Bill Clinton Backs Ending Electoral College With New Safeguards

Bill Clinton Backs Ending Electoral College With New Safeguards

Posted For: Layla Godey

by Gregory Korte

(Bloomberg) — Bill Clinton says the electoral college system should be abolished, but cautioned that a system for directly electing the president would need safeguards to prevent fringe candidates from taking office.

“If you did it, the first question you gotta ask yourself is, would we have more three-party or four-party national elections? And, if so, would we have to have a runoff?” Clinton told David Rubenstein in a rare joint interview with his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The full interview will run this fall on “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” on Bloomberg Television.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect system, and it may unleash even more parties, so should there be a minimum?”

The former president’s position on abolishing the electoral college isn’t surprising, given that the system deprived Hillary Clinton of the presidency in 2016 despite winning 2.9 million more votes than Donald Trump. “Yeah. Oh, I definitely prefer direct election,” she agreed to laughter at the 92nd Street Y in New York on May 4.

But Bill Clinton’s suggested fix — if it had been in place in 1992 — might have cost him the election.

The problem with direct election, Clinton said, is that it could encourage minor parties that could split the vote and result in a candidate winning with a small plurality. So the winning candidate would need to cross some kind of threshold — perhaps 45% of the vote — or else face a runoff, he said.

Clinton himself received 43% of the popular vote, as independent Ross Perot’s 19% came largely from Republican President George H.W. Bush’s support.

But that system would be better than the current system, in which the states select 538 electors who ultimately elect the president, he said.

“We know that the effect of the electoral college is to give about, oh, 36 extra votes to the most culturally conservative and furthest right American states. And I have no objection to them voting. I want ’em all to vote,” he said. “But I just don’t think you can justify that today.”

Abolishing the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment, although there are also proposals to bypass it by having a critical mass of states agree to cast their electoral votes in line with the national popular vote.


Bill Clinton also said he knew it was “just a matter of time” before Russian President Vladimir Putin reneged on the 1994 agreement his predecessor made to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“Vladimir Putin told me in 2011, three years before he took Crimea, that he did not agree with the agreement I made with Boris Yeltsin, that they would respect Ukraine’s territory if they gave up their nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Ukraine did a good thing when they gave up their nuclear weapons,” said Clinton. “I was trying desperately to drive down the number of nuclear weapons in the world.”

In a conversation in Davos, Switzerland, Clinton said Putin told him, “I don’t agree with it. And I do not support it. And I’m not bound by it.”

Former President Bill Clinton And Hillary Clinton At 92nd Street Y Event

Former President Bill Clinton And Hillary Clinton At 92nd Street Y Event© Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg


Hillary Clinton said the world’s near-unanimous opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine — and the surprising resilience of Ukrainian troops — may have deterred Chinese President Xi Jinping from invading Taiwan.

“Xi saw that. And I think before the Russian invasion, there was a good chance he would have moved on Taiwan within two to three years. I think that timetable has been pushed back.”

But she said Xi’s decision to remain in power for life sends a signal that the US needs a strategy to counterbalance Chinese power beyond tariffs and sanctions.

“This is someone who has consolidated power and is going to be a very dangerous leader unless he’s convinced that the costs of risk-taking and aggression are too much and therefore backs off,” she said.

Debt limit

The former president said it was “nuts” to argue about raising the debt limit, calling it a “stupid rule.” But he also said the necessary spending that happened during the Covid-19 pandemic — under both Trump and President Joe Biden would have to be reined in.

“We have to set an example, and we cannot refuse to pay people the interest they earn because of money we voted to spend. You can’t do that. And it should not be a political football,” he said.

“On the other hand, we’re gonna have to show more fiscal discipline for the next several years.”

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