A recent ABC News-Washington Post poll disclosed that President Barack Obama leads challenger Mitt Romney by three percentage points in the race for president of the United States—well within the margin of error. If this race remains this close in November chances are the Electoral College, will once again, make the choice as it has in the past.
For those who do not know, the Founding Fathers opposed a democracy and hoped that descendants would never turn what they created into such. The word democracy is not in any of our original governing documents. Benjamin Franklin referred to democracy as two wolves and a lamb voting on what they would have for lunch; the well armed lamb contesting the vote. Realizing that the majority is not always right and, as such, could trample the rights of the minority becoming very tyrannical, they created a republic instead, thus we pledge allegiance to “the republic for which it stands.” A lynch mob is a democracy; everyone voting to hang the accused except the one proposed to be hung.
The vote system they created, referred to as the Electoral College, spread the vote geographically, and favored the informed over the less informed. Spreading the vote geographically was not easy, as everyone knew that the popular vote could be won by a few populated states, (today a few as ten, some say four), and that rural states or sections would never see the candidate nor would he make an appeal to their interests. To equalize the population advantage and encourage candidates to make a larger geographical appeal, the College gave population-deprived states disproportionately at least three votes. Although candidates could probably still ignore the rural states, the College made it decidedly less tempting to do so.
The College system intentionally favors the informed. Those less informed tend to vote for leaders who can give them the most from their vote but the Constitution is designed to give nothing to anyone except the opportunity to maximize their talent in an environment of freedom from excessive government. The moment government takes from one and gives to another, recipient voters henceforth expect something from their vote and politicians have shown that they can be purchased. It becomes a “blood sport” as to which candidate can give the most “goodies” to get elected.
I ask my students how many months they spent studying the propositions on the last California ballot prior to voting? Months? Days? Hours? Seldom was it more than the least amount possible to give them a “gut” feeling. I than ask why they should have the same vote power as one who did spend months studying an issue?
When put this way they better understand the principles of a republic, which rejects a popular vote for the president, having the states make that decision instead. States select a number of voters for the president equal to the number of members of Congress (both House and Senate) they have. These non-governmental individuals, selected by the state legislatures presumably for their integrity, experience, success, and wisdom, are presumably less emotionally driven (they have seen it all) and less susceptible to the emergence of a tyrant. Remember, Adolph Hitler was elected. Presumably this would have been thwarted had Germany a functioning electoral college to mitigate the emotion or ignorance of the masses. The citizens chosen to be Electoral College voters do so in their separate state capitols usually sometime in late November and that vote is sent to, and read by, the vice president of the United States before a combined session of both Houses of Congress usually the first week in December. Normally there is little coverage of the real election of the president and this, usually negative.
This process is certainly not without its problems, but when the ill informed have the same vote strength, or higher, as the well informed the Electoral College offsets this by placing the weight of government in favor of reason and experience. It remains the best system in the world. I realize that in a day when we have high-speed communication it is easy to assume that, as a result, we have high-speed knowledge and experience as well. As a college professor in the subject area, I can emphatically argue otherwise. Nothing replaces the benefits of reason and experience and these don’t come high speed.
Given our history it is likely that the Electoral College will be called upon, once again, to go against the popular vote when the seasoned voters of the College have reason to distrust the peoples’ choice. It is there duty. It is decidedly undemocratic but we are not a democracy. Hopefully they won’t have to do so this year.