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[P]
The Electoral College or How to be the Man

By hc in Op-Ed
Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:16:54 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The president and vice president of the United States of America are both elected by what is known as the "electoral college." This term is not actually to be found in the Constitution of the United States, yet the system is firmly set in said document. One of many compromises made by the framers, it was carefully thought out and instituted. Unfortunately, through events and activities unforeseen by the framers, the electoral college has lost its original purpose.


1 Modern Day

With the recent election of 2000 still fresh in the minds of the nation, the electoral college has become of great recent concern. In that election George W. Bush defeated Albert Gore, Jr. even though Gore had the majority of the popular vote. This angered many in the ignorant masses who felt that they had somehow been cheated out of a president. This was of particular concern since the election came down to the electoral votes in Florida, a closely contested state in which the final results were not clear.

This is not to say that the electoral college has not been the subject of scrutiny before. On the contrary, the electoral college has been the single most criticized element of the Constitution. Over the past 200 years, more than 700 proposals have been introduced to Congress in attempts to abolish the college. The American Bar Association has called the electoral college "archaic" and "ambiguous," and, in 1987, a polling of lawyers showed that 69 percent favored abolishing it. Similarly, public opinion polls have shown Americans favored abolishing it by majorities of 58 percent in 1967, 81 percent in 1968, and 75 percent in 1981.

Political scientists, however, continually support the electoral college and no attempt to eradicate it has been successful.

Even in its bastardized form, the electoral college still has a profound effect on elections today.

1.1 Disenfranchisement

The key complaint of those opponents of the electoral college lies in the argument that it is an anachronistic system that serves no actual purpose.

They feel that what the electoral college does do is take away the vote from the people. It is difficult for many to understand how an individual who is not the first choice of the majority of the people can become president. When they are told that this outcome was decided by a system that has been around for hundreds of years, including their entire lifetime, but that they never really acknowledged its existence before, they become even more confused. They see that the system seems to usually not matter at all but only occasionally allows an election to be stolen.

The electoral college does have positive aspects, however.

1.2 Urban v. Rural

One purported effect of the electoral college is that it forces presidential candidates to campaign across the nation. In a direct popular election it is conceivable that a president could be elected by just winning the votes of a select few major metropolises. In a popular election, a skillful politician could win the favor of the voters in New York, New York; Los Angeles, California; and one other major city and have the election fairly well wrapped up.

With the electoral college, winning New York and Los Angeles may allow a candidate to win both the state of New York and California, which is often the case, but it does not allow them to take the entire election. In order to become president they must campaign throughout a relatively large distribution of the states.

1.3 State Sovereignty

The Constitution was a compact among sovereign nations.

While fighting the revolutionary war, each of the thirteen colonies was fighting for its individual independence. The Articles of Confederation merely formed a weak bond between the states. With the failure of the weak Articles it was seen that a stronger connection would be beneficial. Nevertheless, the Constitution was not meant to deny the states their status as nations.

Even with the Constitution, the occupants of the several states still thought of themselves primarily as citizens of their state. Prior to the civil war, the United States still were as opposed to the now common the United States is. Letters written back home by Union soldiers fighting in the south often expressed a desire of the soldier to return to their home country, meaning their home state.

Constitutional basis for state sovereignty is also easy to find.

Prior to the seventeenth amendment, Senators were chosen by the state legislatures. The members of the upper house of Congress were meant to be representatives of the states in the new government. They were meant not only to be a counterbalance to the popularly elected House of Representatives but also a custodian of state interests.

Although confusing upon initial examination, the eleventh amendment also confirms state sovereignty. It protects the right of a sovereign nation to not be sued. Under it, a suit can not be brought against one of the states by any citizen without the express consent of the state. The jurisdiction of the federal judiciary is to be in no way construed to cover such a suit.

1.4 Mandate

Although not evident in the 2000 election, the ability of the electoral college to provide a mandate where one is not present in the popular vote is important. The electoral college can make close elections not seem so close. This helps to reduce the effect that a close election can have on a nation, particularly disunion and strife.

Although not much of an example in terms of lessening disunion, the election of 1860 is a shining example of how the electoral college can skew election results. The election was won by Abraham Lincoln, who had only 39.8 percent of the popular vote. The next closest candidate in the popular vote was Stephen A. Douglas, who had 29.5 percent. However, in the electoral college Lincoln dominated. He won with 180 electoral votes. In contrast, Douglas received only 12 electoral votes.

