In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton received more votes than Donald Trump, but due to the Electoral College, Trump became the next president of these United States.
Is this fair? Is this American?
In an article by Vanity Fair titled, “The Electoral College Is Not Democratic,” the author wrote, “The Electoral College is an artificial device, but it has the fairy dust of history sprinkled on it. It works so well that the nation soon forgets that a majority of voters did not want George W. Bush as president and do not want Donald Trump either.”
Clinton said during a CNN interview: “I think it needs to be eliminated. I’d like to see us move beyond it, yes.”
Even Trump, before his victory in 2016, tweeted, “The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy.”
Now, as you know, the form of government guaranteed by the United States Constitution is a Republic. Nowhere in the Constitution does the word “Democracy” appear. It also appears nowhere in the Declaration of Independence.
Article 4, Section 4, of the United States Constitution states, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”
In a Republic, the law is supreme, and all men, including its leaders, are subject to it. The law is objective, a fixed standard; it is what we call the “rule of law.” In a Republic, the minority has rights, which even the majority may not violate. In a Democracy, however, majority rule is absolute. This makes the law subjective and ever-changing. It is what we would call the “rule of man.”
The Electoral College was to be a wholly separate body for choosing the president. Developed at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it was a compromise among plans for a national popular vote and to have Congress choose the president. It also acts as a state check on federal power, thus protecting smaller states.
“It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist No. 68.
Here is how the Electoral College works: States choose electors equal to the total number of senators and representatives from that state. These electors normally are pledged to support the candidate who carried their state, but they are not obligated and sometimes will violate the pledge.
To select our president by a popular vote would be a purely democratic election. This election would favor only states with major population hubs, making the rest of the country irrelevant. The tyranny of the majority populace would dominate America and minority populations would never be assured protection from the majority.
The old adage comes to my aid: “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for lunch.”
Liberty and justice for all Americans is the goal of the Constitution, making the Electoral College both right and American.
And in the words of Alexander Hamilton, “If the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”
Jake MacAulay serves as the chief executive officer of the Institute on the Constitution, an educational outreach that presents the Founders’ “American view” of law and government.
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