By Nathan Barton
The Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, for all of its phony baloney, deception, and raw political maneuvering, got a lot of things worked out pretty well, to try to cement together thirteen independent nations into a single Union.
One of those things was the way of electing the head of the Executive Branch of government. Never mind that there were less complex ways, and ideas (such as the Swiss Federal Council system) that had not yet been thought of or invented. The Founding Fathers were willing to (and some actually wanted) an “elected king,” (bad idea) but with limited powers, (good idea) and NOT elected by “democratic means” – they distrusted and feared democracy: mob rule (good idea). But they also needed to have a system which would be acceptable not just to the big, populous states (such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Massachusetts) but to the small, low-population states (such as Delaware and Rhode Island and New Hampshire).
The system that they came up with was based on the bicameral legislature. Just as when part of the Empire they were familiar with the House of Lords (Governor’s Council in the Thirteen Colonies) and the House of Commons (the Assembly or House of Burgesses or such in the Colonies), and would feel comfortable with a senate representing each state, and a house of representatives representing the people of each of those states, so the compromise made sense in electing a leader.
They COULD have eliminated the executive branch in practice (just as the British and her Commonwealth dominions later did) by having a parliamentary system (which has demonstrated, time and time again, is a bad idea). But they chose instead a balance of powers, similar to what most of the Thirteen already had, and what the Empire had at that time. And despite the wartime propaganda that blamed George III for almost everything, they understood that a legislature – whether a congress or a parliament – could steal liberty away as easily as a monarch or dictator. Hence the limits in power, time, and other matters. (Again, they missed on some things that today we see as having contributed to the corruption and collapse of the system.) So at least they tried.
But! The fact that as of 2016, most of those safeguards have failed, either because they were NOT bugs in the system, but rather features, or because assumptions about the way politicians would behave were wrong, or just because ANYthing human is subject to decay and failure. But some major portions of that system still remain, and still have a major purpose – including the protection of individual liberty from tyranny.
As my sons are prone to point out, most people have forgotten today that we, the so-called United States of America, are in reality a federation of FIFTY separate NATIONS – that the word “state” is synonymous with “nation.” Just as the modern EU (decaying far more rapidly than the old American Republic did), ensures that even the smallest of its members (Luxumbourg, Ireland, etc.) are equal to the largest (Germany, France, Italy, etc.) so the two houses of Congress AND the institution of the Electoral College, where each state has a minimum of three votes, ensures at least SOME attention must be paid to the smallest of states (such as South Dakota, Wyoming, Delaware, and North Dakota) and are equal to the largest (California, Texas, Florida, New York) in at least some ways.
This is very important for keeping what we still can of the Republic and the Union, and protecting Americans from the growing tyranny of the Imperial Presidency and the abomination that Congress has become.
There are many pragmatic reasons for keeping the Electoral College, just as there are for keeping the Senate as is. But its greatest value is symbolic, a reminder that the majority does NOT always rule, that the old Republic was just that; a republic and not a democracy, and that the voice of the people is NOT the voice of God. Rather, we all answer to a higher Power and government is NOT that higher Power.
Nearly a week has passed since this latest election for Massa, and the votes still are trickling in, shifting the popular lead back and forth between Trump and Clinton. One astute observer, Wayne Allen Root, a Vegas politician and oddsmaker, had predicted to Trump himself several weeks before the election that Trump would take the popular vote by 10% but it would be reported as just 2% due to the Democrats’ expected success in stealing votes and adding votes across the country. (Old joke: My grandfather so enjoyed dabbling in politics that he asked to be buried in Chicago when he died so that he could keep on voting.) Although Root may have been off on the exact percentages, you have to wonder if the gist of his argument was not right. Without the mechanism of the Electoral College, we would still be waiting to see who won, and I suspect the unrest would be far, far worse.
That will not stop too many people from continuing to try and do away with the Electoral College, of course. Any more than it will make any difference to the long-term future of the Fifty States and liberty whether the Fifty States elected Trump or Clinton (or even Johnson, Stein, or McMullan).