“The debate over the Electoral College this week is familiar, but off point.
Set off by criticism from Senator Elizabeth Warren, the discussion has often focused on the system’s real but minor bias toward small states, and the system’s intended (by the founders) but now entirely ineffectual role in preventing the “tyranny” of direct democracy.
It largely misses the real reason the Electoral College so often produces results counter to the majority: The winner takes all within most states. You get all of Michigan’s electoral votes whether you win by one vote or a million votes.
There are legitimate arguments to keep the present winner-take-all system, even arguments that today’s progressive opponents of the Electoral College could appreciate. In the 1880s, for instance, it limited the electoral gains that white supremacist Democrats reaped by disenfranchising black voters.
But the Electoral College also brings the risk of anti-majority outcomes — in which the winner of the national popular vote loses the election — for no high-minded reasons at all, as occurred in 2000 and 2016. It even has the potential to worsen the kind of crises it was intended to prevent.”