The venerable New York Times was forced to issue a correction on a column regarding the Electoral College when their own words came back to haunt them.
On December 19, the Times posted an op-ed titled “Time to End the Electoral College,” in which the editorial board argued that the electoral process is a “living symbol of America’s original sin.”
They stated unequivocally that the paper has opposed the Electoral College consistently for 80 years.
“This page opposed the Electoral College in 1936, and in more recent years as well,” the column read.
Those statements however, proved troublesome for the editors when their argument to end the Electoral College was countered by their own words, contained in a column in 2000 titled “The Case for the Electoral College.”
Here are the dueling narratives in plain sight:
Here’s the text of the 2000 editorial:
As the 538 members of the Electoral College met yesterday to ratify George W. Bush’s razor-thin 271-to-266 victory (one Al Gore elector abstained), many Americans continued to question the system that awarded Mr. Bush the White House despite the vice president’s 337,000-vote margin in the popular vote. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll suggested that about 6 in 10 Americans would prefer to abandon the Electoral College and switch to a direct popular vote. Among others, New York’s senator-elect, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has condemned the present system and promised to co-sponsor legislation abolishing it and providing for the direct election of the president. That would be a mistake. The Electoral College has enough benefits to justify its survival.
This was the first election since 1888, when Benjamin Harrison denied Grover Cleveland a second term, in which the electors chose a candidate who did not win the popular vote. But the Electoral College itself has come under fire at regular intervals. According to federal historians, over 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress in the last 200 years to reform or eliminate the system. Indeed, there have been more proposals for constitutional amendments to alter or abolish the Electoral College than on any other subject.
The most common complaint is that the system gives disproportionate weight to smaller states and is therefore inconsistent with the notion of one person one vote. Under the rules, each state gets electoral votes equal to the number of its representatives in the House, which are allocated by population, and another electoral vote for each senator. This senatorial ”add-on” gives the smaller states extra weight. With the add-on, New York, for example, has one electoral vote for every 550,000 people, while South Dakota has one for every 232,000. Looked at another way, Mr. Bush captured 73 electoral votes in 12 small states with a combined population equal to California’s, whereas Mr. Gore received only 54 for winning California itself.
Yet the arguments for the Electoral College are also compelling, and in our view, outweigh the majoritarian case put forward by Mrs. Clinton and others. The nation’s founders sought in various creative ways to create checks and balances, both inside and outside government. The Electoral College was first and foremost a compact among states, large and small, designed to ensure that one state or one region did not dominate the others. As Charles Fried noted in a recent Op-Ed piece, it was and is one of those safeguards of a balanced federalism — much like the allocation of two senators to each state, regardless of size. And by offering the promise that even the smallest states could tip the balance in close elections, the system made it impossible to ignore them. This, in turn, required presidential candidates to build alliances across ideological and geographical lines.
It is true, as the system’s critics suggest, that the rise of mass communications and modern transportation has knit the country together in ways unforeseen by the founders. But that does not mean that we are one homogeneous, undifferentiated mass, at least not yet. There are still definably Midwestern interests, or Northwestern interests, as opposed to, say, Eastern interests. There are still definably rural interests, just as there are urban interests.
The system has survived earlier instances in which the winner of the popular vote was denied the presidency. Wise voters and legislators will want to make sure that it survives this one as well. [Emphasis added]
Cross-posted at the Mental Recession