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Op-Ed: Maryland prof’s Electoral College analysis shows indoctrination matters more than education

The thinking of the discredited “1619 Project” — which held that America was founded on slavery instead of the quest for liberty — continues to worm its way into our political rhetoric.

Consider William Blake. 

Blake, a political science professor at the University of Maryland-Baltimore, argues in a recent op-ed in The Conversation, that the Electoral College is racist — as are, presumably, those who defend the Founders’ wisdom. 

“Though the Electoral College has changed since it was first used to elect George Washington to the presidency in 1789, my research shows that the system continues to give more power to states whose populations are whiter and more racially resentful,” Blake wrote.

He reached that conclusion through a flawed analysis, however.

For example, Blake discussed the “three-fifths compromise,” by which the government would count slaves for purposes of determining representation in the House of Representatives, which forms the basis for Electoral College votes.

Blake wrote, “Slave states — with many people and with fewer — insisted on the Electoral College to preserve this advantage to give them a similar advantage in presidential selection.” He pointed out, for instance, that because of their slave populations Virginia and South Carolina got more electoral votes than Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, respectively, even though they had similar numbers of free white men.

That, in turn, kept a slaveholder in the White House as president or vice president for America’s first 18 presidential elections, Blake notes.

Blake, however, glides over the fact that Northerners wanted and benefited from the three-fifths compromise.  

The Constitution, in reference to slaves, specifically said three of every five “other persons” would be counted for determining population. Northerners contended slaves should not be counted at all, since they were “property.”

But Frederick Douglass once called the three-fifths provision “a downright disability laid upon the slaveholding states” because it deprived them of “two-fifths of their natural basis of representation.” 

Along those lines, Dr. Carol Swain, a retired political science professor from Vanderbilt and member of the James Madison Society at Princeton, observed in a paper two years ago: “The ‘three-fifths’ description had nothing to do with the human worth of an individual slave, but everything to do with how many representatives each state would have in the U.S. Congress. … The three-fifths compromise was devised by those who opposed slavery, not by those who were for slavery. Or, to put it another way, it wasn’t the racists of the South who wanted to count slave populations less than white populations — it was the abolitionists of the North.”

“Imagine how much more powerful slave states would have been without the three-fifths compromise,” Swain added. “If one hundred percent of the slave population had been counted, slavery may very well have lasted into the 20th century.”

In other words, the basis for the Electoral College was anti-slavery.

The second shortcoming of Blake’s analysis is his premise for determining how these resentful white states “consistently wield more electoral power.”

His contention is based on Electoral College votes per million residents.

“For instance, in 2016, North Dakota was the seventh whitest state and 47th on the list in terms of adult population. It had more than 5.2 electoral votes per million adult residents, when an average state had just 2.2 electoral votes per million adult residents,” Blake wrote. “According to my analysis, a state that is 10% whiter than the average state tends to have one extra electoral vote per million adult residents than the average state.”

The problem, for Blake, is that we don’t count electoral votes per capita. They are whole numbers.

Thus California, the mother lode of electoral votes with 55, and hardly Republican country, is only 37 percent non-Hispanic white. Texas, in second place with 38, is only 42 percent non-Hispanic white. New York, in third with 29, is 70 percent white, but it is hardly a hotbed of white racist resentment.

In concluding, Blake notes, “the centuries-old racial bias in the Electoral College could disappear with future population changes. Perhaps other states with relatively few people will follow the pattern of Nevada, whose population has recently become larger and more racially diverse. But the Electoral College remains a system born from white supremacy that will likely continue to operate in a racially discriminatory fashion” — as Barack Obama’s election proved, of course. 

About Nevada — It’s only 10 percent Black. Seems strange to argue that our system is “anti-Black” by citing as an example of the solution a state that has a smaller Black population than the nation as a whole.

If Blake proved anything, it is that on college campuses the drive to indoctrinate outpaces that to educate.

PHOTO: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

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