The post-election week has witnessed the consequences of a polarized America. We have reached the point where a party of half the people risks rejection by the other half. A house divided may yet stand, but you can bet that someone is going to start throwing rocks through the windows.
The endurance of the anti-Trump protests may not be a political revolution, but they are an ideological one. For most of our history, the validity of the electoral process in this country has gone unchallenged, even in the face of upset. However, the victory of a political novice and celebrity over a seasoned attorney, former senator, FLOTUS, and former Secretary of State has upset the norm of acceptance and unity that traditionally follows a presidential election.
It may be too early to say if time will heal these wounds, but at present, they are fresh and raw and festering. Even now, Donald Trump is assembling his transition team as celebrities and protesters continue to decry the outcome of the election. Many have signed petitions urging the Electoral College to fulfill the will of the popular vote when they convene on December 19th. In the wake of the unthinkable, many are seeking an escape from the seemingly inevitable reality of a Trump presidency. While a "faithless elector" revolution seems unlikely, the institution of the Electoral College is once again front and center. The conclusion of another election cycle begs for a reexamination of one of the strangest, least understood political instruments in our democracy. In the aftermath of this election, we have to ask not only "how did this happen again?" but also "how can we keep it from happening again?"
This election calls into question the validity of the system not simply because the victor of the election is a Republican, but because the system has failed to sufficiently vet a candidate who is unqualified to hold the title of President of the United States of America. Forgetting about his qualifications for a moment, had Trump won the popular vote and the electoral vote, few could dispute the legitimacy of his presidency or the mandate for his policy agenda. However, as we continue to count the votes a week after the election, it has become ever more apparent that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a large margin. The American people rejected outright the politics and behavior of Donald Trump, they spoke with their votes, and Trump still won. Such a failure of democracy to execute the will of a plurality of its citizens is exactly what is at issue, and this is precisely the reason that necessitates a critical examination of the electoral college.
If the Electoral College debate sounds familiar, it's because we saw the same situation in 2000 when Bush-Cheney won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote. In fact, this seemingly undemocratic conundrum has occurred four times in the history of the American presidency. Even in years where the popular and electoral votes are not contentious, this beast of a debate seems to rear its head for a few weeks before everyone is distracted by a new celebrity sex tape or dabbing video and goes about their business. So why is this election so different, and should we now push harder than ever before to reform the electoral system?
The answer is not so simple. Certainly, the system has failed to keep up its end of the bargain. The Electoral College exists, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, to make certain that "the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications." The Bush-Cheney victory in 2000 demonstrates incoherence between the popular and electoral vote, but this dissonance is in some ways the exception that proves the rule, as the candidates in question were undoubtedly highly qualified, regardless of how one might evaluate their efficacy after the fact. The same cannot be said for the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; The two could not have been further apart in terms of qualifications.
Dismantling the system that delivered America to Trump in spite of the popular vote is a moral imperative, but we must also ask ourselves why the system failed so spectacularly at this moment in our history. Establishment Republicans have found a way to discount the power of the majority by using the natural sequestration of liberal ideals in urban centers. We need to look closely at how that system is being used against us, but at the same time, we have a moral obligation to broaden our appeal to those outside of urban areas. Liberal ideals are not at odds with the prosperity of the majority of the American people. While we can decry the Electoral College as an infuriatingly undemocratic institution, part of our frustration with the Electoral College system stems from our own arrogance in assuming that we had entered a world where progressivism could meet the needs of all people. As the 2016 election revealed, we are not there yet, but we must try like hell to fix that if we are to lift the shroud of nativist populism that has fallen over this country.