The wisdom of our awkward Electoral College (EC) goes far beyond the matter of relative electoral weight between urban and rural voters. Thank the Framers for doing more than diffusing presidential votes across our vast nation.
They designated electors to each of the three political branches with the purpose of each institution in mind.1 As opposed to the House and Senate, whose members know their employers and thus whom they must satisfy, the Framers’ President was unbeholden to the people-at-large, states, Congress, faction, or collection of factions – what we know as political parties.
Article II outlined a peaceful process to appoint new Presidents. Unlike the occasional situation in monarchies upon the death of the king, we needn’t fear rioting mobs or civil war every four years.2 The EC imparts stability to sometimes unstable moments – the replacement of one chief executive with another.
The EC never failed to meet on the date determined by Congress. Never did the President of the Senate fail to read the ballots aloud to a joint session of Congress. This regular order will go out the window if progressive radicals snooker the people and fully democratize presidential elections. Recall the national angst and disruptions during the Florida 2000 mess thanks to algore and the FL Supremes. Just as the outcome of congressional elections increasingly wind up in court, multiply the lawsuits and democrat rioters-for-hire by a factor of ten if we foolishly adopt popular presidential elections. Counting votes could go on for months beyond the scheduled January 20th inauguration. That is, until judges “get it right,” and throw the presidency to democrats.
Elections rather than hereditary descent anointed the kings of ancient Greece and Rome. At various times the plebs or senators or their equivalent in Greece served as electors. This democratic tradition of Crown reliance on the many or the few for their thrones carried on through the Dark Ages. But, absolute hereditary monarchy had all but replaced democratic traditions across Europe by the time Niccolo’ Machiavelli set quill to paper in his posthumously published works, The Prince and Discourses on Livy.
Machiavelli wrote of Constitutional Principalities in Chapter IX of The Prince. Here, in a nod to the ancients, citizens, not subjects, elevated a fellow citizen to executive power. Machiavelli accepted the natural order of free societies, the existence of two groups, the common people and established wealthy families, the aristocratic class. That was it. Two groups. One or the other put the prince in power and the first task of the new prince was to balance their opposed interests.
From Machiavelli, our Framers found scholarly support for their perceptions and institutional designs of republican government. They also learned what to avoid. Given the sometimes raucous track record of replacing aged kings, they feared its equivalent if their new republic intended to replace or reaffirm a chief executive every four years.3
Our Framers discarded the ages-old methods of appointing chief executives. We cannot thank them enough! They devised a third body, neither popular nor aristocratic, a temporary electoral college to whom their choice, the President, owed nothing! Thanks to a few electors, passing electors who did not hold federal office themselves, the Framers’ President didn’t owe his office to either the masses or elites. He could do his duty to the Constitution and not to a political party.
Our existing “two-party system” is a horrible exploitation of the Framers’ design. When we vote at the polling place our practical choices are limited to one of two leaders of political parties, whose first and last loyalty is to their party. With the exception of a wonderful anomaly, President Trump, every modern President owed his first allegiance to his party and its apparatus, hangers-on and camp-followers who expect lucrative government employment and reward for their efforts.
Thanks to our brilliant Framers, courts do not determine the outcome of Presidential elections. Despite a democrat party that openly encourages fraud, there is still a comforting regularity and fairness to American elections unknown in many other countries. The Electoral College, corrupted as it is, is still a finger in the dike against the rising tide of distrust in our government. To keep what trust we have, we must resist the Siren call to democracy, resist the return to earlier times in which the people or an aristocracy put their men in office.
1. The 17th Amendment rendered Scotus the fourth political branch.
2. Okay, excepting 1860. Still, not a bad track record.
3. In “the study of history . . . you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings; fine things to take as models, base things rotten through and through, to avoid.” – Titus Livius.