The Electoral College is a necessity for America’s elections
As of Monday, Donald J. Trump is officially the next President of the United States; the Electoral College has voted, and to nobody’s surprise, Trump won handily.
This vote has renewed calls for the abolition of the Electoral College and the instillation of a popular voting system (or some other system). The calls have come from far and wide, from legislators, to former Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (who, it would be remiss of me not to mention, was screwed out of the nomination by an actual rigged system).
Understanding the Electoral College
Before I start in my defense of the Electoral College, I think it’d be wise to point out that the U.S. is—to be exact—a federal constitutional republic, not a democracy. A republic is a representative government that is ruled by laws, while a democracy is a direct government ruled by the majority.
This is a huge misconception that makes it seem like the Electoral College is a flaw, when, in fact, it is an integral part of the design. Just look how much time the founders devote to describing every bit of the Electoral College in Article 2, Section 1.
The Framers also hated the idea of a real democracy; they didn’t trust it. Democracies lead to mob rule where the majority gets whatever it wants whenever it wants. If that happens, the government begins to fail at its job of protecting everyone’s rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, according to Jefferson.
As James Madison explains in Federalist 10, factions will always exist because they are a part of human nature. No matter how hard we as a people try, human nature will always prevail.
The best way to protect against this in a presidential election is through the Electoral College. It was not “slapped on” to appease smaller states; it’s there to protect the smaller states.
The Electoral College (as you have probably heard thousands of times in defense of the system) is in place to make sure the president represents the entire country, not just the populous areas. If we had a popular voting system, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago would be the most important places in America for politicians.
If there was a popular vote, fly-over states would be just that: fly-over states. They wouldn’t have a say in their leader, and contrary to popular belief, swing states change by election. Florida wasn’t that important this election—only Trump really needed to win it (discounting his sweep of the Rust Belt).
To quote everyone’s new favorite Framer, Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 68, “Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”
Critiques are Not What They Seem
Many present the argument that Wyoming is better represented in the Electoral College than California. But contrary to Adam Ruins Everything and others, this is somewhat by design. First, the Electoral College combines the number of representatives and senators from each state to get the number of electors for each state.
By design, smaller states will be more powerful, but only slightly. The whole point of the Senate is to give smaller states a voice. Being unfair to bigger states is the point.
The second is The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. This is something the Framers did not create, nor did they intend. This falls on Congress. The essence of the act is that the House will consist of 435 representatives and will not continue to grow with the population as the number of representatives had been since the inception of the republic.
This does mess up the Electoral College, creating an impure form of it. This is not the fault of the Electoral College or the Founders, it is the fault of a Congress thinking the House was getting too large to handle. We would, if the act had not been passed, have more than a thousand representatives.
Finally, after all this, Clinton supporters’ denunciation of the Electoral College is really weird. To paraphrase Kellyanne Conway at the Harvard Institute of Politics’ 2016 Campaign Decision Makers’ Conference when the Clinton campaign brought up the popular vote, I’d like to know when it was that the Clinton campaign decided to not go for the Electoral College and go for the popular vote.
The Clinton campaign never cared about the popular vote until they lost the Electoral College.
There is a reason that we have an Electoral College. The Constitution was written with the rights of states at the forefront. This is about giving everyone power—not just the biggest of states, including our own.
Now, the President nor the federal government should have that much power, but that’s another column for another day.
Assistant opinion editor Jorden Smith is a politcal science and creative writing junior and can be reached at [email protected]