Ritchie doesn’t understand the American electoral system then

It seems likely that Hillary Clinton will win the most votes in the US presidential elections, and yet lose the election, resoundingly.

Just as the UK’s first past the post electoral system rigs elections in ways that ensures results in no way reflect public opinion so too does the US system achieve the same outcome by not using that system for presidential elections.

There are three obvious conclusions. The first is that election systems have to be designed to suit their purpose.

Quite so. The point of the American electoral system being that, given the geographic spread of the country, the urban cores do not get to determine the result by sheer weight of numbers.

Thus the Electoral College for the Presidency, each State gets two Senators, no State gets less than one Representative and the remainder of the seats in the House of Representatives allocated by population.

They have actually considered this point and that’s why they have the system they do.

Sigh.

40 thoughts on “Ritchie doesn’t understand the American electoral system then”

  1. Anyway, its fairly standard stuff. When they lose, they whine about the electoral system. When they win, nothing.

    I wonder if they even realise they do it? Is it conscious and deliberate, or some sort of tic?

  2. Unsurprising he doesn’t know the USA was founded as a Republic, not a democracy. Is there no start to his knowledge?

  3. It’s quite unbelievable that someone this utterly ignorant is allowed anywhere near a classroom on political economy. There are issues with all electoral systems, but a huge amount of thought and consideration has gone into them. It also misunderstands the nature of the political process – FPTP encourages the creation of coalitions before the election that will capture the median voter, whilst PR systems result in coalitions after the election. Murphy is truly a moron and City University should be embarrassed that they employ such an individual.

  4. There’s a false leap of logic involved in this argument. Both candidates went into the election knowing what the system was and fighting accordingly. Their strategies were based on trying to win the Electoral College. Neither of them even tried to win the popular vote — so who cares who won it? If the election were by popular vote, they would have campaigned differently. We know for a fact that Trump won the election that Hillary was trying to win. We do not know that Hillary would have won that other hypothetical election had Trump been trying to win that.

  5. “It’s quite unbelievable that someone this utterly ignorant is allowed anywhere near a classroom on political economy.”

    It’s ideology rather than knowledge, that put him there.

  6. If the popular vote were used that would be a guarantee that Dem vote-cheating could always matter a lot. Whereas the current system ensures that their cheating in, for example, California, had no influence on the presidential race.

    Tell me, why does the GOP always let the Dems shine at cheating. Is it just that being the party of the trade unions, the Irish, and the lawyers gives the Dems particular expertise at vote-rigging?

  7. @Squander Two

    “Their strategies were based on trying to win the Electoral College. Neither of them even tried to win the popular vote”

    That is a really good point. Hadn’t thought of that. That’s the kind of point we should be seeing in the papers.

  8. The sheer size of the country makes a pure number-of-votes system dangerous. If your candidate loses by 0.2% (the actual gap between Trump and Clinton), and there are 135m votes cast in total, how easy would it be to rustle up the 270,000 extra votes needed to swing it the other way? A dodgy recount here, a few thousand votes “found” there, some hanging chads, and a handful of corrupt officials. Entirely feasible.

    With a first-past-the-post system at least any recount is focused on smaller numbers of votes.

  9. Just as a matter of information –

    The US consists of 50 states plus a federal district and miscellaneous territories.

    Electoral votes equal the sum of US Representatives plus US Senators, plus 3 electoral votes for the federal district of Washington, DC.

    There are 100 Senators, two for each state. There are 435 Representatives, apportioned by population. Thus there are 538 total electoral votes, meaning the smallest majority is 270.

    The 5 most populous states contain 37% of total US population, and 32% of the electoral votes.

    The 10 most populous states contain 54% of total US population, and 48% of the electoral votes.

  10. “They have actually considered this point and that’s why they have the system they do.”

    Well, the electoral college bit was more about the fact that most of the US was pretty tricky terrain to cross at the time, and it could take a couple of months for the bods from the left hand side to make it to Washington with the results of the local vote, by which time the preferred presidential candidate could have died, medicine being what it wasn’t in those days.

    The rest made a damn sight more sense than the rotten boroughs we had at the time.

  11. Arthur, that was a factor of convenience, but a small factor overall. Modern technology has eliminated that factor; the primary, original arguments for the existing system remain.

