Published: Thursday, 12 November 2015 14:24
This came across my Facebook feed the other day. An Adam Ruins Everything on How the Electoral College Ruins Democracy. He rails against the Electoral College in presidential politics in this particular video and how some votes are "worth more" than others.
He is correct, the EC does ruin Democracy, and that's the whole point of its existence. Just not the way he thinks so.
The United States is NOT a Democracy, it is a Republic. While they share some aspects, at their core they are totally different approaches to government.
Democracy is mob rule. Whatever the mob wants, the mob gets. If someone could at election time get 51% of the voters to vote "yes" to a proposal which reads, "Starting at Noon tomorrow, any citizen who brings a dead [insert minority of your choice] to the steps of the county courthouse will receive a $50 bounty, no limit," that would become law and upheld as law until 51% of the voters say otherwise. No court could overturn the law (if courts even existed), because the only standard of law in a Democracy is the "will of the people."
The fact that we don't have such a law on the books is proof that we are a Republic.
Our Constitution was written so that it is hard on purpose to make laws. Gridlock is supposed to be the norm. On the State and Federal levels, you have a bicameral (two houses) Legislative branch that proposes laws. Each of these houses have to have a simple majority to pass a bill and send it to the Executive branch for approval. The President/Governor has a say in the matter by either signing it into law or rejecting it using their Veto power. If the President/Governor does veto a bill, the Legislative branch can override the veto and make it a law with a 2/3rds majority in both houses.
The Representatives of the House represent the People. Congressmen are elected by popular vote in the Congressional districts of each State. The power of the House is all spending bills must first be first introduced in the House. The size of the House was set at 435 members in 1911, because the Constitution says "a Congressional District will consist of no more than 30,000 people." If we stuck with that ratio today, the House would have over 10,000 Representatives. These 435 members are assigned proportionally to each state by proportion of the population.
The Senators in the Senate were elected by the Legislatures of the State and supposed to represent the interest of the States. They have the power to conduct foreign affairs by approving or not approving treaties with other governments. They also provide consent to the President by approving or not approving his nominations for judicial positions and senior Administration officials.
This setup means both the People and the State governments were represented in the Legislative branch of the Federal Government. The EC is an extension of that, because the EC is made up of 538 votes (each states Representatives and Senators, plus three for the District of Columbia) and for 48 states is set as a "winner take all" setup. Maine and Nebraska have a "semi-proportional" setup, where each Congressional district elects by majority, then the winner of the overall state vote receives the two votes representing the Senators.
Through this method, it is impossible for the government to drastically change its political leaning from a single election. It takes a constant effort of the People over three Federal election cycles (six years) to effect enough changes in their representatives in the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal government to achieve that shift.
This way the course of the government does not change on the momentary whim of the People, President or a single house of Congress. Thus, this is an insulation against mob rule.
Our Founding Fathers wanted to prevent mob rule and rule of a king, both of which can be capricious and arbitrary. They wanted to have long periods of political discussion, followed by a vote to determine the overall will of the people. The People are supposed to be well-read and informed about the current events and at the appropriate time, to elect others to represent them and carry out the work of government according to the general will of the People.
The job of a Citizen is to keep their mouth open. This is performed by civil discussion among the People and with their representatives in all levels of government. If you don't communicate with your representatives, or vote in elections, you are not protesting, you are surrendering your power as a Citizen.
Think about that the next time you stay home on Election Day.