Sunday, November 13, 2016

Electoral College Triumphs, Not Trumps

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president."
-Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. president

Every four years, it happens. Armchair constitutional and legal “scholars” who believe themselves smarter than Alexander Hamilton - you know, that guy from the highly-acclaimed musical with which everyone is so enamored? - and James Madison cry out after an election with calls to abolish the Electoral College. Instead, they feel presidential elections should be decided by popular vote, i.e. direct democracy. In the words of Jason Patric’s character, Jim Bowie, in The Alamo, “you don't like the outcome, so you change the rules?” To advocate for the change is to further advance the gradual dismantling of our founding generation's ideals and fundamentals at a time when, now more than ever, we should return to and seek their guidance. Yes, voters rightfully can be angry, frustrated, upset, etc, over the results of an election that does not go as one had hoped. Yet, we, as a nation, have an understanding to accept not only how our presidential elections have been conducted since the country’s inception, but also the outcome whether one agrees with it or not.

The Electoral College and the American Idea of Democracy, by Martin Diamond

As is so often equally forgotten during this time - or, is it simply no longer taught in civics class (do these even still exist?) - the United States, in fact, is not a direct democracy. For as long as it may stand, it is a representative republic. Under this republican form of democracy, the Electoral College has operated to preserve equity among the varied populations of the individual states and protect from factionalism and majority mob rule. Otherwise, only the most densely populated areas would have influence in choosing the president. California currently may have 55 electoral votes and New York 29, but Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming’s three each (21 total) are just as vital. That is how Hamilton and Madison designed it to work. Despite complaints from those who fail to understand this importance and dismiss it as nothing more than an antiquated institution, it continues to do so to this day. Even more disconcerting, where does it end? What other supposed bygone ideas - like the Bill of Rights or perhaps even the Constitution itself - might be deemed unnecessary by later generations, despite the contrary?

For the past eight years, voters opposed to the current president, Barack Obama, have been cajoled and lectured that he is everyone’s president. This is the truth, as a president represents the entire nation - even those who did not vote for them. Naturally, one can disagree with and argue against the agenda and policies while still respecting the presidency no matter who occupies it. Again, this is how our system operates. But now with the election of Donald Trump, it seems acceptable to chant, protest and even riot under the banner of “not my president.” This is hypocritical, once again demonstrating the political short memory of the American electorate. While he may not be the popular choice, Trump, like the others before him, is now the president-elect by way of the electoral process. Same as any losing opposition, you do not have to accept the person but you must respect the result of the vote. Otherwise, we will devolve into a society of anarchy and authoritarianism reigning over civility and consensus...exactly as Hamilton and Madison feared, and the very reason for the existence of the Electoral College. 

©2016 Steve Sagarra

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