No, Trump did not win 'fair and square'
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The problem with many liberals is that they simply don't know when they should be outraged.

Since the disgusting and destructive presidential election, many pundits, conservative and liberal alike, have remarked that Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE won the election "fair and square."

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They state it with tremendous authority, as if it's some unquestionable tenet of any election discussion: "Well, we can't argue that he won it fair and square." Even Bill Maher and David Axelrod agreed on this point on Maher’s most recent show.

There's just one problem with this argument: It's nonsense.

Trump only won the election fair and square if you have no idea what either "fair" or "square" means.

This is not simply liberal sour grapes, though I'm sure many Trump supporters and self-defining "open-minded" liberals will characterize it as such.

First off, once all of the votes are tabulated, it appears that Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden prepares to confront Putin Ending the same-sex marriage wars Trump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' MORE will beat Trump in the popular vote — the only vote that should count — by about 2 million votes.

Sadly, none of these votes truly matter due to our ridiculous Electoral College system, which we're the only country on Earth to employ.

Of course, many Trump supporters will cry out against this by claiming that Trump would've campaigned differently had it been the popular vote that counted.

Maybe, but, obviously, Clinton would've done so as well, and probably could've racked up even more votes in cities, especially those in states that she didn't bother to campaign in because the Electoral College gives such an inordinate advantage to rural areas.

Generally, voter turnout tends to be considerably lower in solidly Democratic or Republican-leaning bastions, such as New York and California, where approximately 52.4 percent and 53.8 percent of eligible voters turned out, respectively, or Texas (51.1 percent) and Oklahoma (52.1 percent) (statistics from The Election Project).

More competitive states like Florida (65.1 percent), Ohio (64.5 percent) and New Hampshire (70.3 percent) tend to have much higher participation rates — a definite argument against the Electoral College. (In fact, the U.S. recently ranked 31st out of 35 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations when it came to voter participation.)

So while Trump would've stood to garner more votes in conservative states if the Electoral College didn't exist, given that Clinton's lead in big blue states was often bigger than Trump's in big red states, the overall likelihood is that a straight popular vote would've increased Clinton's popular vote lead.

Even Trump himself has acknowledged that the Electoral College makes no sense. In 2012, he called it a "disaster for a democracy."

More recently, he told "60 Minutes" that he'd rather see a straight vote.

(Of course, in typical Trump fashion, he followed that two days later with praise for the very same institution, tweeting out, "The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!")

No one can seriously argue that the Electoral College is not a severely antidemocratic hindrance and that it should be abolished.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

There's little doubt that Clinton's popular vote tally would've been millions more had it not been for several other factors: the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which allowed 868 polling stations to close throughout the South; voter ID laws that are especially cumbersome to the poor; the purging of voter rolls based on cross-checking and the elimination of convicts' voting rights, even after they've served their time; WikiLeaks dumps; excessive voting lines intended to suppress votes (in 2012, for instance, the average wait time across Florida was 45 minutes); and the shenanigans of one James B. Comey, FBI director. (Does anyone doubt that this last one alone was enough to swing the election?)

Many liberals — in typical "blame ourselves" fashion — have consistently repeated the notion that Clinton lost because she didn't inspire enough people to come out and vote. And there are indeed legitimate complaints to be logged in that regard. After all, she's likely to finish with about 2 million or so less votes than Obama did in 2012.

But how many votes would Obama have received if he had been forced to contend with the FBI, WikiLeaks, Russian hackers and a media set on promoting a nonsensical false equivalency for the purpose of improving ratings?

The truth is that our so-called democracy is more of pseudo-democracy, with ridiculously gerrymandered districts, large-scale voter suppression tactics, unequal representation, an Electoral College system that disregards the popular will of the people, and fake news sources that play to echo chambers and voter ignorance.

And although Trump succeeded without it, the ability of rich donors and corporations to pour money into elections should not be discounted either; nor should the corruption caused by the close association of Congress and K Street — both of which Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Democratic tensions will only get worse as left loses patience McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Socially-distanced 'action figure' photo of G7 leaders goes viral MORE (I-Vt.) and others have rightfully decried.

Yes, for all the things you can say about this election and our system in general, the one thing you can't say is that it operates in a manner which is "fair and square." Unless by "square" you mean that it squares with the wishes of the Republican leadership.

The question then remains: What can be done?

I've heard many liberals argue that nothing can be done — that the peaceful transfer of power and the continuity of government are the most important aspects of our democracy. But they're wrong. The most important aspect of our democracy is the democracy part: the voting. And if we don't protect that — if we don't fight for it — the rest isn't worth much.

It now appears that change will not come through the Supreme Court. And the prospect of passing a constitutional amendment to fix the Electoral College and the other voting issues I've enumerated is extremely unlikely without a wide-scale national movement. The same is true for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

We need that type of movement. We need protests. We need criticism. We need emails and phone calls to members of Congress. We need a news media that is responsible and that addresses these issues on a daily basis. We need to show our dismay in a very public way.

Ordinarily — in the past — I would've always had the greatest respect for the office of the president. Even presidents I did not agree with, I would've treated with respect. I would've never, if in their presence, have considered turning my back on them or not addressing them as "Mr. President."

But that's exactly what I think we should now do. Any American who objects not only to the things that Trump represents, but to the fact that our democratic institutions have largely been undermined, should refuse to show this president — and any president who does not win the popular vote, for that matter — any respect. Because, while we must accept the reality that he is in fact our president now, there is no rule that says we must revere him.

That is how you make your voice heard.

This does not mean that you should not pay your taxes (which support our military) or that you should disobey the rule of law.

But it does mean that you should turn your back on the president; that you should refuse to stand when he enters a room; and that you should refuse to call him "Mr. President."

It means that Democrats in leadership should do everything they can to stop him from infringing on the rights of our citizens, and that, in the Senate, they should refuse to approve any Supreme Court justices and stop Republicans from getting any of their projects passed — through protests, filibusters and other procedural measures until election reform occurs.

It means that members of the House should emulate their efforts of this past June and engage in sit-ins and other demonstrations to bring Republicans to the table.

Of course, such tactics would bear consequences. The Democrats would be accused of undermining the very republic that they seek to defend.

But it must be kept in mind that these types of things have already been occurring. Our Congress is remarkably inefficient, and Republicans have set plenty of precedent when it comes to obstruction, making it a general policy to strike down or delay practically every reasonable attempt at legislation and every appointment attempted by President Obama, including refusing to take a vote in the Senate on Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, whom many Republicans had previously praised.

Despite Republicans' insistence that Trump should be given a chance, they never gave Obama much of one, did they? Whatever he achieved, he achieved despite them, not because of any real willingness to cooperate.

Still, in order for such an effort to succeed, it would have to be supported by the public — if not a majority, at least a vocal minority. Organize under hashtags like #InaugurationProtest, but keep in mind that hashtags and Facebook posts alone won't do it.

You need to show up.

We need not only a massive protest on Inauguration Day, but regularly scheduled protests outside of the White House and the Capitol. We need a movement, not just the dressings of one. It was large-scale movements that gave us women's suffrage, the Civil Rights Law and gay marriage.

We need to make our representatives hear the clarion call in no uncertain terms.

Maybe then they'll get the message that every vote should count and every person should count.

Rosenfeld is an educator and historian who has done work for Scribner, Macmillan and Newsweek and contributes frequently to The Hill.

This piece was corrected on Thursday, Nov. 24 at 11:28 a.m. to accurately note that James Comey is director of the FBI. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.