1.5 Third Parties and Smaller States

Not only is the electoral college part of the Constitution, it is also likely to remain as such.

There are two main forces stopping a reformation of the electoral college. First, the current system effectively eliminates third parties from serious contention. With the winner-takes-all system in effect in nearly every state, third parties are stifled. Needless to say, the two dominant political parties, Democrats and Republicans, greatly enjoy this. It would therefore be incredibly difficult to get two-thirds of Congress to propose an amendment that might affect their perpetual domination.

Even if a proposal were to pass Congress, however, it would likely never be ratified by the states. Article V not only requires two-thirds of Congress to propose an amendment, it also requires that three-fourths of the states ratify it. The smaller states benefit too much from the electoral college for them to take any action against it.

2 Devolution

It is clear that there are benefits that come along with the electoral college of today. The electoral college, however, was not always the way it is. A smattering of factors influenced its change.

2.1 Emergence of Political Parties

Foremost was the development of the party system in America. Many of the framers were actively opposed to factions. Many of those who did anticipate them never supposed that we would have a long-standing, well-entrenched party system.

2.1.1 Twelfth Amendment

The election of 1796 presented a unique situation. With the departure of George Washington the United States had, for the first time, an election on their hands. Additionally, two distinct political philosophies had emerged. The election ended with the leading men of those two philosophies in first and second place in the electoral college. Thus arose the peculiar situation of a president who had a vice president not of the same party. John Adams, who was an ardent Federalist, became the president and Thomas Jefferson, a Jeffersonian Republican surprisingly enough, became the vice president.

Interparty struggles were even more pronounced in the election of 1800. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were leading candidates once again, but they would not finish in first and second place. Both had clearly acknowledged running mates. Once the votes were counted, it was found that Jefferson had triumphed over Adams. Unfortunately, as there was no way at that time for an elector to differentiate between his preference between president and vice president, Jefferson tied his running mate Aaron Burr.

It took 37 ballots for the lame duck Congress1 to decide upon Jefferson as president. With the adoption of the twelfth amendment in 1804 this problem was eliminated. Unfortunately, it also demonstrated that the electors were no longer voting for the two most able candidates for leader of this country. They were voting for a man and his sidekick, and they were voting for people who shared their own views.

2.1.2 Choice of Electors

Regulating elections is a reserved power of the states. The Constitution does not provide for how the electors must be chosen in a state. It is therefore up to the states to decide how the electoral college will ultimately work.

Unfortunately, the state legislatures in every state have decided to turn the responsibility of nominating electors over to the political parties. The parties tend to worry less about ability when nominating electors and more about loyalty to the party. Electorships are handed out like door prizes to the party faithful.

In many states, electors are bound either by state law or party pledge to vote for the candidate they have said they will vote for. No longer are they making an educated decision for the people, they are merely acting as a proxy for the people.

Additionally, every state except for Maine and Nebraska has now embraced the winner-takes-all system. Now, with a simple majority in a state, a candidate can win all of the electoral votes for that state. This is the leading cause of the disenfranchisement that many feel at the hands of the electoral college.

2.2 Emergence of Democracy

It has become fashionable of late to refer to this nation as a democracy. It most certainly is not.

A quick look at a vintage 1927 civics textbook tells us that "...we call the United States a federal republic." A similar textbook from 1990 tells us that the United States is a democracy.

The 1927 textbook also examines many political systems. In addition to republics, it also defines democracies, monarchies, and others. The 1990 textbook, however, only defines democracies and dictatorships. Rather than presenting the wide range of the political spectrum it only focuses on the far ends.

It is now assumed in our society that the choice of the people is good. That people are good in general. We rebelled against control while we fought rhetorical fights against the controls of dictatorships, particularly of the communist variety.

Our high-falutin', glittering generalities have led the majority of the citizens in our nation to believe that democracy is good.

3 Original Intent

The United States of America were not meant to be bound together as a democracy. When one pledges allegiance to the flag, they do so. "And to the republic for which it stands." It is mindlessly repeated by school children across this nation, yet a key piece of its message does not take hold. One does not pledge allegiance to the democracy in America, for there is not one. There is a republic.

When Benjamin Franklin was approached by a woman at the conclusion of the convention's proceedings on September 17, 1787, who asked, "Dr. Franklin, what form of government have you given us?" Franklin's reply was quite simple. "A republic, Madam, if you can keep it."

