by Joel Goodman • The Federalist
Some disparage the Founding Fathers’ distrust of the population. They constructed a representative republic rather than a pure democracy, even in a time when voting was limited to white yeomen—those who owned land and had what was considered a “stake in the country.”
The example of the French under Napoleon Bonaparte, who were constantly engaged in referendums that determined the amount of authority Napoleon should have, provide an example of why the Founders eschewed democracy. These referendums were direct votes, considered to be the most democratic of all voting methods. Each vote granted Napoleon more power until he became an absolute emperor over the French people. The French democratically and freely voted away their own liberty.
It appears the American Founders had presaged the events in France by examining the history of earlier democracies. The reasons America is a republic are more basic. In 1776 we were an expansive nation of almost a thousand miles north to south, diverse in geography, industry, customs, and religion. America comprised 13 individual states, each with its own autonomous government and laws. Prior to the Civil War, America was referred to in the plural: The United States of America are a wonderful country.
We are 50 independent states, never intended to have a central government that makes us all dance to the same tune. The existence of a National Interstate Highway System that connects all the states from coast to coast, with identical fast food restaurants at each interchange, may mean we have bad food habits, but it does not mean we are a unified democracy.
Protecting the Minority from Majority Aggression
Then, there is the Electoral College, which really only makes sense when looking at the overall federal election system. In bringing the United States together under a new Constitution, the Constitutional Convention delegates were confronted with safeguarding both the people and the states from the great power that the new central government and chief executive may hold. To this end, they arranged an election system that distributes the vote among different election bases, coupled with elections for each office being held in staggered years.
In “The Federalist Papers,” James Madison said it is necessary to prevent a passion of the moment, a transient inflammatory issue during any particular election cycle, from overwhelming the government. Also discussed was protecting the minority from the majority. A democratic government should not function as a majority subjugating a minority to its will. The overlap of authority and differing electoral bases was to serve as a brake on the federal government, forcing compromise, as had occurred in the federal convention itself.
The Constitution was framed by representatives from the various states, which although having different-sized populations, as in the Confederation, each had one vote for ratification. This then, was the influence that formed the new electoral system: “which considers them (the states) partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. From “The Federalist Papers” again:
The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, The executive power will be derived from a very compound source. The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society.
It was believed that security against the strength of the central government and of malevolent passions was accomplished by vesting power in different electoral bases, and the staggered timing of the elections themselves, held at two-, four-, and six-year intervals. This would, in theory, bring into Congress representatives with different regional interests and appropriate responses to contemporary issues that occurred during particular election cycles.
The need to protect the minority becomes very poignant when one sees the angry mob on the streets today, mostly in large cities, ostensibly reflecting the will of the majority as evidenced by the “popular” vote. One need only look at the past several years of violence perpetrated by these mobs to imagine them guided over the next several years by their same re-elected leaders, wreaking hell on certain groups in this country.
The Idea Is Actually More Power to the People
The House, with representation proportional to each state’s population, was to be the people’s house, with the people voting every two years, so it could meet exigencies that needed the attention of the people. The Senate was to represent the states, with two senators from each state appointed by the state’s legislature for a six-year term, and the selection staggered with one-third being selected every two years.
The president was intended to be a combination of both. The people were to vote for president through electors who represent a particular candidate. The number of electors was proportional to the state’s population plus two, representing their vote in the Senate. In the event of a tie, the vote would default to the House; again, the people’s house.
There is much focus on the Electoral College today because there is much focus on the president. If one looks at the powers vested in the central government, it becomes obvious that it is the House that has the real authority (despite the actions of the Republican-majority Congress during the past six years).
The confusion surrounding the electoral issue stems from changes that have been made since the Constitution was drafted. While the system was intended to work within a democratic republic, with safeguards against tyranny implicit within the system, the method of voting has changed dramatically.
How Democratizing Voter Bases Erodes Their Power
Firstly, senators are no longer elected by each state’s legislature, a tremendous loss to our federal system. This change is mostly responsible for much of the legislation that focuses on national issues at the expense of particular regions. We see it in legislation aimed at the inner cities, but put in the form of national legislation that is said to improve the lives of everyone in the country. Some targeted legislation dramatically affects entire industries, such as the coal and auto industries.
There is now an overlap of electoral bases between the Senate and the House, and to a certain degree also between the presidency and Congress. The candidates for state legislatures are people who are better known because of their proximity to voters. These legislatures previously selected the senators from each state. It was intended that they would reflect the political stripe of a state in selecting senators. It was also these state legislators who selected and voted for presidential electors, again reflecting both the will of the people and the will of the individual state.
