Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine how we might elect the next president without seeing a single TV commercial, without a single political action committee, without a single debate, without a single dollar changing hands, without a single “support me and I’ll appoint you secretary of state,” without months of endless, meaningless promises that try the soul of the most patient patriots.
Can’t be done? It can be done. It has been done. It is the system designed by the framers of the Constitution. It is the system that elected President George Washington.
By 1795, however, when it came time to elect Washington’s successor, the Federalists, represented by John Adams, and the Democratic-Republicans, represented by Thomas Jefferson, were far more concerned about gaining power and control of government than about electing the best person to be president.
The original system required each state to select the same number of electors as the number of senators and representatives to which the state was entitled, “but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector” (Article II, Section 1, Clause 2). This group of non-government employees had but one task: “The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves” (Article II, Section 1, Clause 3). These names were compiled and sent to the president of the Senate. The electors; job was done; when they adjourned from their one-day meeting, there were no more electors.
“The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed;” (Article II, Section 1, Clause 3).
The original Constitution provides remedies for a tied vote and other anomalies, but the original system was quite simple and ingenious, if no inspired. Ordinary citizens, chosen by state legislators, nominated a field of candidates, and the House of Representatives (chosen directly by the people) either named the highest vote getter to be president, or chose the president from the top five vote getters, in the event no one got an outright majority. Each state had one vote.
This amazing story has been researched and explained in great detail in a book titled: “The Evolution and Destruction of the Electoral College,” by Gary and Carolyn Alder. Who knew? No school teaches this important information. Political parties are still far more concerned about gaining power and control of government than they are about the quality and leadership ability of the president. While this has been a growing truth for decades, the division and vitriol between the parties that now exists is worse, or at least as bad, as it has ever been. The current process is flawed. And it is unconstitutional.
Direct election of the president is not authorized by the U.S. Constitution.
Throughout the 19th century, political parties maneuvered to find ways to influence the electors chosen by the states. The Constitution was simply ignored – much like the Constitution is ignored today by President Obama when he sends the U.S. military into Libya without congressional approval, or when he appoints czars and Cabinet secretaries without Senate approval (and on and on).
The gradual usurpation of power over the election process continued until 1804 when the 12th Amendment was adopted. This amendment required the electors to identify one nominee to be the president, and another nominee to be the vice president. This may not seem to be much of a change, but it was enough to empower political parties to really take control of the process.
There is no similarity between today’s nominating and election process and what the Constitution authorized. Consequently, we see billions of dollars invested in TV and other advertising, endless debates and arguments, much time taken away from real responsibilities of the candidates, and generally wind up with a chief executive who is far from the best qualified person to be the president of the United States.
Political parties have completely removed the states from any role in the federal government. It began with the 12th Amendment and was completed with the 17th Amendment in 1913. The states that created the federal government are no longer a part of it; thanks, in large part, to the quest for power of the two major political parties.
It doesn’t have to continue this way. Americans who respect and appreciate the Constitution can exercise their power at the ballot box and kick out political-party ideologues at every level of government. It will not be easy, and it will not be quick. It will not happen at all unless generations of Americans learn what the framers designed and why their design offers real improvement over the present system.
Americans are discovering that they can make a difference at city hall, at the courthouse and in Congress. The mid-term elections that shifted the balance of power in the House of Representatives demonstrate what Americans can do when they put their mind and energy to it. The more than 50 communities that have evicted the U.N.’s Agenda 21 this year is even more evidence of what is possible.
The foundation of change is information and education. The next step is informed engagement with elected officials and candidates. The final step is to inspire a sufficient number of friends and neighbors to achieve victory at the ballot box. Let’s do it.