Everything We Like About the Electoral College Is a Result of Its Corruption
1. More on the EC
After Friday’s edition, I got a note from reader William Cinfici, who wanted to expand on the EC:
I appreciate your defense of the Electoral College. I just want to note, as a historian, that your points are true, like many other defenses of the EC, not because of how the Framers intended it, but in a practical way because of how the EC has been corrupted by major political parties through state legislation that has fundamentally changed the way the body is elected and how it carries out its role.
You are on the right track that the EC mediates popular intent, but it is more accurate to note that the EC was created to avoid a popular election for President and Vice President entirely than to mediate the popular vote. Electors could be either appointed by State Legislatures or elected, which in the early Republic meant elected in their own right (and not in the name of a presidential and vice presidential ticket), without campaigning for themselves and without even their names appearing on ballots. The EC only effectively mediates the popular vote it because of how Electors are now chosen and how presidential campaigns, which the Framers never imagined (no one campaigned for President until 1840!), are conducted. The EC was thus transformed by parties as a bulwark against populism and demagoguery to a potential vehicle for populism and demagoguery.
You are also right that the EC promotes majoritarian rule through the two-party system, versus the dangers of multi-party systems, but only, again, because of how the EC has been corrupted in terms of the selection of Electors and through winner-take-all state laws and laws encouraging or even requiring Electors to vote for the nominees of the party whose slate of Electors attracts the most votes. Electors were intended to be free to exercise their best judgment to vote for whomever they thought would be most fit, regardless of party, the dominance of which the Framers did not intend. The majoritarian aspect of the EC that the Framers did intend was that the President be supported by a broad base, meaning not by only large States or by only one region. The fundamental aspect of the EC is that it is a representative body that effectuates the election of the President (the officer who presides over the Union of the States) and Vice President by the States themselves through the Electors who represent them.
538 is so great.
This is a super-smart, easily digestible explanation for what’s going on with Milwaukee closer Josh Hader:
The Milwaukee Brewers reliever has struck out an absurd 50 percent of batters faced this season. For a single season in the pitch-tracking era, only two pitchers have posted higher rates: Aroldis Chapman at 52.5 percent in 2014 and Craig Kimbrel at 50.2 percent in 2012.But what’s perplexing about Hader’s whiff rate is that hitters know what’s coming: He is going to throw his four-seam fastball. Hader turns to his signature pitch on 88.6 percent of his throws, a greater frequency than all but two MLB pitchers to have thrown at least 20 innings this year. While the pitch’s velocity (95.9 mph) is above average, it ranks just 66th among fastballs. By comparison, Chapman’s fastball averages 98.2 mph, which is sixth-best in the league.
Hader also owns a below-average total spin rate, as calculated by Statcast’s TrackMan Doppler radar component. The average spin rate for a four-seam fastball this year is 2,284 revolutions per minute, while Hader’s is a rate of 2,154 rpms. Moreover, fastballs — even mid-90 mph iterations — are generally pitches that produce some of the lowest swing-and-miss rates in baseball.
Yet batters are whiffing on 44 percent of their swings against Hader’s fastball, the top mark in the majors.3 Another 40 percent of swings against his fastball are fouled off — meaning that an opponent is able to put a ball in play just 16 percent of the time he swings at a Hader fastball. Opponents are batting just .132 against the pitch.
Since 2008, when pitch-tracking systems were up and running in all major league parks, Hader owns the greatest career swing-and-miss rate of any pitcher on four-seamers (38.7 percent) with at least 500 fastballs thrown.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I’ll give you two hints: (1) Magnus. (2) Spin efficiency.
3. Mueller Report Redux
N+1 has an interesting essay about the Mueller report. It’s worth your time.
The division between the two volumes is not for ease of understanding. Practically, it reflects the shift from the two retrospective tasks of the Special Counsel’s charge—to investigate responsibility for the 2016 Russian election attack and any Trump campaign links to it—to a third, real-time task: to prosecute anyone who might obstruct the investigation as it progressed. As the main person criminally obstructing it turned out to be the President, this required its own volume.
Almost metaphysically, however, the two volumes divide across a change of state created by Trump’s inauguration as President. With that institutional event, both Trump’s person and his actions changed status, and so did the nature of the evidence collected. The “candidate,” then “president-elect,” became President of the United States, a being with alternative powers, privileges, and opportunities for criminality. His contacts with Russia became less legally culpable as they could pass for statecraft, and Mueller stopped documenting relevant evidence of rewards to the Kremlin and communications with Putin. Most neglectfully, Mueller did not subpoena or interview Trump, the knower at the center of the evidentiary threads, because he now sat in the office of the President. On the other side of the inaugural chasm, however, Trump’s comments about the FBI investigation, and hints to its agents as well as its targets, became far more culpable, as he would now appear as the “boss” of all federal police action and thus a puissant obstacle to its independent duties—and, with his pardon power, the undoer of all threat of punishment to those likely to be convicted of federal crimes. . . .
Robert Mueller, a Republican lawman, with the most conservative temperament and following the most conservative legal reasoning, concludes that President Trump cannot be proven innocent of crimes of obstruction of justice. Trump misused the powers of the Presidency to protect his own family, his confederates, and himself. He tampered with witnesses and attempted to subvert the course of justice through executive power—crimes of obstruction that exceed those for which Nixon was impeached and resigned and Clinton was impeached and remained. If you care at all about obstruction of justice and the powers of the law and police, these crimes are extreme, and certainly impeachable.
However, most of us don’t care much about hindrances of the powers of law and police except when they’re on the trail of larger crimes against society. Al Capone did not singularly outrage society by avoiding taxes. The State is right to pursue collateral crimes when the real crimes, whether through skill, accident, or lack of legislative anticipation, are unpunishable or not yet on the books. If Trump and his campaign did not actually cheat in the election; if they were not disloyal; if they did not welcome, encourage, and benefit from a foreign attack on the United States; if they won fairly, operated independently, and were not open to blackmail by the Kremlin, and did not seem to pay off with benefits to Russian foreign policy—then Trump’s obstruction of government investigations could seem like what Attorney General Barr has implied it to be: a partly understandable, personal peculiarity of a generally paranoid person. . . .
That is why Volume I of the Mueller report matters more than Volume II. The remarkable result of Volume I is to confirm that two and a half years of investigative reporting was correct: the Kremlin contacts with the Trump campaign were real and substantive, and they fit in at key junctures with the Russian attack on the election. It looks as if the Russian attack and the Trump campaign coordinated. They betrayed the country and its electorate, Republicans and Democrats. And the actual situation, as far as the Mueller investigation was able to show, was much clearer and easier to follow than the press had been able to prove.
In briefest summary: Mueller discovered that candidate Trump was the one who reached out initially, in 2015 and 2016, to particular, named officials in the Kremlin to ask for real estate favors and benefits. They then reached out in return in 2016, once Trump had become the Republican candidate, to offer assistance in winning the election. The head of Trump’s presidential campaign began sending back their internal polling and targeting information to Kremlin intermediaries, and in apparent response to Trump’s public call to Russia to “find” Hillary Clinton’s “secret” emails, Kremlin-backed hackers stole emails from Clinton’s campaign. Through WikiLeaks, Russia released the stolen emails in ways timed to harm Clinton’s campaign and aid Trump’s—timing of which candidate Trump may have had knowledge. Upon election, both the Trump side and the Kremlin sought to build out channels of secret communication, through which the Trump staff promised material benefits once Trump was in office. These are documented by the Mueller report as facts.