The Electoral College

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 22nd, 2011

Politics 101

The Founding Fathers put Responsible, Enlightened and Disinterested People between the People and their Government

The Founding Fathers were no fans of democracy.  Election by popular vote was little more than mob rule.  It would lead to the tyranny of the majority over the minority.  And as Benjamin Franklin warned, once the people learned they could vote themselves money from the treasury, they would.

These feelings extended to the states as well.  The small states did not want to be ruled by the large states.  This is why every state had two senators in the Senate.  To offset the influence of the big states in the House of Representatives.  Where the people voted for their representatives by direct popular vote.  And to offset the influence of the new federal government, the state legislatures would elect their senators.  Giving the states a large say in federal affairs.

Knowing history as they did, this was all very purposeful.  Indirect elections.  Putting other people between the people and the power of government.  And the treasury.  The people would vote for responsible, enlightened and disinterested people to represent them.  Then these responsible, enlightened and disinterested people would make policy.  And by doing this the Founding Fathers hoped that the new republic would survive.

The Founding Fathers set up the United States as a Federation of Independent States

Blacks make up about 12% of the population.  Gay and lesbians less than 1.5%.  In a true democracy it would not be difficult for the majority to win a popular vote to make these people illegal.  As crazy as that sounds a democracy could do that.  If that was the way the mob felt at the time of the vote.  This was the kind of thing the small states worried about.  As well as the Founding Fathers.  A tyranny of the majority.  Where anything goes.  As long as the majority says so.

Interestingly, a popular vote could have freed the slaves.  Which was a concern of the southern states.  The Three-Fifth Compromise was yet another provision the Founding Fathers included in the Constitution.  To get the southern states to join the new union.  This counted 3/5 of a slave as a person to determine representation in the House of Representatives.  Which would offset the numerical superiority of free people in the northern states.  And prevent them from ruling the southern states.  Which is pretty much what happened after the Civil War.  As the freed slaves tended to vote along with their northern liberators.

The Founding Fathers set up the United States as a federation of independent states.  For before there was a United States of America there were independent states loosely associated together.  Coming together only when they needed each other such as winning their independence from Great Britain.  Even during the Revolution the states were still fiercely independent.  And getting these fiercely independent states to join together in a more perfect union required a lot of checks and balances.  A separation of powers.  And indirect elections.  Which the Founding Fathers dutifully included in the new Constitution.  It wasn’t perfect.  But it was the best such a diverse group of people and beliefs could produce.

The Seventeenth Amendment Destroyed a very Large Check on Federal Power

Of course, this leaves the presidential election.  And the Electoral College.  Which grew out of the same concerns.  Of trying to prevent the large states from ruling the small states.  The Electoral College blended together the popular vote of the House of Representatives.  And the indirect vote of the Senate.

Each state had electors who actually voted for the president.  The number of electors in each state equaled that state’s representation in Congress.  The number of representatives in the House (population-based).  And the number of senators (state-based).  The electors typically cast all of their electoral votes based on the outcome of the popular vote of their state.  Which is why sometimes presidents win elections even though they lose the national popular vote.  An outcome designed by the Founding Fathers.  To prevent a tyranny of the majority from ruling over the minority.

Some things have changed since the Founding.  We extended the right to vote to black men.  And then later to women.  Both good things.  But not all changes were good.  Such as the Seventeenth Amendment.  Perhaps the biggest change from the intent of the Founding Fathers.  Ratified in 1913, it changed the election of Senators from a vote by the state’s legislature to a popular vote like that for the House.  Destroying a very large check on federal power.  Creating a much more powerful central government by transferring power form the states to the federal government.  What the Founding Fathers tried to prevent in the original Constitution.  With their checks and balances.  Their separation of powers.  And their indirect elections.  Including the Electoral College.  Which, if eliminated, would give even more power to the federal government.  And a greater ability for the majority to rule unchecked over the minority.

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