Colorado Democrats, reeling from the 2016 electoral trouncing of Hillary Clinton, want to subdue the 12th Amendment and elect presidents by popular vote.
Democratic state Sens. Mike Foote, Emily Sirota and Jeni James Arndt made their first order of business the introduction of Senate Bill 19-042 “to elect the president of the United States by national popular vote.”
Colorado would join a compact of 12 other jurisdictions, including: Maryland; New Jersey; Hawaii; Illinois; Washington; Massachusetts; California; Vermont; Rhode Island; New York; Connecticut; and Washington, D.C.
All compact states and the District are solidly Democratic and gave all of their combined 172 votes to Clinton in 2016 under the 12th Amendment process.
With Colorado, the compact would have 181 combined votes pledged to all future popular vote winners.
As explained by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the compact would need membership totaling 270 electoral votes — the amount needed to elect a president — “before the compact kicks in and any state’s bill could take effect.”
By enacting SB 42, Colorado would pledge to give all of its electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationally — without regard for the will of Colorado voters. If Colorado favors a Democrat, and a Republican wins the nationwide popular vote, all 9 electoral votes would go to the Republican. And, vice versa. Litigation would rightly ensue.
This asinine proposal challenges almost 250 years of protection from potential tyranny of special-interest population clusters. Five of 45 presidents, starting with John Quincy Adams in 1824, have taken office after losing the popular vote.
Former President and founder of the Constitution James Madison feared honoring a nationwide popular vote would empower special interest “factions.” It would authorize them to trample on small states and harm the entire country. French historian and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville called it “tyranny of the majority.”
In the ongoing moronization of our culture, schools and colleges avoid teaching the country’s founding principles. Parents and teachers use “democracy” as a symbol of patriotic virtue. We hear it on the left, right, and in between. Never mind the fact Madison and other founders considered democracy a dangerous concept to be used with limitation.
The religious right extolled the virtue of popular opinion and “democracy” when Colorado voters enacted Proposition 2 in 1992, eliminating rights of homosexuals to claim protected status against discrimination. Courts struck it down, negating the authority of voters to deprive individuals the equal protections assured by the Constitution.
When California voters passed Proposition 8 to outlawed same-sex marriage, advocates defended “democracy” and respect for the popular vote. The Gazette’s editorial board explained how voters have no authority to prevent consenting adults from contracting in marriage. Federal courts concluded the same.
Majorities can’t take a contrarian’s freedom of speech, they can’t take a person’s gun, and they can’t take the rights of individuals to freely associate in intimate relationships.
Just as individuals are not subjects of anything-goes majority whim, neither are states. Each state is a member of the union. To respect state sovereignty, the Constitution balances the interests of sparsely populated rural states and those of densely populated urban states. It does not hold nationwide majority will as righteous.
Populations of large cities coalesce around common regional interests and values that are often contrary to the interests and values of people in sparsely populated rural states. San Francisco residents might outlaw coal for the country overnight, if given the option, and West Virginia might starve. Urban residents don’t like pesticides; conventional farmers need them.
Metropolitan New York City contains 40 times the population of Wyoming and the regions have little in common. Metropolitan Denver’s population outnumbers residents in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
If a popular vote reigns, only a few dense urban regions will elect all presidents. Candidates will win by appealing to the special interests of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Washington, D.C., and a handful of other metros that consider the rest of the country a wasteland of rubes and deplorables clinging to bibles and guns. Tiny geographic slivers of the country will determine elections for a majority of states and most of the country’s landscape.
SB 42 exacerbates this dim prospect, handing over the state’s future electors without regard for Colorado’s election outcomes.
Unlimited democracy would make majority will the highest order — in a country with majorities that have favored slavery, censorship and laws against interracial and same sex marriages.
The Electoral College hedges against tyranny of the majority for good reasons. Don’t let ignorance and modern political angst destroy 243 years of a constitutional check that protects our country.
The Gazette editorial board
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