One of the original fears of many of our founding fathers was mob rule. They didn’t want a majority to be able to oppress a minority, a sentiment that can be seen as relevant and righteous throughout American history. That is the purpose of the electoral college.
I’m ashamed that there was a time not too long ago when I didn’t support the electoral college. I felt that this gave too much weight to one person’s vote while eliminating the necessity for others to vote in the Presidential election. As someone who has lived in either California or Oklahoma in my adult life, I don’t know what it’s like to live in a swing state with Presidential television and radio ads filling my media intake. Even as recently as last year, I railed against the primary process because my vote in California would have no influence on the GOP nominee. These are two separate subjects; the primary process for the two major parties is definitely broken while the electoral college is, as I now realize, quite nearly perfect.
Democrats are angry because Hillary Clinton received more popular votes than Donald Trump. Even if we put aside arguments about the worthiness of the electoral college, there’s a more important factor that Democrats aren’t considering. Trump, the attention magnet that he is, drew the most coverage and the biggest crowds. His focus during the latter parts of the campaign was on battleground states and this strategy clearly worked. Democrats don’t take into account that if it the system was based on popular vote, both camps would have had completely different plans. I’ll contend without the ability to prove or be proven wrong that if Trump faced the need to win the popular vote, he would have won that as well. By campaigning in more populace areas around the country and drawing stadiums full of people in Los Angeles, Dallas, and other major cities, his margin of victory may have been even higher than it was under the electoral college system.
That’s all speculation, but let’s look at the reasons for the electoral college itself. By allowing the states to maintain control of their electors, two things can happen. First, the risk of a catastrophic mistake by the masses is alleviated. The electoral college acts as the final voice of reason to prevent a popular but Constitutionally unsound President from taking office. Many Democrats are saying that Trump represents that type of threat, but they’re wrong. He’s bad, but he’s not THAT bad and Hillary Clinton may or may not be even worse, so that argument can be tossed aside.
The second important reason for the electoral college is to empower the states to have control over how the federal executive branch is filled. States like Maine and Nebraska have what we consider to be better solutions for the distribution of electors, but as federalists we would never presume to push that issue onto anyone. The commonly invoked phrase, “let the states decide,” is precisely what we would encourage for the electoral college.
It’s easy for those on the losing side of an argument to put aside sound reasoning in favor of emotional tirades. We’re seeing that clearly playing out today in protests, petitions, and editorials calling for the end of the electoral college system. It’s imperative for Federalists to be unified in our perspective that the Constitutionally defensible electoral college system must remain intact.