ViewPoint: The absurd math of the electoral college

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Tauhid Zaman

MIT Sloan Assistant Professor Tauhid Zaman

From the Boston Business Journal

For those who think it’s mathematically odd that Donald Trump was sworn in this past week as the next president of the United States — even though he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes — I have some news: It could have been even more strange.

Instead of netting only 46.1 percent of the vote compared with Clinton’s 48.2 percent of the popular vote, Trump could have, by my calculations, pulled in a mere 22 percent of the popular vote and still won the election.

How is that possible? Thank our quirky electoral college system, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution, that assigns electoral votes to final election outcomes in individual states, not by a nationwide vote tally.

It’s all about mathematics. Here’s how it works.

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A presidential truthfulness oath – Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Prof. Yasheng Huang

MIT Sloan Prof. Yasheng Huang

From Project Syndicate

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I say “sworn in,” rather than “assume the presidency,” because, under Section I of Article II of the US Constitution, Trump cannot actually become president unless he takes an oath of office, publicly committing himself to uphold the Constitution and perform to the best of his ability while in office. That is, of course, the case for all presidents. But, given how Trump comported himself during the campaign, it is particularly meaningful in his case.

Until now, Trump has made no effort to behave in an honest or reliable way. Technically, he didn’t have to. The US does not require any sworn statements from the men and women who run for president, nor does it have any enforceable code of behavior or constraints on the kind of rhetoric that can be used. Candidates may conduct themselves however they see fit.

This approach is based on the assumption that we can trust the candidates’ judgment. People seeking the country’s highest office should know how to balance the political imperative of winning votes with a sense of responsibility for the feasibility of – and reasoning behind – their policy promises.

By and large, experience has vindicated this view. The US has had the good fortune of choosing largely from among presidential aspirants who adhere to generally accepted norms. With Trump, it seems that fortune has turned into bankruptcy.

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How to cure the electoral college – Arnold Barnett and Edward Kaplan

MIT Sloan Professor Arnold Barnett

MIT Sloan Professor Arnold Barnett

From The Los Angeles Times

The popular vote winner is poised to lose the presidency in the electoral college on Dec. 19, and calls are widespread to replace the college with a national popular vote. That proposal will go nowhere: Amending the Constitution is too difficult, and getting a Supreme Court judgment against the electoral college is almost as fraught. It doesn’t help that a direct presidential election is perceived as benefiting Democrats, and Republicans are ascendant at both the state and federal levels.

A simple reform, however, might go a long way toward reducing objections to the electoral college without introducing a partisan bias.

Our alternative would preserve the current arrangements for assigning electoral votes to individual states. As required by the Constitution, each state’s total electoral vote would be based on the size of its delegation in the House of Representatives (determined by population) and in the Senate (every state gets two). In most states, electoral votes are finally awarded on a winner-takes-all basis. We propose instead that electoral votes be awarded in direct proportion to each candidate’s share of the states’ popular vote.

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How progressives can pressure Trump on 3 key issues – Paul Osterman

MIT Sloan Prof. Paul Osterman

MIT Sloan Prof. Paul Osterman

From CNBC

There is little doubt that the Trump Administration aims to undermine, defund, and repeal much of the progressive agenda. However, progressives have one crucial move they can play to avoid four years of devastating policymaking: using Trump’s own voters against him.

Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory was in no small part due to the support of voters who suffered immensely during the Great Recession and who have still not recovered. Two thirds of all voters thought that their personal financial situation was the same or worse than four years ago and in Wisconsin, where Trump achieved an unexpected victory, the majority of voters believed that the economy was the top issue, despite official indicators of an improving job market.

Trump now faces a paradox. Many of the core elements of his agenda—loosening financial regulation, gutting health care reform, bashing immigrants, attacking unions, undermining the Fair Labor Standards Act—will actually damage the struggling workers and families he pledged to protect. Many of these people voted for Trump in hopes he’d fulfill that promise –even as his policies would do the opposite. So while the Trump Administration may be driven by its ideology to follow through on these proposals, its ultimate success depends on support from voters who would suffer under them.

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On the making of Trump: the blind spot that created him – Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer

From The Huffington Post

We have entered a watershed moment not only here in America, but also globally. It’s a moment that could help us wake up to a deeper level of collective awareness and renewal—or a moment when we could spiral down into chaos, violence, and fascism-like conditions. Whether it’s one or the other depends on our capacity to become aware of our collective blind spot.

Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the United States has sent shock waves across the planet. In a replay of Brexit, a coalition of white, working- (and middle-) class men (and women) from mostly rural areas swept an anti-establishment candidate into office. But the election of Trump is hardly an outlier: just look at the global rise of strongmen such as Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdogan, Viktor Orban, and Rodrigo Duterte and the surge of other right-wing populists.

Why has the richest and most prosperous country in the world now elected a climate denier who used racist, sexist, misogynistic, and xenophobic language throughout his campaign? What makes us put someone like him in the White House? Why did we create a presidential election between two of the most disliked candidates of all time, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? Why did Trump, who lied and attacked minorities, journalists, women, and the disabled, only become stronger and stronger throughout his campaign? What is the blind spot that has kept us from seeing and shifting the deeper forces at play? Why, again and again, do we collectively create results that most people don’t want?

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