The framers were intelligent and interested developers of this nation. They had good reason when they created a republic and not a democracy.

3.1 Logistics

A foremost issue was the simple logistics of running a democracy across a great nation.

Democracies have, throughout history, been limited to relatively small, homogeneous areas. The primary examples are, of course, the Greek city-states. It simply takes too much time and effort for citizens to vote on every single issue on a much larger scale.

This was particularly true back in the day. At the founding of the United States, they were unique in at least one respect. They held a tremendous amount of land, particularly in relation to the number of peoples populating them. Additionally, they lacked a well-established system of roadways. The postal service was incredibly slow at best.

However, even now, with the emergence of a smaller world through technology, democracy still is not a viable alternative.

3.2 Democratic Spirit

Led by Alexander Hamilton, the founders feared "the amazing violence and turbulence of the democratic spirit." At the founding of this nation, democracy was still a dirty word.

And not for no good reason either. The founders had been witness to the aforementioned "amazing violence and turbulence" before. Nothing more than the recent Shay's Rebellion needed be looked at to demonstrate why "rule by the mob" was a bad idea.

They were not likely to forget any time soon. The French revolution which closely followed the American one quickly spiraled into a deep pit of democratic fervor. The French were only removed from their "Reign of Terror" by a dictator, the vertically-challenged Napoleon Bonaparte.

3.2.1 Minorities

The government of the United States of America was designed to respect the rights of the minority as well as those of the majority. It is not altogether rare that a minority attempts to restrict the rights of the majority. It is however, more common, for a majority to pick on a minority.

3.2.2 Ignorance

The people can not all be informed on all subjects at the same time. It is inconceivable that every voter should be a master of political science. We have a representative government because it takes more than the average citizen to make informed decisions. The average American is unable to keep track of all the issues surrounding an election.

Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. How are they to know its real benefits?

3.2.3 Ineptitude

Even when an individual is able to be informed of all the issues surrounding an election, chances are still that they will not be able to understand them. The average American is relatively uneducated and incapable of making the best decisions for the nation in the long run.

So even with the advent of communications technologies that would seem to allow the issues to be brought to all mankind, election by the people is still not appropriate.

Also tied in with greater communication is the greater ease with which the people can be led. By capitalizing on many of the flaws of the people which are covered below, Lyndon B. Johnson was able to become president. His "daisy" commercial2 is one of the single most famous pieces of election propaganda ever.

Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. The unwashed masses do not appreciate being told they should take a bath.

3.2.4 Heartiness

The people have a tendency to think with their hearts and not their minds. It is because of this that the ignorant, unwashed masses tend to vote Democratic. Bleeding-heart liberals have difficulty understanding how helping the poor and the needy might not always be the best idea. They have difficulty comprehending the intricacies of situations.

It is no surprise that the public has overwhelmingly supported an amendment banning the burning of the American flag for all recent memory. The House of Representatives3 has proposed such an amendment many a time. It is luck that the cooler heads of the Senate, who have longer periods between elections and thus are not as much at the will of the people, have prevailed.

Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. Democracy just sounds too good.

3.2.5 Fear

The people can easily be scared into submission. Fear runs deep in them.

After the terrible tragedy of September 114 the balance of power between state and national governments became almost nonexistent as the national government quickly grabbed all the power it could, even if unrelated to homeland defense. Similarly, President George W. Bush has almost completely abolished the system of checks and balances through numerous Executive Orders and other usurpations of power.

The scary thing is not that this happened, but that the people clamored for it. President Bush has some of the highest approval ratings of any president, possibly matched only by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. Communism is a really creepy thought.

3.2.6 Apathy

Overwhelmingly it seems that the people just do not care. Voter turnout levels have always been anemic and recently they have only gotten lower. Many people are happy just to live their lives and worry little about what governmental system they are living it under.

Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. If it really does not matter anyways.

4 Solution

Let us keep in mind the framers' intentions. The electoral college in its current form is little more than a convoluted popular vote. A popular vote allows life-time political elitists who are detached from reality take advantage of the common man and say that it is all for the children.

An amendment to the Constitution reforming or abolishing the electoral college is not only unlikely to pass, it is also unnecessary. Through the mere reformation of the state procedures for selecting electors, a buffer zone between the popular passions and the executive can be established once again.

Footnotes

1The problem of a lame duck Congress deciding elections where there is either a tie or no candidate receives a plurality of the vote was not rectified until the adoption of the 20th amendment in 1933.

