Skip to comments.Why in the Heck Do We Want an Electoral College?!!
Posted on 02/12/2014 6:14:45 PM PST by gitmo
There has been a fair amount of commentary on my Facebook page in the past week or so about this very question. I started to put much of this in a comment to someone, but then decided to post it for everyone instead. Since several of you keep asking!
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the Electoral Collegeand the Constitution in generalis that the Founders were not trying to create a PURE democracy. They wanted to be self-governing, of course. They had just fought an entire Revolution in part because they had no representation in Parliament. The principles of self-governance were very important to them. On the other hand, they knew that, as a matter of history, pure democracies have a tendency to implode. This is so because in a pure democracy, 51% of the people can rule the other 49% all the time, without question. Imagine what that looks like in the wake of an event such as 9-11. In fear or anger or immediate emotion, a bare majority could enact any law it wanted to, regardless of its impact on the other 49%. Even very sizable minorities can be tyrannized in such a system. (We had enough bad legislation after 9-11 as it was! Arent you glad it wasnt even easier for bare majoritiesor even pluralitiesto steam roll everyone else?)
So, in short, the Founders wanted to be self-governing, but they also wanted hurdles to stop (or at least slow down) irrational, bare majorities. They wanted to protect minority political interests, especially the small states, from the tyranny of the majority.
The Founders thus created a Constitution that combines democracy with federalism (states rights) and republicanism (deliberation and compromise). This is why we have a Senate (one state, one vote) and a House (one person, one vote). It is why we have presidential vetoes. It is why we have supermajority requirements to do things like amend the Constitution. And it is why we have an Electoral College. The Founders wanted majorities to rule, but also wanted these majorities to act reasonably.
I often hear claims that the Electoral College is undemocratic. Not true. As it operates today, the Electoral College is a blend of democracy and federalism. In other words, not only people, but also states, must be taken into consideration. We have a two phase election in this country: The first phase is purely democratic; the second phase is federalist. In the first phase, we hold 51 purely democratic elections: one in each state and one in D.C. These state-level elections are held to determine which electors will represent states in the second, federalist phase of the election. This latter election is an election among the states, as represented by their electors.
Because of the way our elections are structured, we get many benefits: Candidates must strive to build national coalitions. The most successful candidatesReagan and FDRhad the best coalition-building ability. Years with close electionsGWB v. Goreoccur when no one is doing a great job of coalition building. Other benefits of the Electoral College: It is harder to steal votes. Nothing can make it impossible, but the Electoral College makes it as hard as possible. You have to know when and where to steal a vote if you are going to influence national totals. And if one person can predict this location, then every poll watcher/lawyer in the nation can, too!
Please note that I did not say that the Electoral College can force voters to be wise or informed. We have to do that on our own, as we would under any election system.
There is more, but that is a lot for a quick blog post. I am going to put several links with free information at the bottom of this post, so go look for it.
Yes, I will also include my book link. At this juncture, someone will accuse me of you are just trying to sell books. Look, I always offer my book because it is the place in which I was the most thorough in explaining the Electoral College. It is the best resource I have to offer you. But I ultimately dont care if you buy the book. In fact, if you have an educational purpose and dont mind reimbursing shipping, I will ship you as many free copies of the 1st edition as you want for your study group, classroom, grassroots group, etc. What I really care about is that you investigate the Electoral College before dismissing it on a media sound bite. I will also include SEVERAL **free** links. Please go read them and spend no money. :) Whatever you do, read about this wonderful constitutional institution. Your schooling almost certainly failed to teach you about it.
The Electoral College is underappreciated, but a little research will show that it is helping to protect your freedom.
Because each state is a sovereign political entity.
Just look at what has happened to the senate and states since we started electing senators by statewide popular vote.
States with GOP super majorities still have democrat senators who do whatever the national party tells them to do.
The same reason the Senators are supposed to be picked by the States, to off set the publics House.
Thanks for the article. Thank God for the Electoral College I say. The only improvement I possibly would make on it would be to award the winner of the popular vote in each Congressional District with 1 electoral vote and the winner of the popular vote in each state 2 electoral votes.
The Electoral College diffuses and decentralizes power.
HAIL TO THE THING
The electoral college is brilliant.
“Hail to the thing?”
What does that mean?
Why should New nlgland get 12 Senators?
However, the Dems have even beat that by targeting distinct districts....something you can do only when you have the huge population of our country. Philly is a good example.
The early voting and all the other "how to cheat" methods help.
Two per state.
states are so completely conjoined to that amorphous federal bureaucracy (the THING) they exist in name only (IMO)
I agree... The electoral college does a great service of slightly diminishing the power of large population centers, and slightly exaggerating the impact of smaller less populated states. It changes the way campaigns are waged and strategized. It’s also why any notion of a national “popular vote” is spurious. There’s no such thing. If we had only a popular vote then the campaigns and the voting and the turnout would have been different too.
I use the analogy of the World Series. The Series is not won by counting all the runs across all seven games. The Series is batched into individual games each with its own strategy, and score, and a winner and loser. Then the team with the most winning games out of seven, wins the series.
It’s entirely possible that the loser of the World Series may have scored more runs in the whole series than the winner did, but it’s a meaningless statistic. That’s not the objective that the teams were playing for. If it was, the whole strategy and play of the games would have been radically different to suit.
States can do that if they choose to. Nebraska and Maine have implemented the exact system you’ve described.
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
How many times is the word Democracy used in the US Constitution?
Electoral College was to further note that the states are not subordinate to the national government. The principle that it was We the People of the several states that created the federal government, and not the other way around.
Why should New nlgland get 12 Senators?
Why shouldn’t it? Why should Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana etc. Both parties could make a pitch to get rid of Senators in different states. Keep it 2 Senators per state forever.
Delegates at the last state convention here in Michigan voted to support that system. It was kind of a meaningless vote but it did put it on record that there is support for it within the party.
Basically it means Detroit can cheat all they want and they still only get the allotted votes.
I personally would like to do the same with senators.
Had it been in place in 2012 Romney would have won, barely.