As members of the Electoral College prepare to choose Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, some Republican electors say they are defending rural and small-town America against big-state liberalism and its support for national popular vote leader Hillary Clinton.
But the picture is more complicated.
“Our Founding Fathers established the Electoral College because those larger states, those larger areas, don’t necessarily need to be the ones that rule,” said Mary Sue McClurkin, a Republican elector from Alabama.
In Trump’s hometown of New York City, which Clinton won easily, Democratic elector Stuart Appelbaum countered that “we’re electing the president of the entire country,” so “the will of the entire country should be reflected in the results.”
It’s an expected argument given the unusual circumstances of the 2016 election. Clinton won some 2.6 million more votes than Trump in the nationwide tally. But Trump is line to get 306 of the 538 electoral votes under the state-by-state distribution of electors used to choose presidents since 1789.
Trump won rural areas, small towns and many small cities, including in states Clinton carried. Clinton won in the largest urban areas, including in Trump states.
Former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, a GOP elector, said Democrats’ strength on the coasts is enough to justify the Electoral College. “A presidential election decided each time by either California or New York,” he said, would leave voters in Alaska and many other places “with no voice” in presidential politics.
It’s worth noting that Trump didn’t just win small states and Clinton didn’t just take large ones.
Trump and Clinton split the six most populous states, each winning three, but Trump won seven of the top 10. Of the 10 smallest states plus the District of Columbia, Trump edged Clinton 6-5. Trump actually ran up his national advantage in midsize states.
But the dynamics highlight the delicate balance in a political structure that defines itself simultaneously as a democracy and a republic.