The assumptions underlying a controversy are often more important than the controversy itself.
Take the case of our blithe acceptance of the electoral college. There is nothing normal or democratic about choosing our president through a system that makes it ever more likely that the candidate who garners fewer votes will nonetheless assume power. For a country that has long claimed to model democracy to the world, this is both wrong and weird.
And there is also nothing neutral or random about how our system works. The Electoral College tilts outcomes toward white voters, conservative voters, and certain regions of the country. People outside these groups and places are supposed to sit back and accept their relative disenfranchisement. There is no reason they should, and at some point, they won't. This will lead to a meltdown.
Our brewing troubles were underscored last month by the kerfuffle that Nate Cohn, the New York Times's political numbers guru, set off with a story that ran under the headline "Trump's Electoral College Edge Could Grow in 2020, Rewarding Polarizing Campaign."
For election junkies, Cohn's analysis ignited quite a stir, especially since it set off a "Nate vs. Nate" Twitter skirmish between Cohn and Nate Silver, another brand-name data maven. (Yes, fate has made Nate a name of choice for people in this line of work.) Silver's main critique was fair enough: "There's just not that much we can say about the Electoral College right now beyond a couple of fairly loose priors (e.g. it's more likely to help than hurt Trump)."
Still, Cohn's calculations were revelatory. He stressed, for example, that higher turnout in 2020, which is generally seen as helping Democrats, could actually boost Trump in the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and especially Wisconsin by bringing out more of the Trump base.