Or, “Learn Your Constitution, You Stupid Liberals.”
The Constitution means something. The Ancient Athenians learned with their experiments in democracy that democracy leads to government bankruptcy and tyranny, as the people will always vote for the person who a) has the most money to buy a campaign, b) promises the voters lots of things, and/or c) is ambitious and rhetorically gifted enoough.
Aristotle in his _Politics_ evaluates the different forms of government in the ancient Greek world, and notes that, whatever the form of government is, a Constitution is crucial. The only way to keep the flawed human beings who serve in government from becoming tyrants is to have a set of laws which strictly define what they are and are not allowed to do. This is why the Founding Fathers of the United States made a Constitution.
The Constitution was based upon timeless principles of political philosophy, and there is no reason why the fact the men who wrote it lived over 200 years ago should make it irrelevant to what happens today.
Thus, a popular notion, particularly since 2000 when Al Gore won the so called “popular vote,” is that the Electoral College is obsolete. In last week’s Halloween–themed episode of _The Office_, Oscar wears a “dinosaur” costume (though it looks far more like an alligator) and says he’s the “Electoral College.”
Recently, an in-law replied to a chain email discussion of politics by saying he thinks the US needs to write a whole new Constitution and turn to a Parliamentary system rather than the 2 party system we have. Many people arguing in favor of the “two party system” insist it’s what the Founding Fathers set up. Unfortunately, they’re all wrong. Indeed, George Washington famously warned against having political parties *at all*, and through most of the 19th Century, the US actually had 3 parties. That’s why we refer to smaller parties as “third parties,” since in many elections, historically, there have been two parties that captured a significant portion of the vote and a third party that took a smaller portion.
England had a Parliament, the Founding Fathers recognized the flaws of the Parliamentary system. England also had Common Law courts that legislated from the bench. One of the goals of the Constitution was to establish three separate branches with checks and balances *AND WITH CLEARLY DEFINED ROLES*.
Practically since the beginning, the Executive and Judicial Branches have violated the Constitution with impunity (by using “executive orders” and “judicial review,” respectively, to usurp the rights of Congress), and one issue never resolved is how to enforce the Constitution. Since no president has been removed from Office by impeachment–a disciplinary measure that was supposed to be used frequently to protect the office from the occupant–and no Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached at all (a disciplinary measure meant to stop justices from legislating from the bench), and since the Civil War took away the notion that States had the right to critique the federal government for violating the Constitution, the document has historically lacked any teeth.
Nevertheless, there were valid reasons for the Electoral College, some of the very reasons liberals object to, and rather than calling for its abolishment, we ought to be calling for its strict enforcement.
1) Then, as now, the different regions of the country had differing interests and populations. The very reason why liberals hate the Electoral College is they tend to dominate in the Northeast and in the proverbial Left Coast. The Electoral College protects the interest of less populated states by evening out the states’ interests. Thus, the Electoral College is apportioned similarly to Congress.
2) However, while the Electoral College is supposed to mirror Congress, it is a separate body from Congress precisely to avoid the pitfalls of a parliamentary system. While those of us who are concerned about particular issues and agendas may desire to have control of all three branches to get our issues addressed efficiently, the Founding Fathers hoped to protect the country against that very thing. That’s why we have Checks and Balances. That’s why Presidents have Veto Power, and Congress has the power to override a veto with 2/3. That’s why we have a bicameral legislature (with the Senate intended to represent the States as such and the House to represent the people). That’s why the Senate has filibuster. That’s why 1/3 of Senators are elected every 2 years, while Representatives are elected every 2 years. All of these things are supposed to present any particular interest group–any region, socioeconomic class, ideological group, or temporal concern–from controlling the country (or at least from controlling the country for too long). So, too, the Electoral College allows for the President to have a separate Party from Congress while retaining the same geographical balance as Congress (see point 1).
3) Most importantly, and this is where the Electoral College has failed but could easily be reclaimed, the Electoral College is supposed to prevent having national campaigns. Liberals usually argue that the Electoral College is obsolete because they say it was created at a time when technology did not permit a national campaign. No, at the time, the country was just the Eastern seaboard, and candidates could fairly easily traverse the country. There were newspapers.
The reason reason for the Electoral College was that they knew that if a campaign was launched at the national level, it would be won by the person who had or could raise enough money to basically buy the election. To that end, the Electoral College is more necessary now than ever. We were not supposed to have national elections, and we were not supposed to have Parties. Instead we were supposed to have political “parties” and town halls. We were supposed to assemble locally and meet locally to discuss the issues. We were supposed to relay our concerns at these parties and town halls to our state and US representatives. Our state representatives would relay our concerns to our Senators (who were supposed to represent the states, not the people and were appointed by the state governments till that was changed by the idiotic Populist movement).
It’s relatively easy to meet and possibly become acquainted with a state representative, state senator or US representative. It’s less easy to know the governor or senator unless they’ve held those offices first, and almost impossible to meet the President.
The Founding Fathers wanted a system based upon character more than anything else. We were supposed to get to know the people who represent us at these parties and town halls, and at the levels where the individual was less likely to know the politicians, the intermediary figures the individual could have access to were supposed to know *them*.
So few of us can personally know Barack Obama or Mitt Romney even casually, but we are all supposed to not only know who are Electors are, but know them personally, and the Electors are supposed to know the presidential candidates quite well. That way, when we decide whom to vote for, it’s not supposed to be based upon the men running for president per se, but upon which Elector(s) we deem most trustworthy, and upon what *they* think of the candidates.
It’s actually a great system, if it were executed the way the Founding Fathers intended. Rather than making it obsolete, technology ought to make it more feasible since for example we could get to know our Electors very well through social media even if we’re not able to get out and meet them personally at events.