Why the Electoral College Will Be Banished

Why the Electoral College Will Be Banished

By John C. Dvorak

This is a reprise of a column written over 15 years ago exclusively for the blog. I’d mention it or point to it every few years. The feedback was always skepticism. While the Electoral college is often the target of the left who wish the most populous states call the shots for the President, nothing has come of those complaints.

Other progressive campaign such as the one for campaign finance reform will never get much media support. Notso with this Electoral College elimination. This is because the great beneficiary will be the media itself. Let’s take another look at this thesis.

Over time national elections in the USA have evolved into serving two distinct functions. The first is obvious, it's to re-elect representatives. The other, less obvious, is to finance mass media with infusions of advertising dollars. The second, less apparent function, is why campaign finance reform will never get very far. And it's why the Electoral College will be eliminated in the years ahead.

When people of either party talk about leveling the playing field with campaign finance reform one party always blames the other when it isn’t implemented. Instead, you should blame the media.

The history of campaign finance reform has one interesting anomaly: both political parties at one time or another support it but have never compromised on implementation. Every time someone comes close to it there is always circumvention.

Clinton's "soft money" scandal comes to mind as well as the growth of odd PACS and exempt organizations. If everyone wants reform why does this circumvention always happen?

Just look to the media to see how it happens. It's the media that highlights infractions and circumventions to skew reform and panic both sides into spending more money on these campaigns in new and creative ways. Where does all that money go? To the media. The media, not the candidates, are the beneficiaries of campaign spending. Why would the media want to see this gravy train stop?

But it's the newest threat to this income flow that now has the media concerned. The newest campaign strategies more carefully target key states for the bulk of the Presidential campaign spending - the bulk of the money.

Some states, such as California and other states, whose voter outcome is a foregone conclusion, get very little national campaign spending dollars. The big networks also got stiffed during the last election as all the real money went to states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida where there were a lot of electoral votes and which were on the fence.

What was interesting to me, being in California and Washington during the election was how people from the swing states were telling tales about tough-hitting advertising and the overall deluge of advertising.

We, out West, meanwhile, thought things were quite mild as there was very little activity.

Local media in Ohio, swimming in advertising dollars, isn't about to split the booty with California media outlets. This trend towards targeted campaigning is not stopping anytime soon. The only way to stop it is to eliminate the Electoral College and go to a national popular vote.

The fact that Bush lost the popular vote (by one account) to Gore in 2000 was the leverage the media first needed to begin a belated campaign to discredit the Electoral College. Hillary’s popular vote victory hastened the trend.

Added to this was the media creating the "red states" and "blue states" concept, something that nobody much heard of prior to the Bush campaigns. The media has even managed to place the terminology into the popular lexicon as commentators now regularly refer to red states and blue states reinforcing the concept.

This dichotomy between the two types of states along with constant usage of the terms "divisive" and "divisiveness" by the media (and now the politicians themselves) promotes the notion that we are splitting apart along political lines in ways that we've never witnessed before. This is hardly true as any history professor will attest. But it's true enough to require some sort of political reform to supposedly make the country whole again, right?

That reform will eventually come around to the dissolution of the “old-fashioned" and "unnecessary" Electoral College.

Once the Electoral College is gone then Presidential campaign spending will once again be normalized across the nation and flow back into the network and national mass media. And that means these elections are going to be even more expensive and all that new money goes right to the media companies. And that's what it's really all about.—jcd

Revisited and updated, Jan. 19, 2020