Joe Scarborough, Self-Styled Defender Of Conservatism, Comes Out Against Electoral College

March 19th, 2019 2:50 PM

Ask MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough why he is a fierce critic of President Trump and he will give you the "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me" speech. As Scarborough tells it, he is still the same conservative that was elected to Congress back in 1994 and that unlike the Republican Party, which has debased itself in its embrace of Trump, he still cares about the Constitution. During a Tuesday segment, the self-proclaimed defender of constitutional norms came out swinging against the Electoral College and suggested that the only reason Republicans refuse to do away with it is because it has benefited them twice since 2000.

After co-host Mika Brzezinski kicked off the segment with a video of Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren telling a town hall audience that she favored eliminating the Electoral College, Scarborough interrupted to ask co-host Willie Geist to consider the fact that two of the past three Presidents have not won the popular vote. "For a nation that believes in 'One Person One Vote,' that's just not a system that can, that really can continue effectively much longer if this happens again."

Geist began his response by saying that the Electoral College can be difficult to explain to children, but that it does have some legitimate reasons for existing. He then went after the real reason why Warren and her fellow Democrats want to get rid of the Electoral College, "I know that these senators and congress people would not be speaking out so clearly if the election and gone the other way."



After Geist then praised Democrats for talking policy, regardless of what anybody thinks of it, Scarborough turned to Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. to ask, "how quickly would Republicans have changed?" if the 2000 and 2016 election outcomes had been reversed. Before Glaude could answer, Scarborough answered his own question, "It would be done by now. We would already be to a popular vote."

Glaude then repeated the idea that the Electoral College was designed to empower slave states. The Electoral College was actually designed to empower small states and they would not accept a popularly elected President because that would allow states like slave-holding Virginia to dominate the process. Since a popular vote was a non-starter, the Three-Fifths Compromise actually limited the power of slave states as Noah Rothman would point out later on MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin.

One expects people like Elizabeth Warren and Eddie Glaude to be against the Electoral College, because after the 2000 and 2016 Elections, it has become one of the left's new favorite hobby horses. However, Scarborough claims to be a conservative defender of constitutional norms against a president who is threatening them. Doing away with a crucial part of the Constitution, because the election did not go the way you would have preferred, is neither conservative nor a defense of constitutional norms.

Here is a transcript for the March 19 show:


Morning Joe

6:30 AM ET

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So, let’s stop right here for a second. Willie, think about this fact, that two of our last three Presidents have got to the White House despite the fact their opponents got more votes than they did. For a nation that believes in “One Person, One Vote,” that’s just not a system that can, that really can continue effectively much longer if this happens again.

WILLIE GEIST: Well, it’s not an easy thing to explain. Let’s say you have an eleven and nine-year old and they say, “Wait a minute, she got more votes than he did, why is he President?” and you try to explain it, you go back to your Vanderbilt political science days and explain the reasons for it and the defenses of it and there are some. And I also know that these senators and congress people would not be speaking out so clearly if the election had gone the other way. In other words if they had won the Electoral College and lost the general election, they lost the popular vote. It's a conversation for sure and it's I think a litmus test for a lot of these candidates. They're being asked about the popular vote here, they’re being asked about the Electoral College, they’re being asked about reparations, which Elizabeth Warren came out in favor of last night. It was fascinating. It was a window, Joe into my social I was watching at 8:00 last night, Kirsten Gillibrand with Chris Hayes on MSNBC and then switched over just for a few minutes and then came back to Rachel and watched Elizabeth Warren and if you're a Progressive, these are people with ideas. You and I may not agree with all of them, but they're talking about policy and they’re engaging the voters. It’s not in most cases, there are be some candidates who maybe, but in most cases not sort of a cult of personality. So I think if you're a Progressive you got to be happy with your choices. I mean you can throw Pete Buttigieg in there. He’s a serious policy guy. There are lots of them and so if you’re a progressive, there is a lot of options on the table, smart people talking about ideas you want to see happen in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: So, Eddie Glaude, let's play our favorite game: What If? What if Al Gore lost the vote to George W. Bush and then was President for eight years? And what if Hillary Clinton lost the popular vote to Donald Trump and was President right now? So in effect, you would have at least 12 of the last 20 years a President that got into office losing the popular vote. Tell me, how quickly would Republicans have changed? It would be done by now. We would already be to a popular vote.

EDDIE GLAUDE JR: You're absolutely right, Joe. How do we say at home in the south? It would be in the bat of an eye if they would’ve done it, so I think it’s important. I think it's important for us to stand the origin of the Electoral College, too. Madison, who is the genius behind our system, also understood in terms of apportionment, in terms of counting influence in states that southern slave holding states were at a disadvantage because slaves, quote unquote "Black folk" couldn't vote. And so there was a way in which the Electoral College could balance it out, because if we didn’t have the Electoral College, the South would’ve been at a complete disadvantage with regards to the North because black folk couldn’t vote in that time. So, the Electoral College is rooted in some interesting sort of way, the original sin of the country and it seems to me Joe, that if we’re going to get beyond this we need to understand that and perhaps take seriously the idea of getting rid of it finally, once at for all.

MIKE BARNICLE: And Joe, to your point, playing the What If game, on this date in this date in 2003 the incumbent President of the United States George W. Bush announced to the nation that we are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq. The war in Iraq began on this very day in 2003. Al Gore was not president.