The Best College in America

If you’re a liberal, you would probably insist, depending on which one you attended, that Harvard, Yale, Stanford or UC Berkeley, was the finest college or university in the country. If you went to Harvard, you would probably say, in the world.

If you were a conservative, you would probably vote for Hillsdale.

But I contend that far and away, the best one doesn’t even have a campus, an endowment fund or even a football team. In fact, it’s the one that people tend to ignore except once every four years. I’m referring to the Electoral College.

As a rule, the only time people even talk about it, they’re complaining that it should be abolished. But, as is nearly always the case, they happen to be wrong and the Founding Fathers were right.

Just as the geniuses who came up with the Constitution didn’t want the federal government to be able to lord it over the states, they also didn’t want a few larger states to lord it over the smaller ones. There is possibly nothing that makes a stronger case for those men having been divinely-inspired than Article Two of the Constitution, which declared that the presidency would not be determined by a popular vote.

Just as they sought balance by deciding that each state, whatever its population, would have two senators, they also wanted to avoid having a few large states controlling presidential elections. They had, after all, set out to create a republic, not a democracy.

So it is that Barack Obama could easily win the popular vote this November by taking such states as California, Illinois, New York and Massachusetts, by several million votes, but still wind up losing the election because his Republican opponent wins in places such as Ohio, Missouri, Virginia, Iowa, Wyoming, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Georgia, Kansas, Alaska, the Dakotas and the Carolinas, by anything from 10,000 to 50,000 votes.

If that happens, we can all be sure that the Democrats will whine about it and cry, “Foul!”

But how is it fair that a minority of 15 or 20 states should be able to impose their will on 30 or 35 others?

Although, the Electoral College generally reflects the popular vote, that’s not always the case. For instance, in 1876, Samuel J. Tilden received 250,000 more votes than Rutherford B. Hayes, but lost the election by one electoral vote. In 1880, James Garfield only garnered 16,000 more votes than Winfield Hancock, but clobbered him in the College 214-155.

In 1884, Grover Cleveland narrowly squeaked by with a 25,000 vote margin, but he defeated James Blaine by 37 votes where it counted. However, when Cleveland ran for re-election in 1888, he wound up with 90,000 more votes than Benjamin Harrison, but lost in the Electoral College 233-168.

In 1960, JFK, thanks to typical left-wing hanky-panky in Texas and Illinois, wound up with 114,000 more votes (out of roughly 69,000,000 cast), but easily defeated Nixon in the College 303-219.

In 1968, Nixon only received a trifling 500,000 more votes than Humphrey (out of 73,000,000 cast), but buried him in the College election 301-191.

In 2000, in an election reminiscent of the ones that took place in 1876 and 1888, Al Gore took the popular vote 50,992,335 to George W. Bush’s 50,455,156, but Bush turned the tables in the Electoral College, defeating Gore 271-266.

Although I honestly believe that the men who created the Constitution were divinely-inspired, I wouldn’t want to suggest that God takes an active role in our elections. Otherwise, how to explain Barack Obama’s winding up in the Oval Office?

But, even if it’s merely a coincidence, I think it’s worth noting that in all three instances that the candidate who received fewer popular votes wound up being elected president, he just happened to be a Republican.

©2012 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write!

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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • BurtPrelutsky

    cma: You always have something intelligent to add to the discussion, which speaks well for our Canadian cousins.


  • cmacrider

    Burt:  Your commentary on the function of the Electoral College should be mandatory reading for every American high school student.  As an educational exercise, they could compare and contrast it with the Canadian system in which two populous provinces (Ontario and Quebec) have for decades controlled who would form the Federal Government.  Needless to say this system causes much distress in the less populated Maritimes and Western Canada.  A little comparative political science may cause them to realize that America has some very well thought out features which enhance a federal system.

    For your reader’s benefit ….. I am a Canadian so have some idea of what I speak.

  • BurtPrelutsky

    genann59: Actually, Mr. Goldberg didn’t write this article.  Mr. Prelutsky did. 

    GlenFS: Thanks for trying to set YondCassius straight, although I suspect that you are doomed to failure.  I do wonder, though, why he stuck that “d” in is label.



  • genann59

    Gosh, Mr. Goldberg, I do not know how you and I think so much alike and are as individuals so different in background. I guess part of it is that we are close to the same age, which means we were educated back in the days where education was taken seriously even in the public schools and civics and history were taught without excessive revisionism. People back in the 50s and 60s, even if they didn’t like what had occurred in history, still taught it as it was, not as they wish it had been. So people from that era are perhaps a little better based in reality than those educated after the boomer people my age took over the education of our country’s children. The people who now teach for the most part have been of the type that made up the hippies and antiwar activists of the 60s and those they have brainwashed into the same frame of reference of what children need to know, or if necessary, to not know.

  • Roadmaster

    Every Presidential election season, I have to explain why we have the Electoral College to a liberal or someone else who doesn’t understand why it’s essential to maintain the republic.  Didn’t do it nearly as well as you did here Burt, but if it’s okay I’m going to “steal” some of your material.

    Growing up in the least populated state of Wyoming, I learned early how much we resented being dictated to by the “bigs” like CA and NY.

