The Electoral College

This past election resulted in another anomaly that has triggered demands to abolish the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by a slim margin and those on the left that are still reeling from her ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory see that as the only way they can win an election.

Lets go back and look at the origins of the Electoral College. The Founding Fathers were divided on how to elect a President. The first plan offered was by the Virginia Delegation and that would have called for Congress to elect a President. That was not satisfactory and after debate another compromise was offer that was known as the Connecticut Compromise and it included the Three Fifths Compromise. It was this compromise with some minor modifications that was finally adopted.

So what did this compromise offer? The two factions representing the large states and the small states stymied the delegates. The small states feared they would be overrun by the large states and would end up being dictated to by them. What the Electoral College offered was a blend of both systems. Each state would hold elections for President and based on the popular vote in each state that state would then cast its electoral votes. When you look at it you realize the genius of our Founding Fathers. They gave each state a pathway to make their votes count and the small states still had some level of influence. The large states would still have more electoral votes based on their representation in Congress but candidates could not solely rely on them to be elected.

James Madison was one of the primary architects of the compromise and the Electoral College. He was a devoted reader of Plato and understood the problems that could beset the new nation if we were a true democracy where majority ruled. He feared, and correctly so, that the majority at any given time could become overbearing and govern in a manner that was adverse to the rights of other citizens. This would be true today of both the right and the left.

Today anyone can look at an election map and realize that as a nation we have become very polarized politically. The map looks almost entirely red (Republican votes) when viewed with splotches of blue (Democrat) on the coasts and in urban centers. Those urban centers vote in heavy majorities for Democrat candidates while in the suburban and rural areas they vote Republican but not in the same percentages.

Pennsylvania is a classic example of this phenomenon. It has often been called “Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in the middle.” Traditionally the union vote in Pittsburgh coupled with the large minority vote in Philadelphia would overwhelm the rural voters in the middle of the state by their sheer numbers. That made Pennsylvania a reliably blue state in Presidential elections. But the Congressional delegation in the new Congress will have 13 Republican and 2 Democrats in the House. The Senate will be divided with 1 apiece.

So now we have many on the left calling for a strict popular vote standard for electing the President. I would disagree and continue to support the Electoral College for the same reasons that James Madison. He feared the tyranny of the majority and I share that fear. Another compromise has been to soften the effect of the Electoral College by allowing states to split their electoral votes by congressional districts. Maine and Nebraska currently do this. This would retain many elements of the Founding Father’s compromise by allowing a popular vote within a district to determine the electoral vote but would not give all of the states votes to a candidate on the popular vote within the state. In many ways this is a fairer compromise and basically take the original premise and down sizes it.

Of course Democrats would not support this change because it would still make it difficult for them to win. Their problem is they pile up huge majorities in their tightly clustered urban districts while losing, by smaller margins, the suburban and rural districts. We have all heard the famous quote “A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury” that is attributed to French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville and sometimes to Scottish professor Alexander Fraser Tytler. In fact there is no definitive proof that either ever made this statement but the underlying truth of it is still there.

The real problem for the opponents of the Electoral College is it would take a Constitutional Amendment to change the system. That would require two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress and three-fourths of the State legislatures to ratify it. That simply is not going to happen so people can demand change all they want but this is the mechanism available and the ability to make that change is remote. The same could be said for this fool’s mission of liberals petitioning and demanding that electors change their vote this December. Can you imagine what would happen in this country if that occurred? And how would those same liberals feel if it happened to their candidate?

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