Some of the people I encounter online, including a few friends, have taken a particular dislike to the Electoral College. They think it's unfair.
Most of them were not at all pleased by the outcome of the most recent Presidential elections, and after all, didn't their candidate rack up the most popular votes? Why didn't she win, they ask, and isn't this a democracy? The most recent complainant keeps calling the Electoral College "feudalism" and is sure other countries do this in a better way.
These notions presuppose a number of things. First and foremost, that the individual states, as distinct political entities, shouldn't have any voice in the election of the Chief Executive of their Federal union. This idea strikes me as inimical to the very idea of federalism and the organization of Legislative branch into two houses, one of population-proportional representation and the other with equal representation by each state, clearly shows the intent of the Framers.
As for "feudalism," it requires upward loyalty -- knights swear fealty to lords, lords swear fealty to a King; that's not how any part of the Electoral College works.
Do other countries have a better method? The United Kingdom is one of the oldest democracies around -- and the Crown appoints the Prime Minister from seatholders in the party holding a majority in (usually) the House of Commons, typically the Party leader; no one votes for him or her to hold the office. Canada and Australia use a similar method, with their respective Governors General acting for the Monarch. The roots of this system do, in fact, lie in feudalism, though about all that's left of that are the titles and ceremonies.
What about the French? Surely they've got a handle on it! It starts promisingly enough for critics of the Electoral Collage: the President of France is popularly elected every five years and serves as Head of State, with control over foreign policy and defense. But there's a catch: the French President is obliged to appoint a Prime Minister to actually run the government -- and the Prime Minister is chosen from members of Parliament in the party holding a majority, usually the party leader. Once again, citizens don't get to directly pick the PM. (This occasionally results in a President having to choose a PM from a party in opposition to his own, which is probably a maturing experience for everyone involved.)
The method used in the United States is closely coupled to the majority vote, albeit weighted to resemble the distribution of power in Congress. The Electoral College is supposed to be a safeguard against demagogues and mass enthusiasms; in fact, recent court rules have clarified that electors may, in fact, be "faithless:" they are not obliged to follow their state's popular vote when casting their ballot. On closer examination, you'd think the people who didn't like the outcome of the most recent Presidential contest would be all in favor of that.
4 months ago