Many progressives are taking solace in the fact that Hillary won the popular vote. It is seemingly meant to confer some form of extra bonus legitimacy on all the Trump critiques, as if saying he is #notmypresident is more meaningful because of the popular vote totals.
But progressives use the popular vote to make two points. Only one is legitimate. We need to distinguish between critiques of Trump and critiques of the electoral college.
Yes, the electoral college is outmoded and has a disturbing origin. Yes, it undermines the cherished notion that everyone’s vote is equal. Yes, it makes the election about a handful of states. All of that would be true regardless of the outcome of the election. But something we all need to realize right now: the electoral college is going absolutely nowhere. A Wyomian vote counts more than a Californian vote. So what motivation would a Republican controlled government have to change anything? We live in a world where cogent arguments about injustice do not matter. We should mourn that fact and be energized to change it, but moving to eliminate the electoral college is beyond futile. Progressives are rationalizing their flailing.
It is true that the outcome of this election highlights the injustice of the electoral college. But progressives are usually saying more when they cite the popular vote statistics. They mean to imply that Hillary is somehow the real president. She didn’t really lose. Trump is an imposter, a statistical anomaly, the mere result of a corrupt system. Hillary’s consolation prize should be the first prize.
They need to stop making this point. And for a very simple reason.
The reality of the electoral college governs campaigning. Trump focused his campaigning on the “battleground states.” So did Clinton. Her popular vote success came in states like New York and California—states which Trump was content to concede and ignore. If he had been worried about the popular vote, he would have campaigned differently. He would probably have spent time and money in these places and won more votes. The disparity of the popular vote is not evidence of Trump’s illegitimacy, as much as one would hope. It is an outcome of how campaigning works under the electoral college system. Liberals are clumped in their silos. Trump (or, more likely, his cohort) knew that he could give up a lot of votes and still win. We all know this.
Talking about the popular vote is like losing a game of checkers and claiming that if the game were chess you would have won. Maybe the game we should be playing is chess. In fact, yes, we should be playing chess. But we aren’t. So come to terms with it. Now. Because the longer we don’t, the more embarrassing it looks.
The more games of checkers we win the more likely it is that we will get to play chess in the future.