The Electoral College has outlived its usefulness. For the many of you who are assuming that this article is only in reaction to Trump’s electoral victory, you are exactly right. I think that the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College to prevent people like Trump from becoming President. Election day was disappointing for me, but as I went to bed the morning of the 9th, after hours of watching the initial results pour in, my only comfort was that the American people had spoken. Who was I to stifle democracy, despite my deep-seated reservations about Donald Trump?
But that’s just it. The Electoral College does not represent the voice of the people. After all the votes were counted, Hillary Clinton received 2,865,075 votes more than the current President. That is a more votes than the populations of North Dakota, D.C., Vermont, and Wyoming combined. Despite the disparity in the popular vote, Trump received 306 electoral votes to Hillary’s 232. Why do we even have the Electoral College, if it does not reflect the will of the people?
Let’s take a look at this phenomenon. The Electoral College was created in Article II of the Constitution in 1787, with two problems in mind.
First, the Founding Fathers wanted to balance the influence of big states and small states. Through the electoral system they created incentives for candidates to campaign in smaller states rather than just large ones, making candidates accountable to the whole nation. For instance, through the electoral system, 1 electoral vote in Wyoming is worth about 3 times as much as a 1 vote in California.
But rather than preserve the influence of small states, the electoral system only shifted influence to swing states, which means that most states are ignored anyway.
Second, the Founding Fathers feared the ‘Tyranny of the Majority.’ They anticipated that fickle minds and the passions of the masses could easily be manipulated by demagogues (like Trump), to the detriment of the minority of Americans. Alexander Hamilton(now a rising Broadway star) believed that the average American citizen could not make intelligent and informed decisions about who should be President. Therefore, a small group of educated men would be trusted with the responsibility of choosing a president.
Hamilton faced a different reality than the one we face. In the 1780’s, information moved slowly from place to place, literacy rates were low, and only a tiny portion of society could vote. However, in today’s world of smartphones, wifi, and flexible fingers, knowledge is only a tap away. With minimal effort, we modern humans—who form a diverse base of voters—can know the political platforms of all candidates instantly. Hopefully this allows us to make rational presidential choices.
Alexander Hamilton also argued that the Electoral College would ensure “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualification.” Donald Trump is this type of man; his arguments appeal more to our popular whims than our rationality. Hamilton stressed that “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” would not be sufficient to gain a person the presidency; take note @realdonaldtrump. Hamilton further believed that the Electoral College would choose candidates known for their ability and virtue. I recognize that the 2016 Election was not renown for its virtuous candidates, however if a less than qualified candidate became president-elect, we should have been able to rely upon the Electoral College to prevent him or her from gaining the Presidency. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Not only has the Electoral College ensured that a demagogue has gained the presidency, but it has done so despite the majority of Americans seeing through him. The American people passed the test. You, the people, did not choose a populist; in fact, you opposed him. You passed the test, the Electoral College didn’t. It’s time to trust you.
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