The Electoral College

I have mentioned a number of times that our Constitution is in need of revision — or at least a number of amendments — to remedy the oversights of the Founders of this nation. They could not possibly see such things as the monumental growth of the corporations or the expanding wealth and power of a few individuals who would take the reins of power away from the people who were supposed to be the backbone of this Republic. Well, “backbone” may be too strong a word, because the Founders didn’t really trust the people altogether.

This can be seen by a cursory glance at the Constitution in which the Senate — selected by the legislators of the various states — is given the greatest power (a fact that disturbed Henry Adams no end) and the House of Representatives — which was the only body voted in by the people — was severely limited in its powers. And the President, of course, was to be elected by the “Electors.” The role of the Electors is discussed in Article II of the Constitution and it states that:

“Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress…”

Note that the Electors are “appointed” not elected. A lengthy paragraph follows in which it is shown how the Electors would choose a President and a Vice President — a paragraph that was altered by the Twelfth Amendment, passed in 1804, which expanded on the manner in which the President and Vice President were to be chosen, but kept the notion of the Electors intact.

In both cases, as in the case of the selection of the Senate, it was very clear that those who authored and approved the Constitution did not trust the people to do much in the way of choosing their government as they managed it so there would be buffers between the people and those chosen to govern them. It was simply assumed that the House of Representatives would be made up of people chosen directly by the citizens, but limited to a two-year term. Why would one want to state in office for longer since there were more important things to do at home?

The notion that those elected would be voted out of office if they were incompetent was clear from nearly every page of the Federalist Papers that were written to persuade the voters of New York state to ratify the Constitution. Those authors also made it clear, as I have noted before, that the voters themselves would exhibit “civic virtue,” that is, a love of country and willingness to put the needs of the country before their own. These notions now seem to have been idealistic if not naive.

But to focus attention the Electoral College, we might note that it was designed to guarantee that the very “best” people would be chosen for the highest office in the land. It was a check against the rude passions of the “rustics” who might want to elect a man (not a woman, of course) who would be unqualified for the job. There is simply no evidence whatever that those who wanted this Constitution really wanted to provide the people themselves with much power; it was to be housed among those who were best qualified — that is, the wealthier and better informed members of the thirteen states. The Founders, remember, were themselves educated, many of them quite wealthy, and most of them had been British citizens long enough to hang on to a deep prejudice against extending “suffrage” and a reluctant desire, perhaps, to mimic the better elements of the English system of government. The Senate, after all, appears to have been their version of the House of Lords — without any mention of Landed Gentry, of course.

It is ironic, then, that this document which is filled with checks and balances — and masterful in its way — placed so much power in the Electoral College to guard against the whims of the citizens who were not to be trusted with great responsibility. This College in our day has become an anachronism and was actually responsible for the recent election of the very sort of man the Founders were seeking to guard against — a man totally unqualified for office who could in a moment of anger or rage bring down then entire edifice around our ears.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that Hillary Clinton won the popular election by nearly three million votes. The Electoral College put her opponent in office. It would appear the people had more wisdom and common sense than the Founders thought they could exhibit. And the end result of the election was the very thing they sought to avoid.

I say again: perhaps it is time to address some of the oversights of the Founders who wrote this truly remarkable, but antiquated, document.

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16 thoughts on “The Electoral College

  1. Just as the Founders would never have predicted how astray many things have gone, who knows what surprises await down the road that we are unable to imagine.. I still have trouble with the power of giant corporations and corporation ‘personhood’ – I think I would be scared to peer several hundred years into the future. Perhaps in the future robots will be so advanced that they contain a human soul,complete with voting rights… Yes, tweaks should be made that fit in with today’s times…

    • Yes. I think the corporations and the PACs are the major problem. But the Congress will not address this issue because the horse does not bite the hand that feeds it…. or the crocodile, either.

      • Ha! So right; One can veer in many directions with that final thought.. The crocodile, even when resting, has ‘earned’ its reputation, so we know its demons. The horse, however, can appear tranquil, accept its daily bread and then kick the breath out of you when you least expect it! No one needs to go around wondering where the next kick will come from; we need to find that Mayberry lifestyle again…

        Can you imagine Andy and Barney sitting on the porch steps and staring into their cell phones?

      • I can’t imagine anyone with half a brain sitting there staring inito their phones! But I don’t need to imagine: it happens every day. Very sad.

  2. Hugh, as you mention in a comment, the legislators don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. The are given money to influence them, plain and simple. When a Koch brother calls, the legislator better pick up. The oligarchy runs the show. Keith

  3. As I was reading your post, I had what I call a ‘light-bulb’ moment … a moment of inspiration … and idea so wonderful! We need great minds to take the base document, the Constitution, determine what to keep and what to set aside, then re-write the document! Great minds that don’t always agree on the minutiae, but agree on the general principles that have NOT changed in the 230 years since the U.S. Constitution was written. And I propose for the first four, the ‘core’ of the group, you, myself, Keith and Gronda! A six-week period in a location we can all abide, with nothing to focus on but this! Yeah, I’m dreaming, and I know it, but doesn’t it sound like a great idea?

    That said, this is an excellent post, my friend. You and I don’t always see quite eye-to-eye on the minute details, but we’re in agreement on the big picture.

  4. The electoral college protects middle America. Those in the major cities, Miami, LA, New York.. do not know what is best or needed in rural North Dakota, or Kentucky or rural Texas. Our country is too big for the voices in middle America to be drowned out by LA. The electoral college ensures the middle is still heard during represented.

      • Not really? The only people who supported Hillary were in big cities.. Yeah Trump is a mess but The middle states didn’t support her. The rest of the country didn’t want her beyond LA and New York. They shouldn’t be able to decide what is best for everywhere else.

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