2This commercial showed a tiny girl counting as she tore the petals off of a daisy. Her count was then turned into a nuclear countdown. The commercial painted many an unfounded untruth about his opponent and had little real relevance. It did, however, convince the people.

3Representatives of the people.

4Terrorists flew planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.

References

Byrd, U.S. Senator Robert C. The United States is a Republic. Available "http://www.senate.gov/~byrd/speech-repub.htm"

Current, Richard N., T. Harry Williams, Frank Freidel and Alan Brinkley. American History - A Survey. Alfred A. Knopf 1987

Electoral College Frequently Asked Questions. National Archives and Records Administration. Available "http://www.nara.gov/fedreg/elctcoll/faq.html"

The Federalist Papers. Project Gutenberg. Available "ftp://sailor.gutenberg.org/pub/gutenberg/etext91/feder16.txt"

HistoryWiz: The French Revolution. HistoryWiz. Available "http://www.historywiz.com/frenchrev.htm"

Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. Packaging the Presidency. Oxford University Press 1996

McKenna, George. The Drama of Democracy. Dushkin 1994

Purdum, Todd S. "Bush is declared winner in Florida, but Gore vows to contest results." New York Times November 27, 2000 Late Edition, Final, Section A, Page 1, Column 6

Toqueville, Alexis of. Democracy in America. Bantam Books 2000

McClellan, Dr. James. Liberty, Order, and Justice. Liberty Fund 2000

Weisberger, Bernard A. America Afire. Perennial 2001

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Poll
What should be done with the electoral college?
o Nothing, it is fine the way it is. 18%
o Abolish it, let the people pick the president. 47%
o Fix it, reform the procedures used to pick electors. 23%
o Who cares? hc is a troll and this topic is outdated. 9%

Votes: 111
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o http://www .senate.gov/~byrd/speech-repub.htm"
o http://www .nara.gov/fedreg/elctcoll/faq.html"
o ftp://sail or.gutenberg.org/pub/gutenberg/etext91/feder16.txt"
o http://www .historywiz.com/frenchrev.htm"
o Also by hc


Display: Sort:
The Electoral College or How to be the Man | 136 comments (67 topical, 69 editorial, 0 hidden)
Did Gore really win the popular vote? (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by Licquia on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 08:37:04 PM EST

I was under the impression that the margin of victory in the election was less than the margin of error.

Yes (2.00 / 2) (#19)
by arthurpsmith on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 09:42:30 PM EST

Gore won big states (NY and California) by large margins, Bush won many more small ones, and Florida by a very thin margin. The effect of the electoral college is always to give the popular vote from small states more weight than larger states, hence the difference in the two results. Gore had 50,992,335 votes vs. Bush's 50,455,156 - there's no way over half a million votes difference is within the "margin of error" on a national scale.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
Margin of error less than one percent? (none / 0) (#89)
by Licquia on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 07:29:20 PM EST

This strikes me as unlikely.

[ Parent ]
Systematic vs. random (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by arthurpsmith on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:20:15 AM EST

There are 2 kinds of errors: systematic, and random. Systematic errors are the kinds that voting rights laws try to eliminate: barriers to voter registration, confusing ballots, inconsistent counting between districts with different economic classes of voters... given current law, the systematic error is sort of a fixed issue, and you could argue all sorts of ways on whether if one thing were counted properly or not things would have been quite different (and what if all those Nader voters had known Bush would win?) - basically the election law says what counts right now as a vote, and we'll have to live with that. Changes in the law could certainly make more than a 1% difference, but I don't think we're talking about that. On the other hand, random errors are very easy to estimate for something like a vote - normal distributions and all that, the expected error is roughly the square root of the number of votes cast, so for 100 million votes, the expected error would be about 10,000 votes, or 0.01 percent.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


[ Parent ]
OK, thanks (none / 0) (#124)
by Licquia on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 01:59:13 PM EST

I had heard that the margin of error was a likely issue, but didn't have the statistical background to evaluate the claim. Your answer makes sense.

[ Parent ]
Margin of Error in Florida (none / 0) (#126)
by BlaisePascal on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:35:02 PM EST

The margin of error in Florida was a likely issue. About 4mil votes were cast state-wide, and the margin of victory was about 500 votes total. Given the baseline of margin of error is approximately 1/sqrt(votes cast), that makes the margin or error here about +/- 0.5%, and the margin of victory about 0.1%, well within the margin of error.

