The electoral college has again come under attack following the results of the 2016 presidential election. The liberal left is advocating the scrapping of the electoral college process, and their desire is to have the president elected by a national popular vote under the guidelines of the federal government and not by the individual states. Another group—the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact—has also gotten behind this idea and is pushing it. They are seeking a constitutional amendment designed to replace the electoral college with a national popular vote, and they are currently visiting individual states in an attempt to get their amendment ratified. So far, the group has the support of ten states—all blue ones. However, in Missouri, very little interest or support has been shown for the movement.
President-elect Trump joins John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hays, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush as the only individuals who won the presidency without winning the popular vote. In the election of 2012, President Obama won 61% of the electoral votes but only 51% of the popular vote. Because of the closeness of the count in the recent election, it is uncertain at this time as to whether Donald Trump did indeed lose the popular vote as reported. Regardless, the numbers do reflect a very deep and wide geographical division within America today, mainly between the nation’s heavily populated urban areas and the more sparsely populated rural areas. It also reflects the pronounced differences in American’s lifestyles. In my opinion, the doing away of the electoral college is an extremely dangerous idea, as the college protects the liberty of all American voters, urban and rural. Replacing it with the national popular vote could prove to be seriously problematic.
I believe the actions of our founding fathers have been proven to be incredibly wise in regard to the electoral college. Their desire was to establish a representative constitutional republic that would endure and would create stability, freedom and liberty for all its citizens. What they gave us was a nation, the likes of which the world had never known, and a government that has truly endured the test of time.
Today we hear a lot about democracy and majority rule, and some are advocating for a change, but why in our country’s early years was there such great distain for creating a “pure democracy”? It has been very well documented as to why our constitutional framers were so opposed to it. Alexander Hamilton said, “Real liberty is never found is despotism or in the extreme of democracy” (Federalist Papers). Samuel Adams was quoted: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.” James Madison, in his Federalist Paper No. 10, made it clear that the founders favored and fashioned a republic instead of a pure democracy. They wanted power to be divided at the national level into the three branches of government and powers to be again divided between national and state governments. This separation provided double security for the rights of all the people, which was most important to the framers.
After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and prior to the adoption of the United States Constitution, our young nation experienced difficult times. Individual states were comprised of an elected legislature, but had no state constitutions to restrain them or limit their powers. All the powers of governing were vested throughout the states in legislatures where the majority ruled. Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts was quoted as saying: “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.” In 1787, Virginia Governor Edmond Randolph reiterated his desire for a republic at the constitutional convention that year.
Our founders stated that pure democracy would ultimately break down into either anarchy or the tyranny of mob rule. Fearing the oppression of majority rule, our founders clearly established a constitutional republic, where laws are made and administered by representatives who have limited powers and who are restrained by a written constitution, thus preventing a government from depriving individuals of their rights and liberties.
The electoral college was designed to elect a president, to prevent tyranny by the majority, and to protect the liberty of the individual. It has worked well for over 200 years, and even though some were dissatisfied with the results of the recent election and are searching for ways to change things, the electoral college process has proven itself to be one of our nation’s greatest assets in liberty and fairness. Instead of being casually tossed aside, it should be staunchly defended and safeguarded.
I will continue my thoughts on this subject next week.