We have again calls to abolish the Electoral College, that method by which the president is elected with the odd feature that the candidate with fewer individual votes can become president. The call came most recently from Senator Elizabeth Warren … Continue reading →
We have again calls to abolish the Electoral College, that method by which the president is elected with the odd feature that the candidate with fewer individual votes can become president.
The call came most recently from Senator Elizabeth Warren at a town hall meeting in Jackson, Mississippi to thunderous applause.
Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez called it a 'racist relic' for reasons unclear.
Democrats have entertained the idea of electing the president by national popular vote since Al Gore then Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College after winning the popular vote and point out that Donald Trump appeared to favor the idea back in 2012.
There are very few things I am certain of in politics but I am certain of one thing at least. If we abolish the Electoral College we ensure the breakup of the United States.
I'm not even sure that's necessarily a bad idea but sooner or later that will be the result.
What some people don't seem to grasp is that the Constitution works the way it does because of the relationship between the totality of the parts, like a car engine for example. Some parts are dispensable such as the muffler or the catalytic converter. Take either off and your car will be obnoxiously noisy or stinky, but it'll get you where you want to go.
But try taking off the carburetor and see how far you get. Some parts are optional, some essential. The problem is knowing which is which.
Fortunately the Constitution, like your car, has an operators manual called The Federalist.
The Federalist is a collection of essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay arguing for the ratification of the Constitution, explaining how they thought it would work, and answering various objections to it.
That's the way they did things back then, appealing to reason. Which now seems adorably quaint.
One of the chief objections was based on the work of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, the most influential political theorist of that time. If James Madison was the father of the Constitution, Montesquieu was the grandfather.
Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws, argued a republic could exist only on a small scale, and people took him seriously.
The Federalist, in particular Hamilton in issue number nine, argued that the proposed Constitution did not establish a single consolidated republic but a federation of small republics, each independent within its own sphere.
To that end they combined elements of monarchy with republicanism in what they called a 'democratic republic.'
The House of Representatives would be elected by the people, the President and Senate chosen by the states as quasi-independent entities, and the federal government would be supported by taxes apportioned among the states and import-export duties.
That's three props of a federal republic. But two have been knocked away by the 16th Amendment which allowed direct taxation by the fed, and the 17th Amendment which mandated direct election of senators, both ratified in 1913.
If you think either or both were good ideas consider the very next amendment, ratified in 1919, was Prohibition. Passed in a fit of popular enthusiasm the Founders warned us about.
The Electoral College is the last remaining institution that makes the United States a united federation of states rather than a super-state with political subdivisions. Abolish it, and we become an empire as Athens did soon after becoming a radical democracy.
And like Athens, when the empire becomes dominated by a few large urban areas how long before the subject provinces revolt?