17 Nov 2016
So, what did you learn at the Electoral College?
When it comes to certain people in the Government, it would seem nothing. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who is leaving the US Senate in Jan of 2017 to retire, clearly demonstrated it this week. She introduced a bill to create a Constitutional Amendment which would abolish the Electoral College as part of the Presidential election process.
It’s a long shot… everybody knows it. This is far from a new idea. When the popular vote is very close in Presidential races, this idea of eliminating the Electoral College always comes up after the election. And it never goes further than the suggestion and, in my opinion, for good reason.
First, the Electoral College is to the Senate, what the popular vote is to the House of Representatives. It keeps the masses from silencing the voices of the minority.
I had a high-school history teacher whose blood would boil, every time he talked about 2 Senators from a tiny state like Rhode Island having the same voting influence as 2 Senators from a large state like California. He was constantly ranting on why that goes against democratic principles.
The problem isn’t that the teacher was wrong about the Electoral College going against democratic principles. At face value, it does. But our founding fathers didn’t create this country on purely democratic principles, though they took a whole lot from the writings of Plato and Socrates, and mixed it with existing English-style governing bodies. They were very big on keeping the balance of power in check, and keeping the power at the Federal level at a minimum.
Second, is a big thing often overlooked in our time, which was just as big a concern at the time after the country was first founded. The political process had to be protected from King George’s loyalists, in America, from working with the King to usurp the power back to England. Hence, a big part of that protection is the second look by the Electoral College.
And as much as I hear Trump’s adversaries advocating the abolishment of the Electoral College, what they probably don’t realize it that it can be their biggest advocate. This, if it wasn’t for so much misunderstanding about how it works.
Here are the statements you’ll hear about the Electoral College, and some facts about them.
The Electoral College delegates don’t reflect the popular vote
Well, not true… except for Bush vs Gore, now Trump vs Clinton… and a few races before the 20th century. The overall history of Presidential elections show the Electoral College vote reflects the popular vote.
The Electoral College delegates must all vote for who won the State
This is a common misconception, which is completely untrue. Aside for a few states which have laws to penalize delegates who don’t vote for the winner of the popular vote in the state, delegates are completely free to vote their opinion/conscience. And even those laws have not stopped a number of them over the years for voting their conscience. In fact, some Constitutional scholars have noted that the first time any of these laws are challenged in court, they would be overthrown as unconstitutional.. so they are paper tigers. See this link for a list of states which have such laws:
Delegates have generally voted for who the State’s voters elected, but only out of tradition. The Constitution says nothing about how they must vote.
Interestingly, two states have a different way of casting their votes: Maine and Nebraska. Each state’s delegate count is the total number of seats for its House of Representatives and Senate (the latter is always 2). Maine and Nebraska give the two votes symbolic of the Senate seats to the winner of the state, while every remaining vote directly reflects who won in each congressional district in the state. These states have been pointed to as models for reforming the electoral college, as they are considered the closest to reflecting the popular vote. This link has the details.
Still, I equate any attempt to keep the Electoral College votes in line with the popular vote as the equivalent of a peacetime military. It trains a lot in peace, but its time of war is when a vote of conscious against the popular vote has to be made in the interests of protecting the American executive from usurpation.
The Electoral College doesn’t have any place in a modern connected society like ours
Something interesting happened in this election, which turns everything we know on its head. And it relates directly to the Electoral College as part of the election process.
People have been complaining about the amount of domestic and foreign special interest money, which is corrupting politics. The Electoral College, which the Founding Fathers intended to keep power from being usurped from the people of the United States, could have actually solved that problem. Had the delegates voted against the winning candidate in previous elections, would the influence of money have been rattled by this?
Ask yourself what happens when a set of lobbyists, financiers, special interests and others, who spend lots of money to have a politician on call for their interests, suddenly have their candidate taken away as the winner by the Electoral College. The news articles about the world’s reaction were in part reflecting this, especially from the Middle East.
There are 535 delegates, who can be anyone except an appointed or elected federal official. Their vote of conscious can be solely because they believe the “favor debt” of the candidate, or the conflict of interests of the candidate, is a dangerous liability to the country. The pendulum swings both ways.. by design. It is designed to keep media and the general fickleness of people from subverting an election choice.
And here’s where things got turned on their head. Donald Trump did what the previous electoral colleges could have done, but didn’t. His election send shock waves into those special interests trying to buy the candidate. And he won with less than half as much campaign spending as Hillary Clinton. See this link for a summary of the spending.
So could the Electoral College save the day and make Hillary Clinton, the popular vote winner, the president?
Yes… it could. Which is why I am so surprised that people only talk about eliminating it. Electing Hillary Clinton does run the risk of starting a civil war though. This would be particularly true with Hillary Clinton, because it would be perceived (right or wrong) as a corporate and special interests candidate overturning a grass-roots elected president.
Also, no Electoral College has ever overturned an election in favor of the popular vote. It would be a first.
Still, even to this day the Electoral College is the tool which could potentially put a stop to a hostile influence taking our country over from within. Yet, its power to do that was never exercised even when it looked like it was needed.
I think the best answer for everyone, political or not, is to learn about its own Government in some detail. These truisms we believe about our Government, and not the details which make the truth known, have us in a number of self-imposed traps that we have a hard time escaping. That includes fighting so hard for a President who has your beliefs, just because they get to nominate the next Supreme Court nominee who is in the office for life.
Oh Wait !! A Supreme Court justice holds their office as long as they demonstrate good behavior. And the founding fathers, in their writings, warned that if we did not exercise the impeachment of judges on a regular basis, we subject ourselves to judicial tyranny. As an election is a job review to a our executive and legislative branches, an impeachment is a job review for our judges (who have no election).
Now is it any wonder, why idolizing politicians (particularly Presidents) gets us into a world of hurt.
Well, if I was a foreign political influence on the United States, and knew I could potentially buy a politician… I would want to get rid of the Electoral College. And I would wonder why you would be supporting the idea.