the EC but lose in the popular, as was expected at the time, and then they did not make a similar demand after Bush won the EC but lost the popular. I just hope President Obama is not in one of his “bend over backwards conciliatory” moods should this happen to him.

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