In 2016, the system worked. It was not a “wrong-winner election” or a fluke. One reason the American Founders put the Electoral College into the Constitution was to protect against regional politics. For late 19thCentury Democrats, it was the South. They could win the most popular votes based on intense regional support there, but that was not enough.
For Democrats today, it’s the big cities, especially on the West Coast and in the North East. They enjoy intense regional support, but lack the geographic diversity required to win the Electoral College. Some Democrats want to change the rules, but others have been blunt about where the fault lies: with the Clinton campaign.
“Clinton’s failure to attract enough supporters in Michigan and its Rust Belt neighbors Wisconsin and Pennsylvania cost her the election,” the Washington Post pointed out in its post-election analysis. Democrat experts interviewed for the article chalked it up to a series of strategic mistakes, including some made in the final two weeks.”
Some of these failures no doubt flowed from the Clinton campaign’s wrong belief, encouraged by the media, that it had an insurmountable lead. Two weeks before the election, ABC News reported: “As polls show the Democratic nominee widening her lead over Republican Donald Trump, her campaign is aiming not just to win the White House on Nov. 8, but to have decisive victories up and down the ballot.”
The Post analysis also pointed out that Clinton tried to win by trashing Trump rather than trumpeting her own message. “One error was to stick with a long-standing, one-dimensional campaign strategy: attacking Donald Trump.” The story goes on to recount the frustration of Clinton allies in Wisconsin, a state the candidate did not even visit, over her inability to articulate an economic message there.
The Clinton campaign’s inability to excite voters outside the biggest cities is not a reason to change the Constitution, or to otherwise manipulate election rules. Democrats would be better off learning from those past mistakes. And all Americans benefit from an election system that tips the scales away from regional politics.