With the introduction of an extremely long primary system in most states, campaigns have become costly, shallow, theatrical contests that deal very little with the important issues of the day in any serious manner. Ironically with all the focus and hoopla about the “popular vote” and the Electoral College, the political situation would be very different today if the more republican form of voting for senators were still in place.
If the original election procedure of voting for senators hadn’t been changed, at the moment there would be at least 64 Republican senators, with the possibility of up to 69. This would yield a very different Congress than we now have, wherein several states that have heavily populated cities have representation from a certain party because their senators are elected from limited geographical areas that have a large number of voters from that party.
If You Want Real Diversity, You Want the Electoral College
The Electoral College, it has been said, was constructed in some part to prevent a presidential candidate from winning an election based on support from just one region of the country. If the vote were strictly by population, there would be a concentration of small, populated areas controlling vast areas that have very different needs and values.
If we could assume for the moment that the purview of the federal government were reduced in scope, closer to its original intent, and not involved in individuals’ daily lives, and many individuals did not depend upon the federal government for their livelihood from cradle to grave, there would be less focus on the presidency, which would be most concerned with those issues that affect the country as a whole: defense, international treaties, foreign policy, etc.
If many of the issues that now involve the federal government were returned to the states and to the counties in each state, the importance of the central government would be limited. This is not farfetched speculation; we began that way, and are still functioning, and if we could understand from a less immediately temporal point of view that history has not ended, we could imagine once again returning to a structure more reflective of our beginning.
But, most importantly, each state is different, and many Americans like it that way. While those in the biggest cities may want the world to be run the way they see fit, their culture and habits would not fit those who live in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. Issues that affect one group of people have little or no importance to another group. The cohesion that brings us together is based upon tolerance for the diversity among us, not diminishing one individual’s values for the sake of another’s.
The Left Wants to Homogenize America
The conundrum for those in the middle and especially on the Left, is that they want everyone to want and have the same things they do, even though everyone doesn’t want what they want. More precisely, many on the Left want to take assets from one segment of the population and give these to another, even though the exchange is not voluntary. They see nothing morally wrong with this political arrangement.
To accomplish this exchange requires an all-powerful central authority, which, for example, could tell one of the few still-employed Protestant white coal miners in West Virginia to kick over a chunk of his salary, not to his church as he usually has done, but to the federal government so it can underwrite the purchase of a house by a black family in a white suburb outside of Chicago, New York City, or Los Angeles.
Or tell the 60-hour-a-week truck driver that some of his salary will be used to pay for health care, housing, food, clothing, and education for a kid who was born after his mother snuck into the country illegally, or for a refugee from Syria who would be better served in a safe environment closer to his homeland. The farmer in Kansas is told that he needs to use ethanol to fuel his pickup truck, even though it yields fewer miles per gallon and causes early engine breakdowns.
On the other hand, the poor lady in Manhattan may find herself in need of an abortion, and she doesn’t want to be told to take the 45-day-old fetus to full-term and put the child up for adoption. The same goes for same-sex marriage. While some states sanction it, not every state wants to accept it. Some states have excellent equivalencies that do not infringe on traditional Western Judeo-Christian values, others don’t.
True diversity is not what is promoted as diversity; it is not a collection of foreigners unwilling to emulate existing American culture. It is a collection of diverse people all working together to promote that rarity called “Americanism”—what not too long ago was known as a “melting pot.” Those on the Left look to the world outside of the United States and, based on what they see as good for other people, decide what would be good for America.
If You Don’t Like It, Move
Americans move all the time. We are the most migratory industrialized population in history. In the 1950s there was a migration of gays to New York’s Greenwich Village and other metropolitan surrounds, looking for sexual freedom they didn’t have back home. In the 1960s, big-city kids wanted to get back to the land and wound up on farms and coops and communes in the hinterlands.
Beginning in the ‘70s, there was a large-scale migration to the Sunbelt states. Now, there seems to be a migration by middle-class families out of the big cities to states that are less liberal and have a greater respect for individual rights, have less crime, better education, and much more green space in which to wander on the weekends. The list goes on. There is no thing in America that you can’t have. It’s just not always where you want it.
The Electoral College is designed as part of a federal republic. Rather than weakening it, we should be moving back to our roots. By destroying the Electoral College, we move one step closer to a purely national government, voted on by average voters who have no education about the issues on which they are being asked to vote. In place of an educated decision they vote their, race, their religion, their gender, their sexual orientation, and even illegally vote their immigration status.
Those who oppose a republic want conformity. While classic liberalism started as a movement away from central authority in search of individual liberty, the modern liberal devalues individual liberty in favor of the imposition of a declared general good upon the individual. To have conformity, you must have a central authority, wherein everybody across the full breadth of the land marches in lockstep. Unfortunately, among the list of nations that toyed with an imposed conformity was one where conformity wore jackboots as it marched in lockstep across Europe.