President Donald Trump responded to Democratic calls to abolish the Electoral College and pack the U.S. Supreme Court on March 20, by telling his 2020 presidential opponents to instead “win it at the Ballot Box!”
Nearly half a dozen Democratic candidates have embraced such radical positions, or have said they are open to them.
The increasingly popular calls to remake presidential elections and dilute a conservative 5-4 majority on the nation’s highest court comes on the heels of House Democrats’ passage of H.R. 1, an elections overhaul that, among other items, attempts to lower the voting age to 16.
“The Democrats are getting very ‘strange,’” Trump wrote on Twitter on March 20. “They now want to change the voting age to 16, abolish the Electoral College, and Increase significantly the number of Supreme Court Justices. Actually, you’ve got to win it at the Ballot Box!”
Eliminating the Electoral College isn’t a new idea, but opponents of Trump have become much more strident in their efforts to ditch the 230-year-old system since he won the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, but she lost the all-important Electoral College vote, 304-227.
Supporters of the effort contend that the Electoral College is unfair, and that switching to a national popular vote would bolster direct democracy and make presidential elections more competitive. But Trump, like America’s founders, disagrees.
“Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College. It’s like training for the 100-yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win,” Trump wrote March 19.
Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College. It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win. With the Popular Vote, you go to….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
….just the large States – the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power – & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
“With the Popular Vote, you go to just the large States – the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power – & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.,” he continued.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a leading Democratic White House contender, said March 19 that she is “open to discussion” about eliminating the Electoral College.
“There’s no question that the popular vote has been diminished in terms of making the final decision about who’s the president of the United States, and we need to deal with that. So, I’m open to the discussion,” she said in an interview on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman-turned-Democratic presidential candidate, told students at Penn State University on March 19 that there is “a lot of wisdom” in abandoning the longstanding institution.
“I think there’s a lot to that. Because you had an election in 2016 where the loser got 3 million more votes than the victor,” O’Rourke said.
“It puts some states out of play altogether, they don’t feel like their votes really count,” he continued. “If we really want everyone to vote, to give them every reason to vote, we have to make sure their votes count and go to the candidate of their choosing. So I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that.”
A day earlier, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said during a CNN town hall at the historically black Jackson State University in Mississippi that abolishing the Electoral College is the only way to make every vote count.
“We need to make sure that every vote counts,” Warren said. “The way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College, and everybody … I think everybody ought to have to come and ask for your vote.”
Harris, O’Rourke, and Warren are among those who have also signaled support for increasing the number of justices at the U.S. Supreme Court to either dilute the current Republican-appointed majority, or achieve an outright Democratic majority.
“We are on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court,” Harris said on March 18. “We have to take this challenge head-on, and everything is on the table to do that.”
Warren echoed her call the same day, saying, “It’s not just about expansion, it’s about depoliticizing the Supreme Court.”
In the early primary state of Iowa, O’Rourke said on March 15 that expanding the Supreme Court needs to be explored: “What if there were five justices selected by Democrats, five justices selected by Republicans, and those 10 then picked five more justices independent of those who chose the first 10?”
Pete Buttigieg, a likely Democratic candidate and 37-year-old progressive mayor of South Bend, Indiana, proposed an identical plan in New Hampshire a week before O’Rourke.
Speaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on March 8, Buttigieg championed a Supreme Court expansion, as well as the abolition of the Electoral College.
“Obviously, I’d like to see a court that is in line with my values. So would everybody else,” he said. “The question to me is how do we arrest the decline in the perception of the court toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution.”
White House contender Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has gone even further, saying that Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, is illegitimate because Gorsuch’s seat should have gone to outgoing President Barack Obama’s 2016 nominee, Merrick Garland.
Asked whether he would preemptively pack the Supreme Court in his favor in light of Democratic calls to do the same, Trump told reporters in a Rose Garden news conference on March 19 that the court will stay at nine judges, at least for the next six years.
“No, I wouldn’t entertain that,” Trump said. “We would have no interest in that whatsoever … It will never happen. It won’t happen, I guarantee you, it won’t happen for six years.”
“The only reason that they’re doing that,” he said about his Democratic opponents, is that “they want to try and catch up. So if they can’t catch up through the ballot box by winning an election, they want to try doing it in a different way.”