The Electoral College

 

The U.S. Constitution was designed to deal with the failings of the human condition. The Founders had many fears of the excesses of human nature, notably his susceptibility to corruption and his lust for power and control.

The Founders viewed with dred the number of despotic states that had within living memory been free and whose enslavement, being recent, had been directly observed. Venice was one: it had recently been a republic, but now it was governed ‘by one of the worst of despotisms.’ Sweden was another; the colonists themselves could remember when the Swedish people had enjoyed liberty to the full; but now, in the 1760s, they were known to ‘rejoice at being subject to the caprice and arbitrary power of a tyrant, and kiss their chains.’”(1)

This is why the Founders put so many checks and balances into the system. Everything the Founders did was intended to disperse power so as to create consensus among all the participants of our representative government. 

One of the issues at the Constitutional Convention was the fear by smaller population states that the populus states would run the country for themselves and the smaller population states would have no say. To create a balance of power between the large and small states, the Founders created the Senate which would have two Senators from each state regardless of population while the House of Representatives would be based on population. This “great compromise” was intended to create a consensus between the large population states and small population states when legislation is passed in Congress.

Creating the Electoral College for the election of the President was a continuation of the idea that brought about the creation of the US Senate. Electing the president through the Electoral College was a compromise between those who wanted election of the President by a vote in Congress and those that wanted election of the President by popular vote. 

Those who opposed Congress deciding the presidency believed there was too much opportunity for political deals between the executive and legislative branches. Those who opposed the popular vote did so out of fear that a demagogue could appeal to voters by promising free gifts from the public treasury - getting something for nothing. The Founders hoped the electoral college would inhibit a demagogue from attaining power nationwide. 

The Founders had many fears of a democracy, which is essentially mob rule. John Adams said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” 

Abolishing the Electoral College would allow a supermajority of voters in a small number of states to decide who wins the presidency. Consider the situation in America today. We have two Americas increasingly divisive with the other. What if a supermajority did away with the checks and balances in our Constitution? What if this supermajority packed the Supreme Court and did away with the Electoral College? This supermajority would create a permanent hold on power - and quite possibly lead to deadly violence.

Contrary to popular belief, most advanced countries do NOT elect their national leader by popular vote - including Canada, Israel, Britain, Germany, India and other countries, which use the parliamentary system. Multiple parties run candidates for parliament. People vote for the candidate from their party. If no party has a majority, different parties will try to form a majority coalition. The leader of this Coalition will be the Prime Minister. If no majority coalition can be formed, there is another national vote.

There is a movement underway that will effectively abolish the Electoral College, called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, or NPV. Under NPV, the state electors would give their states electoral votes to whatever party won the national popular vote, regardless of how their own state voted. To change the election results of an entire state would be the ultimate in voter disenfranchisement.

Some claim the Electoral College creates the very imbalance of power it was created to avoid. They claim the 6 swing states that decide the winner is giving undo power to these swing states. 

This argument is fatally flawed. A state that is a battleground state now may not be in 40 years. Illinois 40 years ago was a battle ground state. Now it is hard core democrat. The number of electoral votes each state gets changes every 10 years after each census.

For instance, based on the 1970 census, California had 45 votes, Texas had 26 votes, New York had 41 votes and Florida had 17 votes.

Today, based on the 2010 census, California has 55 votes, Texas has 38 votes, New York and Florida both have 29 votes. So the balance of power in the electoral college is constantly shifting.

Several states apportion their electoral votes by congressional district, rather then the winner of the entire state. We believe this defeats the whole purpose of the Electoral College.

Many people today don’t recognize the brilliance of the US Constitution. They argue that it is outdated and inadequate to govern a modern nation in the 21st century.  The truth is the Constitution is as relevant today as it was back when it was written in 1787. The principles and concepts in our Constitution are timeless and as long as humans are prone to a lust for power and control, they will continue to be timeless and applicable to any nation that values individual liberty and limited government. The Electoral College was and still is a brilliant idea!!!

Additional reading:

https://fee.org/articles/democracy-or-republic/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-6uLx9l4QIVz1uGCh3SDgdmEAAYASAAEgJLZ_D_BwE

https://www.aei.org/publication/democracy-or-republic/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIq-DbjKn4QIVhVmGCh0x9AjuEAAYASAAEgIexfD_BwE

Source:
1. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn. Pub 1967
2. https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/democracy-nothing-more-mob-rulespurious-quotation. 
Aug 2020

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"Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%."(1) Thomas Jefferson

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Independence Hall,
Philadelophia, PA