Follow Appalachian Magazine on Facebook: Facebook.com/AppalachianMagazine
Every four years, you can count on three things: the Summer Olympic Games, an American Presidential Election and millions of Americans howling about why we need to do away with the 228-year-old institution known as the Electoral College.
Though the motivations of people who wish to abolish this odd way of selecting a national leader are most pure, the reality is that the Electoral College is the one thing that has kept this 322,369,319-citizen, 3,805,927-sq. mile nation together over all of these years – the system we are presently using, though imperfect, is necessary for a nation as diverse, large and splintered as modern-day America.
With this said, I was recently scrolling through my newsfeed and came across a meme which stated, “GET RID OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE… IN A DEMOCRACY WE SHOULD COUNT EVERY VOTE!”
The picture was on the internet, written in all caps, and had been shared over 6,700 times, so I know it must be true – still yet, I can’t help but believe that the Electoral College represents the true genius of our nation’s founding fathers.
For starters, the United States is not a democracy, we are a republic. Some will argue that this is nothing more than a To-May-Toe vs. To-Mah-Toe deal, but it is actually critically important for Americans to recognize the difference.
As history has proven, unchecked democracies are among the worst forms of human government ever devised by man. Majority rule means minority ruled… never forget this. Hitler came to power by means of a European democracy and in the case of Nazi Germany, majority rule equated to mob rule and culminated with millions of minorities being viciously murdered by the bloodthirsty mob of the majority.
Though full of faults themselves, our founding fathers fully embraced the doctrine of man’s total depravity, believing that though people are capable of doing some good, safeguards had to be put in place due to the fact that the human race is equally prone to engage in unspeakable evils… as we have seen throughout the history of the planet.
To check mob rule, our founders made this nation a land of laws and the law of the state triumphed over the whims of the people – fortunately – the supreme law of the state (the United States Constitution) guarantees us the rights we hold most sacred: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, right to due process, etc. rights that cannot be abridged by the impulses of the people.
So to begin with, we must recognize that we are not a democracy, we live in a Republic (The average lifespan of nations with true democracies is less than a half-century, whereas this Republic has lasted for nearly two and a half centuries)… and fortunately, in a Republic, the majority of the people do not always get their way.
A second thing that must be noted is that the United States is just that – a collection of fifty independent states that have voluntarily united to form a Republic built upon the rule of law as opposed to the ever changing fads and impulses of men. We must not be quick to forget that the states formed the federal government, not the other way around.
A third thing to keep in mind, by means of introduction, is that compared to the vast majority of the modern nations around the globe, America’s system of selecting a head of state / leader of the government provides the people with an incredibly louder voice than nearly all other advanced nations.
Canada’s process for selecting a prime minister is so complex that if I were to actually write about it, you would “x out of this page immediately!” To put their process into the simplest of terms, the prime minister is appointed by the governor general on behalf of the monarch… this person is often the leader of a party whose members form a majority. At no time, however, are the people ever consulted.
The head of the United Kingdom’s government is selected by the ruling political party in control of the 650-person parliament. That’s right, the politicians, not the people, get to select who runs their country… can’t you just imagine the backroom deals and corruption taking place in a room filled with 650 national politicians tasked with selecting a national leader?!? I provided these two examples to let you know, that when it comes to choice, you have it a heck of a lot better than other countries… even nations we often think are leading the way when it comes to human rights!
For whatever reason, Americans have it in their mind that the Electoral College automatically means that it’s a fifty-fifty chance that the guy who gets the most votes will not become President. Despite the popular memes and prevalent rhetoric, the following reality remains: only three times in the institution’s 239-year history has a president been selected who did not receive the most votes.
If you’ve managed to read this far into the article, pat yourself on the back: you now know (or probably already knew) more about our government than +85% of Americans… which is the true problem, the level of ignorance being demonstrated by people going to the polls in modern-day America has reached a point where it could easily be declared panic time… Makes you glad we live in a Republic and not a democracy, doesn’t it!
But why do we need this seemingly archaic institution? What is its purpose?
We all remember the nightmare that was the Florida election – a close vote, followed by a recount, followed by another recount, followed by court battles, etc.
