The much-maligned Electoral College has finally scored some points. Boola Boola!
Despite #BidenWillNeverBePresident trending on Twitter yesterday, all 538 electors voted decisively confirming Joe Biden as the nation’s next President and Kamala Harris as the next Vice President. It was a state by state repudiation of Donald Trump’s refusal to concede he lost.
Even sour puss Senator Mitch McConnell gave a perfunctory nod congratulating President-Elect Biden on his victory after weeks of silence saying “the Electoral College Has Spoken.”
The Electoral College scored a win this year because it confirmed what the popular vote was.
Unfortunately, we know that has not always been the case.
In 2016 Americans chose Clinton but got Trump. A very tough lesson to learn at the hands of the Electoral College. When it came to Trump’s win the Electoral vote got a failing grade. Calls for the abolishment of the Electoral College came fast and furious. A Democrat winning the popular vote but losing the presidency because of the Electoral College was getting all too familiar.
Michael Moore commented about Trump’s win at the time:
“The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane, 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want.”
Do We the People really get the choose our president?
What is this peculiar and archaic way America picks its presidents? Just what were the Founding Fathers thinking?
The electoral college was the product of compromise during the drafting of the Constitution between those who favored electing the president by popular vote and those opposed giving the people the power to directly choose their leaders
Though there’s nothing comical about the system, for a simple understanding of what the Electoral College is and why the people do not vote directly for the president, I offer this comic book version from the 1960 Classics Illustrated Comics The Illustrated Story of American President.”
In 1787 in Philadelphia the delegates at the Constitutional Convention argued about the best way to elect a president.
The Founders didn’t think ordinary people, even white male property owners who were the only ones allowed to vote- were informed or responsible enough to choose the president. Letting them do so, said Virginia’s George Mason, would be like referring “a trial of colors to a blind man.”
So they created a double buffer. State legislators would choose presidential electors who would be “most enlightened and respectable citizens” as John Jay put it. These elites would come together at an Electoral College and use their superior intellect to decide on a president.
But electors soon began to run on party slates, pledging loyalty to the party’s nominee rather than use their own independent judgment. Soon all states let voters rather than lawmakers choose the electors.
Elections and the Electoral College
Because states don’t award their electoral votes proportionately to the popular vote it left us with what happened the candidate gets fewer votes still gets elected
The Electoral College has often fulfilled the Founders goal of acting as a check on the popular will- but not in the way they intended.
“If the lifestream of America flows in the story of its presidents,” as the comic suggested, then the health of our nation has been close to being on life support after electing Donald Trump as president. With the Electoral College confirming a Biden presidency the chances for renewed health of our country seems pretty good.
Nonetheless, We the People might want to rethink this Electoral College. This time the people’s choice won. What about the next election?
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
According to the Washington Post, analyzing the 2016 election, the electoral college is designed to favor states with small populations. For example, one elector from Wyoming represented 195, 369 voters. One elector from California, the most populous state, represented 711, 724 voters. That’s a long way from one person one vote.
P.S . You may want to proofread the paragraph about years when the electoral vote did not echo the popular vote, since a book dated 1960 probably did not include info from 2000….
Love your work!
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The Electoral college is grossly unfair as you point out regarding population sizes. That it has never been readjusted to accommodate that is surprising. Thanks for the proofread heads up. Though the text I wrote, in the beginning, was not in reference to the comic book but the electoral college in particular, I did accidentally write 2026 and not 2016 so I was able to fix this. I thank you for your long-running support of my work. I am indeed grateful.
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