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National popular vote is 'mob democracy,' says GOP Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen

King Louix XIV would have opposed the DFL amendment to House File 406.

King Louix XIV would have opposed the DFL amendment to House File 406. Isidore Stanislas Helman/wikimedia

Donald Trump won the popular vote in last November's election. Just ask him.

Trump has repeatedly told the American people as much, saying he'd come out on top once you strip away the "millions" of "illegal" and fradulent votes Hillary Clinton received. Last week Trump announced a "major investigation into VOTER FRAUD," a concept so serious it must by law be referred to in ALL CAPS when the president is TWEETING.

If he's right, Republicans should have nothing to fear about getting rid of the Electoral College. And yet.

Instead, here in Minnesota, there's a movement to not only preserve the Electoral College, but change it in a way that would undoubtedly benefit Republicans. No GOP candidate for president has won this state since Richard Nixon's nationwide landside over George McGovern in 1972. 

Minnesota has since built the longest streak of giving its electoral votes to Democratic candidates, even in down years for the top of the ticket. 

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, can't switch all those votes to the GOP side. But he can get a few of 'em: Gruenhagen's carrying a bill that would apportion the state's electoral votes based on Congressional districts, rather than one statewide, winner-gets-all election that determines all 10 Minnesota votes. 

The state's Congressional Districts typically have a far more even split. At present, the DFL holds five seats, and the GOP holds three; five of those seats (three DFL, two GOP) are regularly listed as "toss-ups" heading into an election season.

Gruenhagen's bill, which also has the blessing of co-author and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, got its House committee debut last week. And it was there that DFL Rep. Mike Freiberg (Golden Valley) thought, so long as we're messing with presidential elections, let's go all the way.

Freiberg introduced an amendment to wipe out Gruenhagen's whole proposal and replace it with national popular vote -- meaning his vote in a Twin Cities suburb counts the same as Donald Trump's in Manhattan, or Gruenhagen's in Glencoe. 

In the past 10 years, 10 states and Washington, D.C. have approved national popular vote, which would go into effect nationally if states with a combined 270 Electoral College votes pass legislation. (They're currently sitting at 165 votes, with New York [29 votes] in 2014 the most recent state to join.)

Freiberg's amendment was not received well by the bill's author. Gruenhagen observed that a study indicated Minnesota's influence on presidential elections would be decreased by national popular vote.

Meanwhile, he continued, "places like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles" -- the three biggest cities in the country -- "would have an increased influence with the national popular vote," thus elucidating the oft-elusive demographic concept that cities with higher populations tend to have more people in them.

Then Gruenhagen offered a history lesson, part of which was captured by The Uptake.

The phrase "national popular vote" doesn't appear in the United States Consitution, nor does the word "democracy." Because of that, Gruenhagen is certain that the men who wrote the Constitution foresaw all of this, and are totally fine with it.

"Our Founding Fathers fully expected that we would occasionally have presidents elected without a majority vote," he said. 

Then, this: "One thing about a republic versus a mob democracy -- and by the way, the French Revolution was built on mob democracy, they wound up killing each other, okay? -- our principles that we're founded on, as a republic, has created a stable government for over 200 years, maximizing the freedom of the individual. Mob democracies, according to our Founding Fathers, soon crashed and burned as the largest groups of people exploited the smaller groups."

Speaking of strength in numbers, Freiberg's amendment was voted down 10-6 on a party-line vote, thus rescuing Minnesota from "mob democracy" and inevitable chaos for another year. You can stop building those guillotines.

Gruenhagen's bill was laid over for further consideration, but Daudt's support means it's likely to resurface as part of a larger bill dealing with elections policy. The Founding Fathers have yet to appear in person to lobby on House File 406, but expect them to continue to communicate from beyond the grave through the mouth of Glenn Gruenhagen, an insurance salesman from Glencoe, Minnesota.