Short Take: A Tyranny, No Matter What

In her very first New York Times column, Michelle Goldberg digs deep into her Slate-level thoughts to come up with a way to circumvent the electoral college and save the Union (from the apocalypse).

Since Donald Trump’s cataclysmic election, the unthinkable has become ordinary. We’ve grown used to naked profiteering off the presidency, an administration that calls for the firing of private citizens for political dissent and nuclear diplomacy conducted via Twitter taunts. Here, in my debut as a New York Times columnist, I want to discuss a structural problem that both underlies and transcends our current political nightmare: We have entered a period of minority rule.

I don’t just mean the fact that Trump became president despite his decisive loss in the popular vote, though that shouldn’t be forgotten. Worse, the majority of voters who disapprove of Trump have little power to force Congress to curb him.

On the one hand, Goldberg may be misreading the way in which elections happen in America. If presidents were elected by popular vote, the dynamic across the nation would change. People who might have voted but stayed home because they figured they were in the minority in their state, and their vote wouldn’t have mattered anyway, might have voted.

Does that mean Trump might have won the popular vote? It’s possible. It’s also possible he would have been crushed. That’s the nature of unknowns. Goldberg should learn about unknowns, even though no such thing exists at Slate.  So she’s internalized the narrative that the evil is the electoral college, Barack Obama’s being elected twice notwithstanding.

A combination of gerrymandering and the tight clustering of Democrats in urban areas means that even if Democrats get significantly more overall votes than Republicans in the midterms — which polls show is probable — they may not take back the House of Representatives. (According to a Brookings Institution analysis, in 2016, Republicans won 55.2 percent of seats with just under 50 percent of votes cast for Congress.)

And because of the quirks of the 2018 Senate map, Democrats are extremely unlikely to reclaim that chamber, even if most voters would prefer Democratic control. Some analysts have even suggested that Republicans could emerge from 2018 with a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority.

All of this may be true, but Goldberg begs the question. The only way those nasty Republicans can screw with truth, justice and apple pie is to be in office, to hold majorities, to win. Sequence matters. Did I mention Barack Obama?

The distortion carries over to the Electoral College, where each state’s number of electors is determined by the size of its congressional delegation. This would matter less if the United States weren’t so geographically polarized. But America is now two countries, eyeing each other across a chasm of distrust and contempt. One is urban, diverse and outward-looking. This is the America that’s growing. The other is white, provincial and culturally revanchist. This is the America that’s in charge.

So it’s not just the tyranny of the minority, but the deplorable white, provincial and “culturally revanchist” minority. Goldberg has a solution for this constitutional cataclysm.

There are ways out.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — a plan in which states agree to award all their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner — could circumvent the Electoral College if enough states enacted it.

This would circumvent the Twelfth Amendment by flyover states handing their electoral college votes to coastal elites (of which, full disclosure, I am one), so that the right people got to decide who would be president and the wrong people would no longer be able to force a choice upon a nation because they’re too stupid to realize he’s awful.

So it’s time to end the tyranny of the minority and exchange it for the tyranny of the majority. As long as there is tyranny. Did I mention Barack Obama?

28 thoughts on “Short Take: A Tyranny, No Matter What

  1. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    Ms. Goldberg’s solution to all of this disagreement is agreement. Fantastic. Just get all of the states to agree on something. It’s that simple.

    Not white v. White. Revanchist and provincial v. outward-looking. Flyovers v. Coastal Elites. Good guys v. Bad guys. Us v. Them. Sigh. Don’t they know the only sides that matter are prole v. bougie? So much again for your “woke” progressives.

    What would your first article be about if you were so honored with a position at the NYT? Don’t pretend you haven’t thought about it. You think about the NYT every day.


    1. F5

      That’s a pretty good unintentionally funny line, but it does remind me that people tend to fail to consider what a close presidential race would look like if the popular vote counted. As bad as Florida was in 2000 imagine if it was the whole nation.

  2. Keith

    I’m shocked, shocked! that she made this into an ‘us vs them’ type of tribalism.
    Luckily her hatred for devastating tribalism has an clear, simple (and wrong) quick fix – where the them’s must give unto the us’s, the votes needed to win.

    Thankfully, this will never backfire as rules only exist in such as way and for so long as to cause “justice”.

    1. SHG Post author

      Well, it was her first post, and she did tell us in advance that she viewed her mandate as to “bear witness,” so…

  3. MonitorsMost

    So she thinks the House of Representatives should be a Democratic Party majority, even though Democratic candidates even though it’s candidates received 1.4 million votes than Republican candidates?

    Oh, that wasn’t apparent from the article? I guess Slaters gonna Slate, even if it means walking in the door and immediately befouling the rug at the New York Times.

    1. MonitorsMost

      That comment was a tragedy. My apologies. Republican House of Representatives candidates received 1.4 million votes than democratic House of Representative candidates. If I’m going to be a snarky asshole, I have to compose my comments better than that. Sorry to befoul your rug Scott.

      1. SHG Post author

        Under most circumstances, I would have just corrected the obvious error, but since you caught yourself, Ima let this one ride. The inability of the Dems to capture the house is one of a few glaring holes in the analysis, though she tries to cover with the gerrymandering point. While true, it falls far short of sufficient.

        The inherent myopic view of good v. evil makes it hard to see holes in your position, as they’re filled by one’s passionate belief in the One True God. It’s one of the reasons I’m not particularly fond of passionate people.

      1. the other rob

        Archer is an animated TV show. I don’t much care for it but SWMBO is a fan, so I’ve been exposed to it.

        In the show, there’s a meme that goes “Do you want ants? ‘Cos that’s how you get ants.” It has since been repurposed as “You want more Trump?…”

  4. Liz W

    She actually got to the heart of the matter, but then failed to follow through.

    》But America is now two countries, eyeing each other across a chasm of distrust and contempt. One is urban, diverse and outward-looking. This is the America that’s growing. The other is white, provincial and culturally revanchist. This is the America that’s in charge.

    The relationship has been dysfunctional and abusive for decades, it’s time to look at divorce. The coastal elites have no need for the rubes, and the ‘Muricans don’t want to be associated with the pansy liberals, so why force it? Fuck the union, it’s long since outlived it’s usefulness.

  5. Edward

    Wow! I am a culturally revanchist. I have no clue what that means, but it sound impressive. I will have to add that to my resume.

    Where do you find these gems?

    1. B. McLeod

      “Oh, those hits that Miller played,
      Songs that made The Hit Parade,
      Guys like us we had it made,
      Those were the days!”

  6. Christopher Best

    So her brilliant plan to prevent all those rascally low-population red states from electing the President is to get those *same states* to pass laws saying they won’t use the power that was given to them in The Great Compromise.

    1. SHG Post author

      That it won’t happen is one thing. But what if it did and she found out that in an actual popular election, American still kinda liked to be America rather than progressive Utopia? Wouldn’t that be a surprise.

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