Monday, December 19, 2016

The Genius and Necessity of the Electoral College

Many might be surprised to learn that the word "Democracy" does not appear in the Bill or Rights or the US Constitution.  Nor does it appear in the Constitutions of the 50 States.  A Democracy is “mob rule,” a dictatorship of the majority in which 51% of the citizenry rule the other 49%.  Our freedoms and liberties are guaranteed to us because the framers of our Constitution, through past experience and careful consideration, gave us a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy . . .  A governmental system based on the rule of law and not the rule of the majority.

After the War of Independence and the failure of the Articles of Confederation, when our Constitution was being conceived and written, the total population of the thirteen colonies was estimated to be 2,628,400. The thirteen colonies were not equal in terms of number of inhabitants, with Delaware being the smallest at 45,400 residents and Virginia the largest with 538,000 residents.
Although there was a degree of “national” identity, each colony was unique in philosophy and culture that reflected the origins of its inhabitants and their relative difficulty or ease of establishing a viable living in the New World. The primary allegiance of a colony’s citizens was to the colony itself, not to any central government or to “outsiders,” both of whom would have been regarded with some degree of mistrust.
Having just ousted an oppressive autocrat, the colonists had no desire to reestablish another monarchy in its place. The Articles of Confederation failed for just that reason. The individual colonies were unwilling to cede authority to a federal body sufficient to exercise any degree of rational control. The colonies behaved like a schoolyard filled with mischievous adolescents at recess without adult supervision. Our founders, in their wisdom and through hard-fought negotiations, were able to create a document that did find that “sweet spot” between anarchy and tyranny to form a functional central government.
The Founders wanted to empower democratic elements in the American system, but they recognized that constitutional protections for each individual citizen’s Natural Law Rights and freedoms could only be guaranteed in a republican form of government.
That compromise was based on limiting the central government to powers that were enumerated, tasks that could be performed better by a single unit, and obligations that promoted the general welfare of all equally. It was also dependent on each colony having enough control over the central governmental entity to maintain its own sovereignty.
The United States Constitution achieved these goals for the colonies with the enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8, the equality of power in the Senate, and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Protection for individual rights is guaranteed by the creation of a constitutional republic not a democracy.
The choice of the executive was philosophically a difficult compromise. The Constitution creates three equal branches of government with an inherent separation and balance of powers so that no one branch can act alone. The President and Vice President, however, are the only officials selected nationally without loyalty or allegiance to a specific colony. The population disparity, therefore, had to be considered in a way that preserved the necessary equality of power.
Acceptance of the new Constitution by all of the thirteen colonies was not at all assured. The written records of the ratifying conventions in each of the colonies reveal the division among the citizens who feared a central government so powerful that the rights of the states and their inhabitants would be eclipsed or eliminated.
In 1780, the overall estimated population of the thirteen colonies combined was 2,628,400.  Following is a breakdown of estimated population by colony:
North Carolina270,000
New Yorko210,500
South Carolina180,000
New Jersey139,600
New Hampshire   87,800
Rhode Island52,900
The population of the five largest colonies was 1,249,900 or 62.8% of the whole.
The population of the six largest colonies was 1,860,400 or 70.8% of the whole.
The population of the seven largest colonies was 2,076,100 or 78.6% of the whole.
These numbers are estimates, as the first “national” census was not carried out until 1790. Nevertheless, it would have been obvious to the citizens of the colonies that any national election would be dominated by five or six of the largest colonies even though they represented a minority of the parties to the constitutional contract.
Given the fragility of the union under the Articles of Confederation, the loyalty of the citizenry to colony over federal government, and the opposition to any overpowering central authority, any contract that did not offer a reasonable balance of power among the colonies was doomed to rejection.
In other words, having just ousted a monarch, how difficult a task would it have been to convince the six smallest colonies to agree to a Constitution in which they would have virtually no say in the selection of the federal executive?
That is the genius of the Electoral College . . . The Constitution already gave parity to the states in the Senate which could act as a counter-balance to the population-based House of Representatives. The formula of the Electoral College gave smaller states with fewer inhabitants a significant voice in selecting the country’s top leadership. Moreover, without the addition of the Electoral College, there can be little doubt that ratification of the Constitution would have been considerably less likely . . . the necessity of the Electoral College.
The election of 2016 is an excellent example of how the votes, concerns, and opinions of citizens in “fly-over” country were protected by the Electoral College.
Article First Published in Dr Dan's Freedon Forum