[ Parent ]
No on really knows. (none / 0) (#68)
by blue graeme on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 10:33:26 AM EST

From what I've heard, in states where the margin of victory for either candidate at the polls was larger than the number of absentee ballots, the absentee ballots weren't counted. I'm not 100% certain as to the veracity of this claim, but it sounds all too logical to me.

So there's probably boxes and boxes full of uncounted votes in those lovely areas where there was a "landslide" victory.

[ Parent ]
A retort (4.53 / 13) (#21)
by pyramid termite on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 10:20:02 PM EST

I have two comments - 1. Although the founding fathers may have intended for there to be a check upon more populous regions overriding rural areas, I don't think they had any idea of how lopsided the demographics were to become. Many states have political power out of all proportion to their size; not only does the electoral college give them extra power but so does the structure of the Senate. Some people would argue that this causes all regions' interests to be considered by our government, but it also has an effect of exaggerating the differences until a good part of the urban population feels they are unheard and opposed by other sections of the country. There's been a bit of talk about "blue states" versus the "red states" with commentators on both sides making disparaging comments about the other. Note how divisive and partisan politics has become in the last 40 years. Some of this was bound to happen anyway, but our representative system as it is set up is magnifying the differences, not compensating for them. Whatever one thinks of the last election's results, whatever they really were, it didn't help our electoral system or people's faith in it at all, no matter who you supported. (I voted for Nader and he lost fair and square, so this isn't sour grapes on my part ...)

2. And then there's the old bugbear of democracy leading to a tyranny of the majority over a minority; a disingenius scenario if there ever was one. Every tyranny I've ever heard of had one or a relatively few people running it - no majority was ever seen voting on what new tyrannical measures were to be applied against a minority, nor did the tyrants ever regard the majority as anything but tools to be used in the futherance of their tyrannical rule. No, many tyrannies came into place by revolution or by voting for the wrong people to run a republic. A small percentage of the "mob" could be relied upon to give active support in repressive measures, while the great majority of the "mob" busied themselves as they always do, in the daily tasks of making a living and living their lives. Not even the ancient Greeks really had "democracy" - slaves couldn't vote and neither could women, therefore no "tyranny of the majority" ever happened.

Then we have the spectacle of the "ignorant, unwashed masses" who mostly vote Democratic and yet turn around and support a Republican President who wants to upsurp power, while regarding those who protest, including some Democratic Congresscritters, as "not supporting the country". Makes sense, doesn't it? No. Certainly ignorance can be found among the supporters of the Republicans, too - after all, many of them believe that evolution is bunk, that people are brainwashed by liberals in college instead of educated, and that their party cuts taxes while the Democrats raise them, even as taxes go up and up and government gets more intrusive no matter who's in office.

But who ever the "ignorant, unwashed masses" may be, it is clear that "we", the educated, bathed masses must lead and they must follow, lest they take control and tyrannize us. Now let's see - whose criteria should "we" use so "we" know who "we" are? Why, "we" should use "our" criteria of course - whatever "we" are, that makes us "elite" and therefore "we" are "we" and not those sheep over there.

It's nothing but circular reasoning. The "elite" are whoever the "elite" say they are and the rest of the people simply have to accept their place in the great scheme of things and follow their "betters", as "we" know how to run things correctly. Just as "we" have for many, many years. Which doesn't quite explain why our government and our political system's a mess, does it?

No, the people who are afraid of the "unwashed masses" are really afraid of one thing - losing power. They're not just afraid of tyranny - they're afraid of equality and equity, too. They're afraid that if their ideas had to complete on a level playing field that their ideas would lose. Lacking any clear way to prevent people physically from voting, they simply support people who will avoid many of the real issues at any cost while grandstanding on matters of small importance, who will be willing to horse trade issues of importance to the elite in closed conference rooms while arguing loudly in public about things the government can do little about, such as video game violence, and who will be willing to act and speak in such a way that will turn potentially radical voters off and have them stay home.

Who needs tyranny when you can rule by devilishly clever manipulation?

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Hmmmm..... (none / 0) (#24)
by FuriousXGeorge on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 10:40:32 PM EST

" Not even the ancient Greeks really had "democracy" - slaves couldn't vote and neither could women, therefore no "tyranny of the majority" ever happened."

Ummmmm....

