Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Election is Over

Ever since the election, we have been hearing about how unfair it is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and lost the electoral vote. There are a couple of realities that must be faced before that argument goes very far.

The first is that there is NOT a national presidential election. What? How can I say that? I can say it because it is true. There are 50 separate state elections (plus D.C.), and the goal is to win as many states and electoral votes as possible. Extra votes in one state election do not transfer to another state election, just like winning a game by a large margin does not give an advantage to the winning team the next time they two teams play. When I coached basketball, we beat a team by 50 points. Three weeks later, that same team beat us by two points, giving each team a win over the other. It would have done no good for me to petition the league that my team should get two wins because of a 48-point differential in the two games. Such an action would have been ludicrous. A vote in a California election does not transfer to a ballot proposition in Colorado, nor does it transfer to any other state’s presidential electors. Each state has its own elections.

The 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees should serve to illustrate this point. The object of the World Series is not to score the most runs but to win four games. The Pirates won the series four games to three. The Yankees won their three games 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. The Pirates won their four games 6-4, 3-2, 5-2, and 10-9. The Yankees scored 55 runs on 91 hits, while the Pirates scored only 27 runs on 60 hits. Regardless of those statistics, the Pirates won the series fair and square. There were no marches and riots by Yankee fans demanding that Major League Baseball award the series to the Yankees because they scored twice as many runs as the Pirates. Such would have been considered an absurdity. Yankee fans simply had to accept that their team was outplayed in close games, and the result is forever in the record books.

The same is true of the 2016 election. Regardless of the popular vote, Donald Trump won fair and square according to the rules. No amount of protesting and lawless rioting can change the rules after the fact. The electoral college plays an important role in that it prevents New York, California, Illinois, etc. from controlling every election and totally marginalizing rural America and those who do not live in large cities.

The second reality that must be faced is that we will never really know who won the total popular vote, because states do not count absentee ballots once it is obvious that there are not enough of them remaining uncounted to change the winner of that state's electoral votes. In every election there are hundreds of thousands to even millions of uncounted absentee ballots. This makes no real difference, in that there are never enough of these uncounted votes in a given state to swing that state’s electoral votes. However, there are usually more than enough uncounted absentee ballots in all states combined to potentially swing the entire popular vote. For an article on this topic, click here.

Based on historical trends, it is not at all unrealistic to believe that George Bush may well have won the popular vote over Al Gore in 2000, and that Donald Trump may well have won the 2016 popular vote. We will never know for sure who won those popular votes, but it doesn’t really matter, because our system is the electoral college. Love it or hate it, that is our system, and those who are demanding that the electoral college be done away with need to also demand that every vote be counted, including the many absentee ballots cast by our military members stationed overseas. (Note:  If the Internet sources from which I got this turn out to be unreliable, then I will withdraw this second point. However, this point is of far less importance than the first, because in our Constitutional Republic, the popular vote is not what determines the presidential election, anyway.)

Shortly after Barack Obama took office, he famously said, “Elections have consequences, and I won.” Another familiar statement from that time was, “Get over it.” It’s time to take some of their own advice and get over it. Trump won. Clinton lost. Eight years ago, and then four years ago, there were those who thought the world had come to an end because of the outcome of the election. Now, there are those on the other side of the political aisle who think the same thing. Here is the truth:  The world did not end then, and it has not ended now. All the whining, marching, demonstrating, signing petitions, and rioting in the world is not going to change the outcome of the election or our method, according to the U.S. Constitution, of electing a president.