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The Electoral College vs. Baseball

December 6, 2016

I’ve seen this analogy a few times now in the last 10-12 days. Donald Trump supporters – shaken that their swamp-draining messiah trails Hilary Clinton in the popular vote by something like 2.5 million votes, or feeling a little wobbly with the fact that starting in 1992, the last seven presidential elections, the Republican candidate has won the popular vote only once while winning the Electoral College three times – apparently feel the need to remind us all how important the Electoral College really is. I guess it’s all part of making America great again or something.

The idea is to pick something everyone loves and can identify with and create an analogy and run with it despite the logic not making sense.

In this case it’s baseball and the analogy is the World Series. In 1960 the Pittsburgh Pirates (who remembers Roberto Clemente? I do, but only barely and probably because I remember my dad talking about him or because I’ve seen him in documentaries) beat the New York Yankees four games to three. But the Yankees scored more than twice as many runs as the Pirates, outscoring them 55 to 27 in the four games. So, say those folks who refused to acknowledge just how great America was and went looking for an alternative and who, seeing how unpopular that person really is, feel a need to defend their darling, the dissimulating Donald, this is why the Electoral College is important.

I’m lost, why?

OK, the idea is that the Yankees scored more runs than the Pirates, but the Pirates scored just enough runs in enough games to win the World Series. So the question posed is if the Yankees should have won the 1960 World Series because they scored more runs but didn’t win more games. Of course not, they say, and blah, blah, blah, baloney, bunk and balderdash. And any other “b” word you can think to add.

First of all this analogy isn’t new to 2016. I think the first time I heard it was just after the 2000 election when Americans said they liked Al Gore more than they liked George Bush and I’m pretty sure that it goes back further than that.

It’s a bad analogy because every sports fan knows that the best teams in a season aren’t always the teams playing for a championship, and that championship winners aren’t always the best team in the sport’s final series. Also, and everyone knows this, the baseball playoffs and World Series (not to mention all sports) is about entertainment and not a determiner of the best team of any given season. Even when you have a team like the 1960 New York Yankees with Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the sample size of only 4 to 7 games is way too small for that. And that’s a completely different scenario than a presidential election which isn’t (or shouldn’t be!) about entertainment.

So when you look at a presidential election, should the winner be determined by the person who played just good enough in a few key games (states) or should it be determined by every American having an equal say in the outcome? I don’t say all this to offer a suggestion to that hypothetical question or to complain about the 2016 election or to offer an opinion about the Electoral College, but only to say that I don’t think the baseball comparison is a good analogy, so if any Donald devotees really want to justify their decision, and their vote, then they should find a logical way to do that.

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