Due to the American political system’s in-built, fundamental, anti-democratic nature, it is entirely possibly that Donald Trump could be re-elected in 2020 even if he loses the popular vote by millions of votes AND also loses the Electoral College (the 18th-century system-rigging gimmick that gave the vote-loser his “victory” last time). And it would all be perfectly fair and square under our unfair, unsquare system, as the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics reports.
How is this possible? Simple. If neither candidate wins the required 270 Electoral College votes, then the House of Representatives must choose the president from the candidates who won electoral votes. But here’s the trick: it wouldn’t be a vote of all the elected representatives in the House. No; each state delegation gets only one vote. So even though the Democrats now have a strong majority in the House and (as in the Senate) actually represent many millions more people than the Republicans, the GOP controls a majority of the state delegation: 26 to 23. (The Pennsylvania delegation is evenly split between the parties.)
That balance, by state, is not expected to change in the 2020 election. Thus, the 26 GOP state delegations – which, again, are here reduced to a single vote, no matter how large or politically diverse the delegation actually is – could vote for Trump. Therefore, even if Trump loses the popular vote by five million votes or more, and also loses in the Electoral College, he could still be the “legitimate” president of the United States.
Of course, this is still a very unlikely scenario – although it’s happened once before, in 1828, when John Quincy Adams was chosen by the House despite losing the popular vote by 11% and finishing 15 votes behind in the Electoral College. But anyone who’s seen the lockstep extremists of the modern GOP in action knows they would be perfectly capable of re-installing Trump even if he had (once again) been repudiated by the voters at the ballot box. (And who would pick the VP? The Senate – although in this case, all 100 individual senators could vote as they pleased.)
I defy anyone to look at such a system and declare it is the “greatest democracy on earth.” It was expressly designed to put as many obstacles as possible in the way of ordinary citizens expressing their will through the electoral process. And of course, the Founding Fathers originally excluded the vast majority of the populace from voting altogether; they openly intended for wealthy elites (like George Washington, the richest man in America) to rule. A broader democracy was wrung from the elites – grudgingly, bit by bit – through generations of struggle. Now we are watching it be stripped away, bit by bit, as we sink back to the Founders’ ideal of a nation controlled by white, wealthy elites.
So today, even as we fight to keep the last vestiges of that hard-won broader democracy, we should bear in mind the urgent necessity of making deep the kind of structural changes in our undemocratic electoral process that will ensure that this ludicrous and sinister situation never arises again.