Thursday, August 22, 2019

Going Back To Electoral College

     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.


B said...

These folks aren't upset at the system per se:

They are upset that the system didn't deliver the outcome they wanted.

Like petulant children, they want it fixed so they get the result they think should have happened. Few care about the next time or the next, when a popular vote could work against their candidate. THey want the results they want now.

Besides "Orange Man Bad" so we must find a way to fix the system so he can't get reelected. .

Chuck Pergiel said...

Federalism? That's a word you don't hear very often. Democracy is the drumbeat we hear constantly. I am only vaguely aware of Federalism because of you and Tam.

rickn8or said...

"But she won the popular vote!" rings in my ears much like "Our team should have won! We got more first downs!"

"Faithless elector" versus "National Popular Vote" is going to be an interesting head-on collision.

Blackwing1 said...

Personally I believe that the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913 has also had a horrible effect on the balance of powers between the states and the federal government. Direct election of senators was never a very large issue during the ratification of the Constitution with only small parties interested in it. Using the state legislatures to elect the senators from each state had a significant balance that is even more true today then it was then: The major cities of most states now elect senators with exactly zero input from the rural counties.

In my Soviet Socialist State of Minnesnowta the election of a senator is determined almost exclusively by the Minneapolis/St. Paul megalopolis (the so-called "5 county metro area") with minor input from Duluth. What are referred to as "outstate" (rural) counties which cover the majority of territory in the state no longer have any input.

With the state legislature electing the senators it would be a much different scenario. Those candidates would have to make some effort, no matter how false, to attempt to sway state legislators from rural counties that they have those areas best interests at heart as well as the urban hive-dwellers (hey, I live in the heart of the hive...I can say it).

The electoral college is one of the last vestiges of an actual representative democratic republic that we've got, and with its elimination we wouldn't even need to hold nationwide elections. Just count the runny noses in New York City, LA, Chicago, and a few other huge collectivist-run enclaves and you could call it a day.

Merle said...

They ignore the fact that the electoral college is intended to prohibit a few highly populated states from running roughshod over all the smaller states..

Roberta X said...

No, worse than that, Merle: they *want* the few high-population sates to do the deciding.

pigpen51 said...

Exactly, Roberta. The don't want the smaller states to have anything to do with electing our leadership, because in part the smaller states tend to be more small l libertarian, and dislike any big government programs telling them what to do.
They prefer to be left alone, to be allowed to own guns, and to build without permits, and without paying exorbitant fees to multiple inspectors for no reason. All things that believers in big government find anathema.
The electoral college acknowledges that the majority should never run roughshod over the minority in this country. Otherwise, it could be possible that we could still have slavery, or other ill advised programs that large numbers of people wanted, but that were in fact not right nor fair.