Isn't the fact that they didn't have a right to vote "tyranny".

--
-- FIELDISM NOW!
[ Parent ]

Yes, but not of the majority (nt) (none / 0) (#25)
by pyramid termite on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 10:56:26 PM EST


On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Demoplublicrats (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by X3nocide on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 12:58:59 AM EST

I don't closely follow Washington, but from many accounts I've heard, both parties are becoming more "centric" and similar to each other, in order continue getting votes. While in some, if not many reguards, this isn't true, but issues like Copyright and Intellectual Property seem to be pretty much decided. Witness Billionaires for Bush (or Gore).

So while there are a few issues (gun control springs to mind) that have widened between the two parties, far more issues have congealed.

pwnguin.net
[ Parent ]

Assorted Rambling (none / 0) (#41)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 01:53:38 AM EST

Some of the "ignorant masses" comments were blatant baiting.  I really should've taken those out before posting, but I didn't and I'm not too concerned about it.  This has certainly been a learning experience.

I'm not afraid of the unwashed masses so much as I am hostile towards them.  This coming from a typically cynical young person though.

I would agree with you that there are as many stupid Republicans as there are stupid Democrats.  It is just that in the category of "heartiness" I was speaking of general desire of many people to "save the environment" or "bring equality" or one of a million different things that it is really hard to fight against at all.  Logic doesn't seem to matter when you are saving the world.  Although it may be a misguided notion, I tend to view this as a liberal trend.

In regards to the "who is bathed?" question, the only answer I've been able to come up with is "me."  So I should be put in charge of the whole world.  In other words, I haven't found the answer to that problem yet, give me time.

I guess what I didn't really get across in the story was what I really would want.  And that requires a few things.  The general populice to be more educated.  So they aren't as fearful, ignorant, and inept.  And then I would want them to vote for individuals to represent them who they trust and who they respect, not just who hold their views.

I know this is happening to some extent, but it would certainly help if it were more widespread.

Something like that at least.  Och, if only I could make my thoughts more solid.

[ Parent ]

urban v. rural (none / 0) (#53)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 02:51:36 AM EST

i forgot about this part.

i don't necessarily agree that using the electoral college to give rural areas an advantage is a good thing.  i included it mainly because it is an argument often used in defense of the college and it is an effect the college has on elections.

i also am not sure (i could probably look it up), but i don't believe the founders intended this at all.

i do like the idea of the states maintaining more power. (i realize that this has been argued in the past primarily as a means of maintaining another centuries-old historic institution, but i'm willing to take that risk)  i feel that a closer democracy might lead to more intelligent decisions and (and as was noted by toqueville) lessened apathy.

and i hate partisanship although i did a bad job of representing that in this article.

[ Parent ]

and even more (none / 0) (#54)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 03:07:01 AM EST

you made an excellent post, i keep finding more i want to comment on or reply to.

Then we have the spectacle of the "ignorant, unwashed masses" who mostly vote Democratic and yet turn around and support a Republican President who wants to upsurp power, while regarding those who protest, including some Democratic Congresscritters, as "not supporting the country". Makes sense, doesn't it? No.

yes, it does make sense.  i just didn't mean to be so strong in the implication that this applied only to Democrats.  the assumption seems to be that i'm focusing on Democrats when i really meant to be stressing the unwashed masses.  you go on with good examples of ignorance with overwashed Republicans.

the basic idea of that entire section (not just the extremely inflammatory subsection) as summed up below was that people, in general, are stupid.  essentially and not just focusing on mental capacity, that people (meaning the public and the common man) are not the best for making wise decisions.

and i just wanted to say thank you again.

[ Parent ]

Just a couple things ... (none / 0) (#64)
by pyramid termite on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:43:06 AM EST

the basic idea of that entire section (not just the extremely inflammatory subsection) as summed up below was that people, in general, are stupid. essentially and not just focusing on mental capacity, that people (meaning the public and the common man) are not the best for making wise decisions.

Well, yes, they're stupid and yes, they aren't always good at making wise decisions. Unfortunately, history has shown that one person, or small groups of people, can be just as stupid and make bad decisions. And unlike the great crowd of people, where eventually someone is going to say, "Hey, this is dumb", small groups can perpetuate their stupidity in a tyranny until they have run everything right into the ground.

It's really hard to say anything for or against "real" democracy on the level of "will people rule wisely?", as it hasn't been tried yet on this scale and not too many times on a smaller scale. The real objection to it is that it would be impractical and time-consuming.

