Thursday, November 10, 2016

OUR UNDEMOCRATIC ELECTORAL COLLEGE



It’s downright undemocratic for someone to win the Presidency and lose the popular vote! Well, I guess it is, but the American government is not a democracy. The heart and soul of democracy is majority rule. Whatever the majority of the people want, that’s what the government is going to do. Athens was a democracy. Whatever the voters wanted, that’s what they got, and eventually the voters voted their country into ruin with the disastrous Sicilian Expedition, which led to catastrophic defeat in the Peloponnesian War.



America's government, on the other hand, was designed to see to it that in certain situations the majority’s will could be ignored. America started out as a group of thirteen independent states, just as Greece was a group of many independent city-states. The Greeks experimented with confederations of city-states known as the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League. It didn’t work out, and Greek unity was achieved only with the swords of Philip of Macedon and his more famous son, Alexander the Great.



The thirteen independent states in American also entered into a confederation that didn’t work. When the Articles of Confederation proved inadequate, the thirteen independent states achieved unity by the pen rather than the sword. Under the Constitution, each state surrendered some, but not all, of its sovereignty to a central Federal government which was modeled, not after the Athenian democracy, but after the Roman Republic. There was a certain amount of democracy under the Roman Republic, but it was set up so that the majority didn’t always prevail. There is a certain amount of democracy in the American Republic, but it was set up so that the majority didn’t always prevail. That’s why Wyoming (with a population of 582,658) has just as many Senators as California (with a population of 39,144,818).



Under America's republican form of government, the Senators of the 24 most populous states could vote unanimously for a bill, expressing the will of their 264,053,680 constituents, and be defeated by the unanimous vote of the Senators from the 26 least populous states, expressing the will of only 56,692,912 constituents. That’s downright undemocratic, isn’t it? It sure is, but that’s the way our government works. Each state still has a modicum of its sovereignty, and that sovereignty counts for something. It protects the citizens of the smaller states from being bullied by the larger states. Where that modicum of sovereignty is most readily apparent is in the Electoral College where we pick our presidents.



One way of looking at the election is that, as of today’s tally, Clinton is winning by 59,755,284 votes to Trump’s 59,535,522 votes, a difference of 219,762. That’s 0.18% of the vote cast—less than two-tenths of one percent. That's a difference which pollsters would say lacks statistical significance. That’s also a difference which would mandate an automatic recount in most states which require automatic recounts (most states which require an automatic recount mandate a difference of less than 0.5%, one-half of one percent). If we abolished the Electoral College, would we really want a nationwide reprise of the travesty of the Florida recount of 2000? Do you know what a popular vote margin that narrow would mean if we abolished the Electoral College? It would mean that nobody’s vote would count because nine septuagenarians wearing black dresses would decide who became President. I’d rather not have the  Supreme Court decide who was going to be President. I’ll take my chances with the Electoral College, thank you.



Another way of looking at the election is that if Trump carries Michigan, Alaska, and Arizona (in all of which he is currently leading), the electorate of 30 sovereign states will have voted for Trump, but the electorate of only 20 sovereign states voted for Clinton. If he loses all three, then the vote will be 27 sovereign states for Trump and 23 for Clinton.



We don’t elect Presidents by popular vote or by the vote of individual sovereign states. We use they hybrid system of the Electoral College. Under our Constitution, Trump won by 270+ electoral votes. End of story. 

State sovereignty has been gradually eroded since 1776 until it is a mere shadow of what it once was. We need to cling to what little state sovereignty we have remaining, and the Electoral College is one vestige of state sovereignty that should remain.



Majority rule isn’t always a good thing. It frequently slips into majority tyranny. The urban majority can and often does run roughshod over the needs and wishes of the rural minority. The Electoral College is one way of preventing the urban majority from trampling the rights of the rural minority. Look at the USA Today county-by-county map of how the vote went. Those blue states almost disappear when you color in the red counties outside the major metropolitan areas.



If we abolish the Electoral College, we abolish one of the last vestiges of state sovereignty, and we might as well change our name to the United Provinces of America.