By almost 2-to-1, 62 percent vs. 35 percent, Americans think the president of the United States should be elected on the basis of the national popular vote rather than by winning in the Electoral College.
Democrats continue to be more favorable than Republicans to what would be a major constitutional change.
I have to admit, on first glance, the Electoral College system seems like a wacky idea. You mean I’m not really voting for the president? I’m voting for “electors” who will choose a president? You mean the guy who gets the most votes doesn’t necessarily win?
Because in most cases the winner of the popular vote has been the winner of the Electoral College vote, it hasn’t been a front-burner issue in American politics for most of my life. We seldom think about it – certainly in non-election years.
However, ever since Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 and lost the presidential election, many Americans have pushed for scrapping the system devised by our Founding Fathers in favor of a direct, popular vote.
But the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College system for some very good reasons. And under no circumstances should it be abandoned today.
Let me give you an example of what the founders feared might occur with direct presidential elections based on popular vote alone.
Let’s suppose for a moment that Candidate X carries each of 49 states in the popular vote by slim margins. Though he wins the vote in every state, he does so with a total of only 100,000 votes more than Candidate Y in those states. Meanwhile, Candidate Y wins California by a margin of 1 million votes.
Candidate Y leads in the popular vote over Candidate X by 900,000 votes, yet has only carried one state.
Now, this is an exaggerated example of what could indeed happen, but it serves to illustrate the potential problem with a national popular vote. This is what the founders, who understood and appreciated the concerns and rights of sovereign states, had in mind when they came up with a system that is actually ingenious when you think about it.
In other words, the constitutional requirement of an Electoral College was designed for … fairness. It was an idea to protect the smallest voices. It was yet another invaluable check and balance devised by men who understood that powerful people and governments have a tendency to run roughshod over those with less power. It is a uniquely American concept – and it is needed today more than ever.
Without the Electoral College, the huge population centers on the East Coast and West Coast could, in effect, dictate to the rest of us.
Of course, even the best system is subject to abuse. No one understood that better than James Madison and Thomas Jefferson and the other founders. They knew that fraud – the kind we have witnessed in recent elections – could only be avoided and prevented in a country that was moral, that believed in right and wrong, that punished high crimes and fostered self-government rather than imposed a police state on the governed.
It’s no wonder that in the current environment there is suggestion of abandoning the Electoral College. Many people in this country think America is a democracy. It is not. It is a representative constitutional republic. And thank God for that.
Democracy is little more than mob rule – dictatorship by majority opinion. It almost always ends in oppression of minorities – be they religious, ethnic, racial or political minorities. Rule of law beats rule of mob any day. It is one of the reasons the American War for Independence was such a blessing to humanity and why the French Revolution was, in many ways, such a curse.
To many people today, the ends justify the means. If they can get their guy in the White House by changing the rules in the middle of the game, so be it. If they can get their guy in the White House by printing phony voter credentials, so be it. If they can get their guy in the White House by cheating or buying votes, so be it.
Frankly, there’s no point in even debating with people like that. There is no common ground for civil discourse. They are not content to live as free people under the rule of law. They prefer to rig the game because they think they can derive some personal benefit.
But, if indeed recent polls are accurate, it is disturbing to see a significant majority now opposed to the uniquely American invention known as the Electoral College.