Now that the presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as his companion on the ballot, the dilemma of victory through the electoral college in the next presidential election is inexorably presented.
What is happening is historical, because when I was involved in the feminist movement at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1970s, black students and teachers preferred to associate only with the Civil Rights group, which were led by African-American men in their greater extent.
Now, Biden has symbolized in Kamala Harris three liberation movements: that of Martin Luther King, that of Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir, and that of the immigrants that Cesar Chávez started in California. Because Harris’s parents came from Jamaica and India.
When you select a vice president, in many cases you are looking for someone who will get votes from a “swing state” who is not totally in favor of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. (See “The Electoral College of the United States”, by Alexander Keyssar, in the Background section, Thursday, August 13, El Nuevo Herald.)
For example, Lyndon B Johnson, who was the Senate Majority Leader and was from Texas, a state with 38 electoral votes, was chosen by John Kennedy to balance him because he was a Protestant and Southern politician. Kennedy was from the Northeast and — for the first time — a Catholic candidate. Also, Johnson had finished second in the primaries. Harris is from California, and that 55-ballot state leans to the Democratic Party.
But Florida, which has 29 electoral votes and is considered an undecided state, has caused trouble in the past. The reason is that sometimes the popular vote does not coincide with that of the electoral college. That is what happened in the 2000 elections in which George W. Bush, the governor of Texas, won through “band aids” in the state of Florida, against candidate Al Gore, who won the popular vote throughout the nation.
That was the fourth of the five times that the person who lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college, has risen to the presidency. The fifth time was in 2016, when Donald Trump won the majority of the states, but Hillary Clinton had almost three million more popular votes nationwide. In both cases, it was the Democratic candidates who won the popular vote.
At the time when the idea of having electoral colleges instead of using the House of Representatives to elect the president arose, the Southerners preferred the electoral college system in order to be able to count slaves who did not have the right to vote, but constituted a 40 % of the population. Although they only measured them as three-fifths of a person each!
Now that African Americans can vote more “freely” for the 1964 civil rights law, electoral college decisions still prevail in the election of Biden-Harris over Trump-Pence. Although among other things it was the slavery of millions brought from Africa since the 18th century, one of the reasons that this dilemma arose in the presidential selection formula. (See PBS for the extraordinary series “Africa’s Great Civilizations.”) As many as 12 US presidents owned slaves, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson.
Of course, perhaps the constitutionalists could not be criticized with the mentality of now, because choosing a president was a new task for the founders. Nobody had done it in any country on the globe. And they didn’t want compromises between the House representatives and the President.
In Article II of the Constitution proclaimed in 1788 that formula was proposed only in the election of the president of the nation. It would be a number of voters equal to the sum of the senators (2) plus the representatives that each state had. And then whoever has 270 votes or more with the sum of the voters of all the states wins the presidency. That is why there is always a stronger campaign where there is a greater number of voters, who are elected today by the political parties. But today voters are loyal to the popular vote of their state.
One of the reasons why the electoral college system is in force is that it is the states that independently elect the president. And this is a federal country. That is why it has been difficult to change the style. And today the European Union has followed suit. Its importance will matter.