By Harold Pease, Ph. D
California U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer threatens measures to end the Electoral College, as has someone every presidential election. Those in this camp prefer the popular vote but without the College a close race would make the election far less settled and result in massive civil unrest perhaps even civil war. Thank God we have the Electoral College that legitimizes the outcome.
In the 2016 presidential race Trump’s projected win is 306 electoral votes to Clintons 232, but Clinton bested Trump with 1 1/2 million more popular votes out of 125,505,086 cast for the two. The divide is a little over one percent. Imagine the endless recounts, accusations of voter fraud that would have to be investigated, and the time to determine the outcome legitimizing the winner—if that were even possible. Some took to the streets the next day before we even knew the popular vote count. As volatile and emotional as the reaction to the Trump victory was, who can guarantee that the losing side would not revolt as in other countries.
One might argue that in a democracy everyone should have an equal vote and a simple majority should be what counts. But the Founding Fathers did not create a democracy. They universally opposed it because it had failed in Athens and Rome and in every other place it had been tried long-term and hoped that descendants would never turn what they created into such. The word democracy is not in any of our original governing documents—the word republic is. Benjamin Franklin referred to democracy as two wolves and a lamb voting on what they would have for lunch; the well armed lamb contesting the vote. Realizing that the majority is not always right and, as such, could trample the rights of the minority becoming very tyrannical, they created a republic instead, thus we pledge allegiance to “the republic for which it stands.” A lynch mob is a democracy; everyone voting to hang the accused except the one proposed to be hung.
There is no language in the Constitution authorizing a popular vote for the president because the people tend to vote for leaders who can give them the most from their vote, but the Constitution is designed to give nothing to anyone except the opportunity to maximize their talent in an environment of freedom from excessive government. The moment government takes from one and gives to another, recipient voters henceforth expect something from their vote and politicians have shown that they can be purchased. President Obama offered free cell phones to entice voters and Bernie Sanders free college. It becomes a “blood sport” as to which candidate can give the most “goodies” to get elected. “Gift giving” should not be in the equation.
The Founding Fathers left the election of the president to the states through their population. The vote system they created, referred to as the Electoral College, spread the vote geographically by states, and favored the informed over the less informed. Everyone knew that a popular vote could be won by a few populated states, (today as few as ten, some say four), and that rural states or sections would never see the candidate nor would he make an appeal to their interests. To equalize the population advantage and encourage candidates to make a larger geographical appeal, the College gave population-deprived states disproportionately at least three votes. Although candidates could probably still ignore the rural states, the College made it decidedly less tempting to do so.
As described in the Constitution, states select a number of voters for the president equal to the number of members of Congress (both House and Senate) that they have. These non-governmental individuals, selected by the state legislatures presumably for their integrity, experience, success, and wisdom, are presumably less emotionally driven and less susceptible to the emergence of a popular tyrant or someone who defies the Constitution. Remember, Adolph Hitler was elected. Presumably this would have been thwarted had Germany a functioning electoral college to mitigate the emotion or ignorance of the masses. Under a democracy a dangerous man, knowingly hostile to the concepts of a republic, could occupy this position to destroy it.
The citizens chosen to be Electoral College voters do so in their separate state capitols usually in late November and that vote is sent to, and read by, the vice president of the United States before a combined session of both Houses of Congress usually the first week in December. This year it will be December 19. Normally there is little coverage of the “real” election of the president and this, usually negative.
This process is certainly not without its problems, but when the ill informed have the same vote strength, or higher (because they are the majority), as the well informed, the Electoral College offsets this by placing the weight of government in favor of reason and experience over emotion. It remains the best system in the world. I realize that in a day when we have high-speed communication it is easy to assume that, as a result, we have high-speed knowledge and experience as well. As a college professor in the subject area, I can emphatically argue otherwise. Nothing replaces the benefits of reason and experience and these don’t come high speed.
So the states with their populations have voted and Trump has 36 Electoral College votes more than the 270 needed and Clinton 38 under—a clear, clean, decisive vote for both winner and loser. Thank God we have the Electoral College. Why would we wish to change to a system that almost guarantees confusion and chaos?
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.