  • YondCassius

    For this column to even start to make sense, it must provide some kind of sensible argument that the importance of state powers at a distant time when the population was largely immobile should take precedence over majority rule now when state residency is about as trivial as it can get — and I mean an argument other than the good old “divIne inspiration” garbage or the fact that this archaic vestige has favored the wrIter’s preferred party.

    Or is this article just another sign that intellectual discourse in America is fast becoming a hodgepodge of bumper-sticker ventings?



    • GlenFS

      Yond, you fail to appreciate the freedom to choose one of these 50 states and all the significant differences related to each.  

      Now I may be wrong, but I’ll bet you’re not from Texas.  I’ll bet you live in a state that reflects your political preferences.  Personally, I like it that way and see the wisdom of our founders.

  • Dave O’Connor

    Excellent expository of American Mathematics.  As a youth, growing up (and at 71, still not grown up), I was always hesitent to answer, fearing the trick question.  In math, especially so; If I f couldn’t apply Euclid or Pythagoras directly, I was skeptical of what I thought I knew. 
    But, neither  Euclid, nor Pythagoras were huddled together with our Founders. Nor, was it known, that either of the two of them, and others of the discipline, terriblu obsessed with human factors 
    When this issue come up, I can’t help but be challenged to understand, appreciably, the foresight and prescience of the Founders. Right, Burt, to “Divinely Inspired”, I might add Mob-Leery.  When I look back four years, and consider the exaggerated pageantry and the Olympian myths; I think; thee are the people whho snicker at relligion and find spirituality in their egos.
    The Electoral College suited Washington, without doubt deserving, and suited those whose deserving was doubtful, but when it comes to projecting, those are the numbers for which I watch .
    Thaks for a great article.

  • Iklwa

    It always strikes me as interesting that the only time any discussion on main stream media revolves around abolishing the electoral collage is when a liberal wins the popular vote and looses the electoral vote. Then and only then does the topic rear its ugly head and man oh man, are those founding fathers stupid. “After all, we live in a “democracy”, don’t we?”
    It is also strange how that word “democracy” is so lightly bandied about and the mention and meaning and application of “representative republic” always seems to get lost on the collective conscious.
    As long as liberals are in power, changing that pesky piece of Constitutional law goes largely ignored. One would have thought that after Gore’s defeat, the first thing a liberal president would do is try to eliminate that “stupid” plank from the foundation. Thankfully, their attention span is no longer than that of most other politically disengaged Americans. Their attention is distracted by all the money they get to spend on pet projects, slush funds and junkets,

  • Gerpac

    Great column by Prelutsky. It is informative and fact filled. Thanks for enlightening me.
    Like the line about not taking an active  role in our elections. Also kudos to Bernie for this heads-up.  Look forward weekly to Bernie’s appearance on super ego Bill O’Reilly’s show.

  • DOOM161

    Liberals love to complain about the electoral college, but they forget that they wouldn’t be able to credit Obama with a “landslide” if not for the electoral college.  They also conveniently forget that Bill Clinton didn’t win 50% of the popular vote, and if it weren’t for the electoral college, it would have gone to a run off and Bush would have won.

  • Mary

    I just want the people of this country to wake up, this is not the country that I grew up in. We can be great again, self- reliance that what this country was all about before. I love this country and many of my relatives have fought for it liberty.
    I pray that people wise up and vote for self- reliance not hand outs.
    The children being born now, and the little one already here should know what a great country this use to be. I pray it can again.

  • PatriotBelle

    Seems to me, God is trying to teach us a lesson and wake people up to what we have to lose and you’re so right about so many being so oblivious ((unbelievable)). The Founders were so right about ‘ if we can keep it’ about our Republic. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose!!

  • BurtPrelutsky

    Chuck: I’m not sure of that.  After all, it was in the College that Obama had his election victory made official.  That’s not to say that would stop liberals from calling it racist.  They call almost everything racist except those things that really are; namely themselves and most black Americans.

    Bruce A.: There had to be a reason they formed a republic and not a democracy.

    Worldbuilder: Against all odds, most Americans are as dumb as dirt.  A fact that serves Democrats well.  Otherwise, they would never win any elections, and people like Harry Reid, Henry Waxman and Maxine Waters, would have been forced to find gainful employment.  Good luck with that.


  • Chuck_Borealis

    The only conclusion a liberal will be able to make of this data is that the electoral college is racist.

    • Dave O’Connor

      Which is one of the many weapons..they’ll use. And, of course, in addition to race, there’s always the “Misery Index” they keep handy.  (Failure to account for dyslexia on ballots, failure to provide for gener-issue voters, etc…).

  • Bruce A.

    The founding fathers of the US were brilliant.  They felt the massses were not able to elect a qualified president.  Case in point, see the 2008 election.  Case closed!  

  • Worldbuilder

    Mr. Prelutsky,
    I appreciate the article. I still find it amazing how many of our citizens have never bothered to learn about the reasoning behind our government’s structure. 

    • EddieD_Boston

      It’s b/c our public school system has kids busy reading An Inconvenient Truth.

      • cmacrider

        Eddy:  As usual your brief comments strike right to the heart of the problem