  12. All the points have been raised by the excellent commentators on here (Is there a better group anywhere on the net I ask?) but worth summarising:

    1/ As the great Noel Scoper pointed out, if Counties were the barometer Trump won by a landslide. Why should we not go with that measure – just as arbitrary as the popular vote

    2/ Squander Two points out Trump’s campaign, such as it was, concentrated their energy on the Swing states in the electoral college because that is the way the system was set up. as a Republican Why even bother to put your energy into campaigning in the Bronx or in Silicon Valley – you know you’re going to be buried. Similarly the Democrats probably don’t have much of an organisation in Kansas or Oklahoma – with finite resources you concentrate them based on the electoral system that is in place.

    3/ I always marvel at Murphy’s total absence of any historical understanding beyond the kind of generalist recollection you might get from a pub bore. He is probably the closest living embodiment of what the historian A.L Rowse labelled ‘the ahistorical man’ As Devonchap and indeed Tim himself have pointed out, the constitution is designed to stop overpopulated urban areas overwhelming small rural ones. Maybe the move from Downham Market to Ely (and indeed I have heard his fluctuating fortunes could necessitate moving to Peterborough) has reduced the rural sense of perspective.

    Once again he cements his I think unchallenged position as the most profoundly ignorant commentator extant in British politics – which given the outpourings on social media in the past two days takes some doing. Well done, Ritchie!

  13. You know, Van Patten, it really is a shame your comments can’t be added on the cover or back of special editions of Ritchie’s books published especially for those readers that buy them for comedy value. I can see it now…

    “Praise” for the author:

    ‘Once again he cements his unchallenged position as the most profoundly ignorant commentator extant in British politics’

    ‘Marvel at Murphy’s total absence of any historical understanding beyond the kind of generalist recollection you might get from a pub bore’

    ‘Another unevidenced assertion from the undisputed master of the genre’

    (I think that last one was you, it did make me chuckle)

    Throw in a foreword from Timmy.

    There might be a market there.

  14. Cynic

    Thanks – I think that might be a good idea – The guy is in need of a fisking – sadly my life at the minute is more akin to the land of Lagado from Gulliver’s Travels so I may need to wait until time permits…..

  15. Given the 50/50 nature of the vote split in this US election and the similar one in the Brexit vote, and the polarisation of politics in the UK as well, it occurs to me that something is going to have to be done to prevent civil wars, if this continues. There appears to be an increasingly large gap between two large sections of society, on a political, cultural and economic level, within existing countries. Short of dividing countries into two and saying Country A will be the right wing one and Country B the Left wing one, what can be done?

    Is it possible, given modern technology, to run two competing political, economic and legal systems within one physical country? Could you have two Parliaments and everyone chooses which they want to be governed by? You pay different tax rates, have different education, healthcare and welfare systems etc etc, but live side by side? Many things could be run from the centre – defence, foreign policy, the courts etc, but the things that affect people on a day to day basis run by separate independent bodies?

  16. Daily Kos, having seen their gal lose badly, is now saying the electoral college should be abandoned. Somebody replying to the post has said: “Right, so we basically let New York City vote while the rest of us just watch. Fuck that.”

  17. Their strategies were based on trying to win the Electoral College. Neither of them even tried to win the popular vote — so who cares who won it? If the election were by popular vote, they would have campaigned differently.

    Indeed. Hence all the emphasis on swing states.

  18. Jim, police force? Jumping between tax regimes? Town planning? It’s very grey between day-to-day and once in a while.

    Also, if the main issues are immigration, foreign policy and the economy, how fine-grained can you usefully get?

  19. @Tim Newman

    “Kos”

    Where my missus is from, that’s their slang word for fanny/pussy.

    (PS: “Tas” apparently means hairless, so the name Costas causes some mirth)

  20. I have seen people seriously suggest your vote should be “weighted by how many years you have left to live”. I mean, actual people are saying this seriously?

    Does it work with tax rates? I.e. the rate increases the younger you are? 95% for 18 year olds, 5% for 60 year olds.

  21. Rob

    It is hilarious – they are revisiting arguments made back in the 18th and 19th century by anti-democrats, only changing the beneficiaries from property owners to those of whatever bent they prefer (minority status, demographic)

  22. @NielsR: I’d say the main issues between the Left and Right are a) financial (tax rates and welfare), and b) cultural (whats taught in schools etc, what behaviour is banned etc). The former is pretty easy to tailor to individuals, the latter less so admittedly. Basic law’n’order could be standardised (No stealing, killing etc) but the fine print of all the other stuff would be down to the individual Parliaments. Swapping between regimes wouldn’t be allowed other than at long term intervals, 10 years say.

    The alternative is to devolve all powers down to the lowest level possible, so people can have direct control over their lives, and if they vote for a Socialist Utopia, they’ll have to pay for it, and those who want to leave can do so easily, without having to move to another country.

