Let me try one more time to refute the argument made by the writer in Thursday's paper arguing that the Electoral College is a safeguard more critical than ever, that small population states like Montana and the Dakotas would lose their voice without it, and that the Democrats just want to gain an advantage ("Safeguard is needed more than ever," Readers Write, Dec. 17).
I suspect this belief arises from the fact that, in recent history, it has been Republican candidates who have been elected with a minority of the popular vote. But the Electoral College could just as easily work against Republicans as well. A simplified example using the 2020 popular vote counts from seven states (source: Politico): Biden won Pennsylvania and Nevada, getting 26 electoral votes with popular votes of over 115,000 total. Trump won Montana, North and South Dakota, Kentucky and Oklahoma, getting 24 electoral votes with popular votes of more than 1.4 million total. In those states, according the Electoral College math (26 to 24), Biden won. Without the Electoral College, Trump would have won by nearly 1.3 million popular votes.
Of course, this year, Biden won both the nationwide Electoral College and popular votes. But it's not hard to imagine a scenario in which the popular vote count was closer in states where Biden won and that he, too, could have won the Electoral College without winning the popular vote. If you think that everyone's vote should count, whether red, blue, green ... then the Electoral College needs to go.
Larry McMains, White Bear Lake
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Some right-wing talking points are repeated over and over, but are easily dispelled with a bit of logic. For example, a Thursday letter writer repeated the claim that if we got rid of the Electoral College, a few states could dictate the results of the election. This makes no sense for three simple reasons.
First, just from a numerical perspective, there is no way a "small" group of states could create a majority. The top four states in population — California, Texas, New York and Florida — only make up about a third of the population.
Second, it's unlikely that these four states would ever get together and agree to dictate anything. California and Texas are most of the time at opposite ends of the political spectrum, as are New York and Florida. If anything, they would largely offset each other. The rest of the Top 10 are Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan. Again, there is no consistent ideological stance for any of these states, so to suggest they could or would collude to dictate the results of the election is ridiculous.
Third, even within these states there is no complete ideologically consensus. California is a very liberal state, but there are still millions of Republicans there, and under the current system, their votes for president are essentially discarded. With a popular vote system, every vote counts, no matter where we live, as it should be.
Craig Hewitt, Crystal
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If you think we have divisiveness in the country today, imagine if we scrap the Electoral College, the founding fathers' ingenious creation. Why would a presidential candidate bother to appeal to or campaign in a sparsely populated state if all the candidate need do is score a strong majority in say 10 to 15 of the largest urban centers in the country? The Electoral College gives sparsely populated states like Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Iowa, Arkansas and yes, even Minnesota, some measure of leverage in the presidential election. Precisely because all other representatives to national government are elected by popular vote, the Electoral College provides a check or balance against the exclusive rule of popular vote. Why permit New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and a handful of other cities to determine the outcome of presidential elections? The Electoral College is an ingenious way to give all the voters in the country a say.
Tom Droegemueller, Mound
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Partisans who argue that one party or the other would be at an automatic advantage depending on the method of counting in presidential elections would be well advised to consider the following breakdown.
Of the Top 10 states by population, four (Texas, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina) went Republican in 2020, seven (add Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia) in 2016. Likewise, of the 10 least populous states, only five (Wyoming, Alaska, North and South Dakota and Montana) typically go Republican and five (Vermont, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire or the District of Columbia) Democratic. Thus the Electoral College advantage to one party is not as manifest as commonly thought.
The argument that Los Angeles or Hennepin County are more populous than many states misses the point that people — not counties — vote and that the thousands of Republican people in those places are unrepresented in the Electoral College. Likewise Democrats in Texas and Alabama.
The contention that small states would not get candidate attention in a popular vote is contrary to the reality that only five or 10 swing states are targeted in the current system. It may be that states like Wyoming will get more focus in a national popular vote because every vote will count equally, and media buys are a bargain in smaller markets.
Bill Richardson, Minneapolis
CONSERVATISM AND LIBERALISM
What the two sides can offer
The writer of "The balancing act" (Readers Write, Dec. 11) about conservatism and liberalism quotes from Michael Oakeshott's description of the conservative mind-set. Unfortunately, he attempts to extend that description by reversing it to describe the liberal mind-set. That seems to be like attempting to describe chocolate ice cream by reversing all the attributes of vanilla ice cream. It doesn't work like that and nothing I know of in Oakeshott's writing attempts to make that logical leap. The writer does, however, summarize quite well what Oakeshott seems to have been getting at — that the course of human affairs could be well-served by the conservative mind-set, regardless of political leaning or affiliation.
JAMES D. CHENVERT, Champlin
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I find the letter "The balancing act" to be too stereotypical. Conservatism as preferring the familiar, the tried and the proven leads to "we have always done things this way" or "why change what is not broken." This worldview misses the possibilities of change. Consider where society would be if Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" or John F. Kennedy's "the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon" never happened due to conservative thought. Consider vaccines taking a decade or more to develop using conventional means and not months by abandoning the usual methods. I prefer to dream, to imagine possibilities, to wonder and say, "Why not try change to improve our lives?"
John Thurow, Minneapolis
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The "balancing act" letter writer purports to define the labels "conservative" and "liberal," wishing for a world where the "right" and "left" are married to create "what can be."
Across the page, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman ("Oregon leads the way in decriminalization," Opinion Exchange) showed us what can be a useful and constructive drug policy. That policy has played out for the last 20 years in Portugal, and the metrics strongly suggest that decriminalizing most drug possession and use works well for society.
Chapman has described his own political views as "moderate libertarian," a label as meaningless as any, but he conspicuously avoids labels in his analysis of Oregon's fledgling programs.
So, my advice to the letter writer: Do not ask whether a thing is conservative or liberal, left or right. Instead, ask, does the thing provide concrete benefits to a majority of our citizens, or does it not?
The labels serve only to divide us; don't use them.
William Beyer, St. Louis Park
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