Before we go right to why we need it, we need to learn why it exists. What was and is its purpose?
The term electoral college is not found in the Constitution, which refers to “electors”. This system provides the states the ultimate in local power for our federation of sovereign states. These same “united” states had and still have varied issues and challenges among them. When the founders created our system of government, they wanted a weak central government. Ask yourself, why would a group of states, a federation if you will, band together for limited common reasons and create a powerful central government? They didn’t! They wanted to achieve a purpose and did not want to abdicate their power.
The purpose was to create a federal government with specific and limited power – eighteen enumerated powers (Article 1 – Section 8), with all the remaining governing powers reserved to the states and then codified in the Tenth Amendment: reserved for the states and the people.
Today, there is a movement challenging our electoral system, the progressive movement. In order to better understand our electoral system, we need to learn about these progressives.
The first progressive era lasted from 1890 to 1920 and during this time the seventeenth amendment was passed and ratified. This was the really big accomplishment of the progressives because it removed the combined states’ power in the Senate. No longer were the states able to send their “ambassadors” to the Washington to steer the federal government. The states had been electing the executive, the president, and appointing their state’s Senators. This closely held governing kept the federal government in line so to speak. Remember that the original intent was that the only house of the federal government that directly represented the people was the House of Representatives. Since 1913, thanks to those progressives, the Senators are directly elected by the people of their state. State legislators lost control.
The domestic policy of the progressives has two main concerns: 1) protect the poor and victims of capitalism; 2) provide non-religious “spiritual” development of citizens, by protecting the environment, using education as personal creativity, and subsidizing and promoting the arts and culture. Their understanding of democracy means to take power from the locally elected, place absolute power into the hands of a central government, and replace local politicians with “enlightened” bureaucrats. We the people are nothing more than knuckle draggers.
To manage the common interests of the states, the founders created a federation to meet the needs of the member states in areas of commerce, common defense, naturalization, etc. A national government was specifically not created, where only limited power was ceded to the new federal government.
Plainly put: our country is a federation of sovereign states. There is a supremacy clause in the Constitution proclaiming that the federal government’s laws are supreme to the state laws, but this only applies to laws falling into the granted enumerated powers. State power is local power and local power drives freedom and liberty.
Was a national popular vote considered when the Constitution was ratified? Well, it was not until 1824, that we even tracked popular vote: 36 years and 9 presidential terms into our new government. Other than incidental reporting to the National Archives, the national popular vote is still not officially tracked.
Our electoral system allows the state legislators to decide how that state’s electoral votes are spent. Most states now give all their electoral votes to the winner of that state’s popular vote. The census mostly determines the states’ electoral vote based on the number of apportioned representation in Congress. The size of the Congressional delegation, plus the two now directly elected senators determine the electoral vote. Additional, the people of the District of Columbia, since a 1961 amendment, have three electoral votes in presidential elections.
The electoral system did not just happen. Our founders had an idea of what they wanted and it was the opposite of a monarchy power system. In fact, our electoral system might even be considered a hybrid of how parliament selects the national leader. It is amazing how the founders knew that a limited federal government, with the executive elected by the states made for strong states and a less potent federal government in domestic affairs, because it effectively divides power, spheres of control, between the federal government and the states. This electoral system is a key pillar of our federal government in delivering individual liberty.
The lack of a national popular vote appointing the executive is not now, nor has it ever been, unique. Notably, the British Prime Minister is elected by the British Parliament, and parliamentary governments around the world elect their prime minister/leader – and it is not by popular vote.
The current progressive era on steroids – they don’t go away – started around the economic collapse at the end of the first decade of the new century – circa 2006/2007. Of course, the progressives never went away, instead they just really came alive in this latest era of Climate Change and the popular vote movement. We now have an all-out assault on our electoral system. It is called the National Popular Vote Compact. More on the National Popular Vote Compact in the next post.