Here is an essay that a new member of our blogging team, Christopher, wrote about the Electoral College … we welcome his insight ..
In order to understand the importance of the Electoral College in modern presidential elections in the United States a person must explicitly understand the nature of our nation. The United States operates under the same form of government today as it did in 1789 – it is a Republic. Despite the continuous rhetoric of progressives, the media, and Hollywood, the United States is not:
A democracy (For a good understanding of the workings of a true democracy I would recommend reading “Tides of War” by Steven Pressfield)
A democratic republic
A representative democracy
Just like the original Romans, citizens of the United States, “Americans”, live in a Republic.
In a republic the only important entities are its members. This means that in the United States, the only meaningful entities are the States. Each of the 50 States is a member – completely equal partners that collectively represent the body of the Republic. Each State is unique in many ways, including the types and numbers of people that reside within them. Since the States are the members of our Republic, the total number of people that reside within them is irrelevant. In other words, if one state had a total population of 10 people and another had 10 million both States would still be completely equal within the Republic.
This concept was critically important to the Founders of our nation. Even though they created the rules enshrined within the Constitution back in the late 1700s, they were all very worldly and educated men. As students of history they drew upon four millennia of examples of governments from other nations. From their studies they were keenly aware that humans would tend to concentrate population densities within cities while fewer individuals would choose to reside in “rural” areas. Yet they also knew that each grouping of people would prove critical to the health of the entire nation. The cities would provide the manufacturing and manpower while the rural areas would provide agriculture and raw resources needed to fuel industry. Without a balance of power between the groups that wasn’t based on total population our Founders knew that the larger groups of people would always trend towards becoming tyrannical. There could be no argument against this concern because every major historical government had gone down the same path.
The Founders weren’t ignorant of the need to grant more power (or representation) to larger population groups. Where there are more people, more representation is needed. That is why the U.S. House of Representatives is apportioned due to total population. Yet, there is a check on this power as well in the form of the Senate. No matter its population size, each member of the Republic (the States) gets an equal number of Senators (2). Always remember – in a republic the only thing that matters is the member. In our case the member is the State, large or small.
Now to importance of the Electoral College in presidential elections.
Our Founders believed that national politics for the nation were best determined by the local interests of each State. One proof of this belief is in how Senators were originally selected according the Constitution. While each Senator was given a six year term, they were appointed by the legislature of each State. In other words, it was the elected officials of each State who had the power to determine the people who were to serve in the Senate. This process made the governing bodies of each State directly responsible for shaping national politics. The selection process has since been changed by the 17th Amendment but that is irrelevant to any discussion regarding the electoral college.
Just like the processes of politics at the national level, our Founders knew that local politics within each State would be affected by that member’s governance structure. While the exact type of government changes from State to State, they all follow, more or less, the same structure of the national Republic. This means that each State’s government is made up of officials from both highly populated areas and rural locations as well. In some cases such as California, the major cities dominate State politics. However, in other States such as Nevada, Colorado, and Georgia, rural areas have enormous influence.
When a national presidential election is held the popular vote of each State is an indication but not a mandate to the winning party’s leadership of the will of the people. Population does have meaning because States are given a number of seats on the Electoral College commensurate with their overall populations. Within a State, the party that gets to choose its delegates to the Electoral College is determined by the overall results of the popular election. It then becomes an extremely important task for the leadership of these parties to pick which people will represent that State at the Electoral College because, get this, a member of the Electoral College may vote for whomever they choose! While tradition and recent history would dictate that members always vote for the candidate chosen by the popular vote of their home State, they are not bound to do so. Two examples that highlight this fact come from both the beginning of our nation and within the past 20 years. During the election for our second president, the person to succeed George Washington, Thomas Jefferson would have won the office if a single member of the Virginia delegation hadn’t “turned traitor” and voted for John Adams. Much later in 2000 when George Bush and Al Gore were fighting in court over the meaning of a “hanging chad”, members of the Gore campaign in league with the mainstream media were openly courting delegates from Republican States to vote for Gore. All under the auspices that Bush was trying to “steal the election” in Florida and that electing Gore was the “honorable” thing to do.
Despite decades of progressive conditioning, presidential elections are determined by the will of the States (the members) and NOT the will of the people. Most often these two are one and the same, but historically not always nor may it be again in the future. The whole purpose of the popular vote is to give guidance to the States so that the most suited people can be placed within the Electoral College. Our Founders, having read about the horrific failures of demagoguery and democracy within ancient Athens were convinced that something so important as determining the presidency could not be left up to the general populace. And given the level of ignorance within today’s electorate, those fears were rightly founded. They created the complex Electoral College system as a way to ensure that the best and brightest of the nation, as determined by the States, were empowered to make the final selection for president.
As long as the people of the United States are determined to live under a Republic as a form of government, the Electoral College remains the only way to ensure that structure can be maintained. The day that the Electoral College is dismantled, if indeed that day ever comes, is the day that 43 States become the hollow vassals to California, New York, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Florida.