From the very beginning of the 2016 election cycle, the ultimate winner was labeled and continually ridiculed by progressives and conservatives alike as a clown, someone ideologically, historically, and temperamentally unfit to hold the office. It is unclear at this writing if he has any reverence for the office of the President at all.
And once again we get lessons in civics about how the political parties and our elections are supposed to work, and how they actually work. We learn again all about the Electoral College. We have to learn the lessons again, because it’s sort of boring and geeky, and we weren’t really paying attention the last time. It has to be told to us again how a candidate can receive the most Electoral votes and win the presidency in spite of not receiving more popular votes nation-wide.
Here, a distinction must be drawn between receiving more votes when all of the state election results are combined, and “winning” the popular vote. There IS no national popular vote to win or lose. There are only 51 state and district elections. Each of those state elections is assigned an Electoral value based on the number of legislative representatives (except for the pity case of the District of Columbia) and the winner of the combination of state elections that garners the majority of Electoral votes wins the presidency. It’s not that hard to understand. Many of us learned it in junior high school. Most no longer do.
This year a new twist has been added. A racist twist. Never heard before. The Electoral College, some now say, was created to increase and perpetuate the influence of the Southern, slave states. Reference is made in passing to the inhumanity of the 3/5ths rule as if this is somehow evidence of something. Of course no thought is given to the fact that the 3/5ths rule actually decreased the influence held by Southern, slave states, but this is of no matter, as it doesn’t help to advance the narrative.
And so the familiar lament rises on the howling wind…… “God damn it’s cold out here”…. No wait… that’s in North Dakota. And so the familiar lament rises again, “why doesn’t the United States have a democratic popular national election to select the chief executive like all of the other countries”? The answers that one receives to this question are varied, but most land on the fact that the writers of the Constitution didn’t trust pure democracy. This seems to hold up to scrutiny as there are several references in the literature to opposing the “tyranny of the majority”, and of the susceptibility of the general public to the con, and each time it is noted that we are MUCH more sophisticated now.
But the truth is simpler and can be summarized in that rebellious fraternal mantra “you can’t choose your family, but you get to pick your friends”. Bear with me on this.
The United States is unique among nations (truly unique) in that before its current government was formed, the country didn’t exist. The governments of virtually every other “developed” nation that has “democratic” elections existed before their current incarnation and variation on democracy as a monarchy, dictatorship, or oligarchy of some sort. Most of the Western democracies are smaller than the State of Texas. In those nations, the governmental bureaucracies already existed. To form them, it was only a matter of choosing how the bureaucracies would be staffed, and how representatives to legislative bodies would be selected. In the case of the United States, the task wasn’t to determine how the existing government would be operated, but how bring together the several sovereign former colonial governments that were to become the states in such a manner that would equitable and would not result in the domination of the small by the large.
(The tyranny of the majority). Large states versus small states. Could the small states trust that they would not be dominated by larger more populous states if they were to enter into this confederation? In the end, the compromise variously referred to as the “Great Compromise of 1787”, the “Connecticut Compromise”, or the “Sherman Compromise” provided for proportional representation to the House of Representatives for the general population, and equal representation in the upper house… the Senate, to provide for representation of the states to the federal government. This compromise carried over to the selection of the Chief Executive. An “Electoral College” was created where one elector is allowed for each member of a state’s legislative contingent. This simple method mirrors the way that the legislature is constituted.
We do not have national popular elections because we are not a homogeneous people. We are the small state and large. We are coastal and plain. We are desert and lake. We are bayou and prairie. We are Rocky Mountain and vast forests. We are farm and factory, urban and rural. We are light and dark, Asian, African and Euro. We are, and hopefully will remain the United States of America.
But that's just what an average guy thinks.