The Electoral College Stopped California From Picking Our Next President. That's A Good Thing.


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I was born in California, raised in California, and went to public school in California until I graduated High School. I love California.

I also believe that the Electoral College did its job and prevented California from being the kingmaker queenmaker in 2016.

You're likely familiar with the argument that the Electoral College is designed to put a check on direct democracy and prevent bigger population centers - like coastal urban cities - from having too much influence over the country. That's why, though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, she lost the election.

Except, it's not really the blue urban centers on the coast that the Electoral College weighted down this year. It weighted down, pretty specifically, California.

For example, in nearly every big blue state on the East Coast (New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland), Clinton actually performed worse than Obama did. The same phenomenon played out on the West Coast - Hillary underperformed Obama in Washington and Oregon.

But then, as you can see from the chart above, we get to California.

While virtually every other coastal blue state soured on Hillary Clinton, the Golden State for some reason went all in, increasing its Democratic margin in 2016 by more than two percentage points.

How did that Clinton surge translate into actual votes? Obama won 6.5 million votes in California in 2012. Clinton won 8.7 million - that's a difference of 2.2 million votes. Considering that Clinton won the popular vote nationwide by 2.8 million votes, it's hard to ignore that California number as a major factor behind her popular vote win,

The below New York Times graphic shows just how tilted California was this year. Red arrows represent a shift to Trump and blue arrows represent a shift to Clinton. Compare California to other coastal states and you can see that Californians up and down and across the state really outdid themselves.

Image Credit: New York Times

None of this is to say that California voters shouldn't count. They should, and they do - California gets 55 electoral votes, 10% of the Electoral College. That's roughly equal to California's proportion of the population, 12%. (And all 55 of those electoral votes, by the way, went to Clinton.)

But clearly the Clinton surge was pretty unique to California. If Clinton had replicated her success there in other states, she might have won. But she didn't. If Clinton had tried to broaden her appeal, particularly among white working class voters, it may have been enough to tip Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She didn't do that either.

Instead, Clinton's campaign did spark enthusiasm, but only among Californians who already live in a massive blue, coastal, big government bubble.

That sort of narrow regional appeal is what the Electoral College is designed to insulate us from.