    Its all rather difficult I admit, but I can only see the problem getting worse, and I’m trying to see if there’s any solution before it goes pear shaped. I’m hoping in the UK that Scotland goes off on its own and takes all the Lefty nutters with them – that would largely solve the problem here, or at least reduce the pressure a bit.

  23. Bloke in Lower Hutt

    Jim – Wasn’t it tried in Germany for a while circa 1945 – 1990? My prediction would be that the results would look similar.

  24. The US is clearly too large to have a functioning government and should be broken up into eight or so smaller states.

  25. “The US is clearly too large to have a functioning government and should be broken up into eight or so smaller states.”

    Matthew, what is the maximum size for a nation to have a functioning government?

    Both China and India are roughly 4Xs the US.Indonesia is nearly 4/5 Should those countries should also be broken up into smaller states? If so, how many?

  26. “Wasn’t it tried in Germany for a while circa 1945 – 1990? My prediction would be that the results would look similar.”

    Of course, it would be identical, thats kind of the point. You have to beat Leftists over the head with reality to get it to sink in, otherwise they create their own version in their heads.

    Maybe the solution could be condensed purely to tax – socialists always demand higher taxes, so give them higher taxes, but make them voluntary. Its perfectly simple to run a 2 tier taxation system – one for everyone, one that you can sign up to for a fixed period to show to the world how virtuous you are. Then when Owen Jones or Polly Toynbee gets on their hind feet the first question can be ‘Do you pay the socialism tax?’ And given the Leftists attachment to their own money (rather than other people’s) I doubt many of the usual suspects would sign up, thereby showing them up for the hypocrites they are.

    ‘Put your money where your mouth is’ is a sentiment everyone instinctively understands, we should make the Left do exactly that.

  27. Jim

    As always magnificent – but I am entirely over the voluntary facet of the tax you advocate. You pay the Socialist tax, a 20% surcharge on top of normal income tax rates or you can take a ticket to Cuba, North Korea or Venezuela. I am sick and tired of these snowflakes – enough is enough. Given the taxes I was hit for under Brown and Livingstone I Am due some payback…

  28. Some states do split the electoral college vote amongst candidates, winner has so many votes and balance is split between candidates

  29. Jim, I agree with a lot of that. And we can argue over the detail, like the police needing one rulebook to work from for every suspect they have to deal with. Or the inefficiencies of having parallel or courts systems, or how to collect the bins if each house gets to choose a collection system.

    What worries me is that the hysteria seems to be rooted in envy, suspicion and an inability to grasp the complexities and trade-offs built into modern life. For example, Trumps victory represents a shift of a few percentage points in the voter base for only one part of the system of government. And he’s subject to a whole host of checks and balances. Yet Hillary supporters are acting as if they will be murdered in the streets within the week.
    See also the misguided rubbish about minimum wage etc in months past.

    If the voters are rioting because they don’t understand rather system, and fhey

  30. Balls.

    … And they think it’s stacked against them, creating a more fine-grained system is exactly the wrong thing. It’ll be harder to get an overview, to feel confident that it’s ‘fair’ (horribly subjective, but it’s what people are looking for)

  31. Bloke in Costa Rica

    If there’s one change I would make to take account of modern telecomms and ease of movement, it’s reducing the length of the lame duck session. The votes are all counted (except for AZ and MI for some reason) and Trump has 306 electoral votes. Clinton has conceded. But the electors don’t vote until 17th December, and the inauguration is 19th January. People aren’t coming to Washington on horseback over the Appalachians anymore. It’s a big window of opportunity for that jug-eared fuckstick Obama to pull some malevolent shit. He should have been escorted out of the White House yesterday by a Secret Service agent with his stuff in a black bin bag.

  32. Jim
    China melievele(?) the city and the city is a very interesting read about 2 cities occupying overlapping space but with different rules in an oddly logical way he shows how human stubbornness can make any system work

  33. There are pros and cons of the electoral college. The problem is, though, that the popular vote has historically almost always matched up with the electoral college. But 2 of the 3 last presidents came to power without winning it.

    That is bound to give an impression that something is not quite right with the system. Especially, I’d say, in the West coast states where people are thousands of miles from the Beltway and have now twice in recent years seen their preferred candidate lose despite winning the popular vote.

    Squadron Two’s point is a good one – that neither candidate was trying to win the popular vote so we can’t place much weight on it – but I’m not sure that Californians Oregonians and Washingtonians would necessarily see it that way.

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