All of that hoopla was made over 5.8 million votes cast in 67 counties. Just imagine what a nationwide recount of more than 101 million votes cast in 3,143 counties would have looked like? One cannot even begin to fathom the opportunities for fraud and voter suppression.
Who can referee a ballgame with that many players? Under our present arrangement, a corrupt election official may have the power to change the results for a single state, but under a nationwide popular vote, that same individual would have the power to undermine the votes in all fifty states.
Under our present system, a 48.5% to 48.7% nationwide popular vote result is nothing more than an interesting statistic that will provide the television political pundits with something to talk about for a few days. Under a new system, it would place our national security in grave danger and provide opportunities for civil unrest unlike anything previously seen on this continent.
According to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, 141 American counties have more registered voters than living residents… in my opinion, these type of counties already have too much power… do we really want to give them the opportunity to singlehandedly select the leader of the free world?
Look at Virginia and Pennsylvania?
Take a look at this map of Pennsylvania’s 2008 election results. Which candidate do you believe won this election? Here’s a hint, it isn’t the one who appealed to the more diverse audience, it was the individual who won only three cities.
This phenomenon is known as the urban-rule effect and at its core, it is a single or group of cities ruling over an entire state or nation… a good ole Appalachian term for this is “the tail wagging the dog!”
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state that has long been defined by its rural agricultural ties, more than eighty counties are experiencing the peril of this effect first hand: With an ever expanding Federal government workforce that has now overran northern Virginia, the counties of Fairfax and Arlington have exploded in population – reaching the point where their budgets and resources rival that of the state government down in Richmond.
The result of this incredible concentration of people in only a few localities has been a total takeover of the state’s government – the Code of Virginia has literally been rewritten by only a handful of counties in order to offer themselves special tax incentives and other privileges that aren’t afforded to the rest of the state.
Thanks to the Electoral College, America’s presidential elections have not gone in the way of Virginia and Pennsylvania. Do away with this system and you will never again see a Presidential candidate standing in front of a John Deere tractor or working to secure the votes from the people in America’s flyover states.
It is Flexible…
We’ve been having presidential elections for a long time in this country and fortunately, they’ve always been fairly civil (except for that one time back in 1860… and even then, erasing the Electoral College would have produced the same result). So no one can make the argument that the Electoral College totally and completely scoffs at the will of the people.
With this said, the beauty of the Electoral College is that it is made up of real people (and fairly ordinary people) who have the power to deviate should the need arise – let’s say the assassination of President and Vice President-elect, etc.
Right now, illegal aliens are allowed to vote in certain California elections — though the ramifications of this may have an effect on the rest of the nation, it only directly effects the results of one state. Under our federal system, each state is free to choose and define their individual election laws without suppressing the votes of the residents in other states. As a West Virginian, I don’t want California’s election laws undermining my vote for President… do you?
The NBA, MLB and NHL all select a Champion in a Similar Fashion!
To win the Stanley Cup, an NBA Championship ring or the World Series, a team is required to win the best of seven games. Under this system, it is possible and has even occurred on a few rare occasions for a team to score the most points in a series and lose the championship.
Even still, these organizations continue to choose a champion in this manner because it makes each game important.
Likewise, our present selection process is critical because it makes each state important – regardless of how populated or rural.
Is the Electoral College perfect? Absolutely not! However, it is the longest running selection process used by a free people to choose a leader – only deviating from the majority’s will on a few rare occasions.
Is there some room for a little fine tuning of the process? Of course (I would like to see America do away with winner take all system and split the electoral votes like Maine and Nebraska do)! But before we throw out the baby with the bath water, we need to remember what happens when a handful of heavily populated jurisdictions are allowed to reign over the rest of a state… We get unfair laws that provide the heavily populated areas with a power to dictate over the remainder of the territory. This is happening all across the country on a state level right now… Do we really want to see this on a national level too?
Like it or not, but we are the United States… not the United People of America… and in order for our government to function as designed, we must be willing to allow this system to remain in place. For if we remove this ancient pillar of our Republic, we have silenced the people of West Virginia, Montana, Wyoming,Vermont and the majority of all other states.
Click LIKE to share this article with your friends on Facebook!