The last time I saw a case of sore losership this bad in a presidential election was the first one I ever voted in.
Ronald Reagan had been scathingly ridiculed on television—then as now, Saturday Night Live was merciless—at a time where there were fewer channels to watch than fingers on which to count them.
One of my college professors was a young attorney, and all through the early fall in his history class he seemed mildly amused at his conservative students’ passion for “that actor.”
Polling was not nearly as pervasive as today, but Reagan had been trailing Carter in the weeks prior to the debate. Even though most of my classmates and I thought Reagan won the debate, on election eve my pro-Democrat professor still had a smugness about him.
By 7:15 p.m. Arkansas time, Reagan was pronounced president by NBC News, which became the first network to incorporate exit polls in its projections. An hour and a half later, Carter conceded. By the time the ballots were all counted, the red-state bonanza was bountiful. Carter mustered a mere 49 electoral votes from six states and the District of Columbia.
Everyone remembers the trouncing, but few remember just how close some of the state races were. Reagan won Arkansas by just over 5,100 votes and Tennessee by only 4,700. He prevailed in Massachusetts by barely 3,000.
All told, in 10 states Reagan’s margin was less than 3 percent. Carter actually won twice as many counties in Arkansas, including my home county of Lawrence, which fueled the discontent of my professor, who loathed the thought of Arkansas as having “gone for Reagan.” But everyone knew the rules. No matter how small the margin in any given state, all the electoral votes were awarded to the winner.
We always have been a union of states, and our electoral college system was fashioned in line with our bicameral legislature concept, the presence of which in several states predated our Constitution.
The Federalist No. 39 forms as fine a nucleus as anything penned by the founders in delivering a cohesive and conclusive summary of the federalism-versus-nationalism debate raging during ratification.
In the short essay, James Madison does a masterful job of explaining the “republican complexion” of the proposed Constitution, and how the governmental system is a “composition of both” national and federal characteristics.
He noted that the form of the Constitution may be considered first in relation to how it is to be established. The states, not the people as a whole, would ultimately decide the ratification process—though the supreme authority in each state is derived from “the authority of the people themselves.”
“In this relation, then,” he wrote, “the new constitution will, if established, be a federal and not a national constitution.”
The executive office, he said, would derive its power from “a very compound source,” with the states electing the president “in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and co-equal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society.”
In short, a brilliant and wonderful mixture of both federal and national features.
California’s population doesn’t get to dominate a presidential election any more than it gets to dominate Congress. No matter how many people crowd into its borders, it is still but one out of 50 United States. Remove it from the tally, and Trump easily wins the popular vote in the other 49 states.
At the county level, Trump’s win was Reaganesque: He won 83 percent of the nation’s 3,141 counties.
That’s why talk of Trump getting a “minority” of the popular vote needs to be banished back to 2016. Bill Clinton failed to get a majority of the popular vote in 1992 (thanks to Ross Perot), but that “minority” was as irrelevant then as now.
Presidential elections are never popular-vote contests, and only sore losers complain in defeat about rules well-known in advance.
In a lunch conversation back before the election, I mused to my co-workers that whoever won would probably wind up being a better president than predicted.
The campaign had gotten so nasty that it distorted both the candidates. The difference between what is required for campaigning and governing—between winning a race and running a country—is always significant, and in this contest it appeared stratospherically so.
With expectations so low on both sides, I surmised, whichever candidate prevailed would be likely to exceed them.
Now that the winner is poised to take office, we’ll see.
Wooing the Bachelor
It was big news for small-town Hoxie, Ark., when native Raven Gates was selected to appear as one of 30 contestants on The Bachelor television show.
True to her roots, she gave prospective beau Nick Viall a small sample of Razorback fever this week when she showed him how to call the Hogs.
Her woo pig sooie was one of the more real moments in so-called reality television, which rarely ever is. It earned her a rose, which keeps her in the running (for now).