Oh, and you're welcome.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Population and Power (none / 0) (#71)
by elysion on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 11:30:09 AM EST

2. And then there's the old bugbear of democracy leading to a tyranny of the majority over a minority; a disingenius scenario if there ever was one. Every tyranny I've ever heard of had one or a relatively few people running it - no majority was ever seen voting on what new tyrannical measures were to be applied against a minority, nor did the tyrants ever regard the majority as anything but tools to be used in the futherance of their tyrannical rule.

"Majority" can refer to measures other than population -- power for example. In a dictatorship, the holders of the majority of the power do indeed rule at the expense of the holders of less power. After all, how many dictators in power have to worry about starving to death?

[ Parent ]

-1 Poor This Poor That (4.50 / 6) (#22)
by underscore on Sat Jun 22, 2002 at 10:23:23 PM EST

You would do well to read Plato. You're out of hand dismissal of the great unwashed makes you a democrat in the most often expressed meaning of the term in the city states of ancient Greece. The errors are too many to being listing, but the following is indictative.

3.2.6 Apathy Overwhelmingly it seems that the people just do not care. Voter turnout levels have always been anemic and recently they have only gotten lower. Many people are happy just to live their lives and worry little about what governmental system they are living it under. Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. If it really does not matter anyways.

How can you conclude in the same section that an apathetic people could be overwhelming in favour of abolishing a centuries old institution? Surely the contradiction is too glaring for any but the willfully blind.

My guess is you're still very young and to be applauded for your willingness to undertake a hefty bit of analysis, but, having said that, you are, by your own admission, a glutton for punishment. Oh well, eat the pain, what doesn't kill you will only really piss you off. :)


a geek possessed of animal cunning
is a most fearsome adversary

Low Voter Turnout Good (none / 0) (#30)
by joecool12321 on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 12:23:18 AM EST

Dye and Zeigler argue in The Irony of Democracy that a low voter turnout is beneficial to the American government, and to the American people.  Why?  Through in-depth analysis and study, they conclude that, on the whole, individuals that vote tend to be more educated, and exposed to more ideas, than those individuals that don't vote.  To put it bluntly (and utilizing stereotypes) Bobby James doesn't vote - and it's a good thing he doesn't.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

Paradox, not contradiction (4.66 / 3) (#39)
by roystgnr on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 01:40:28 AM EST

How can you conclude in the same section that an apathetic people could be overwhelming in favour of abolishing a centuries old institution?

The same way that an apathetic people can be overwhelmingly against poverty, hunger, epidemic disease, etc. Just because someone doesn't donate to the construction of water and sanitation systems in the third world or campaign for a constitutional amendment doesn't mean that they don't feel that disease and the electoral college are bad things.

The fact that some people believe "that's a problem, but I don't have the ability, responsibility, and/or motivation to solve it so I won't do anything" may seem paradoxical occasionally, but it isn't a contradiction to observe the paradox.

[ Parent ]

right, what he said (none / 0) (#50)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 02:30:42 AM EST

I'm still not sure that is the best way to say it nor that the premise even completely made sense. But you've captured it basically, so I'll let it rest before I make more of a fool of myself. Thanks.

[ Parent ]
Pardner.. (4.40 / 5) (#32)
by MuglyWumple on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 12:39:05 AM EST

I think you need to spend some time down here with us "unwashed masses". *snork..ptui*

Yeah and ... (none / 0) (#66)
by pyramid termite on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:48:40 AM EST

... bring us some soap and water while you're at it.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
nice nikcname (none / 0) (#106)
by turmeric on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 10:50:05 PM EST

muggleweump

[ Parent ]
Excellent post (4.20 / 5) (#35)
by bodrius on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 01:06:42 AM EST

I agree with most of what you wrote, and what I disagree with seems to have at least argumentative backing.

Very few people criticizing the idea of an electoral college admit that the main reason it doesn't work properly anymore is because it has been modified to approximate a democracy.

I'm not entirely sure the electoral college is a good idea per se, but if you're going to have one you should have one that is working, not a defective attempt at a democratic voting system.

On the other hand, you mention that the simplistic current education leads people to believe that democracy is inherently good, and that they have it, even when they don't have a democracy and they don't know exactly what it means.

The understanding of "democracy" that US citizens have comes from their experience. They have become used to call it "democracy", and understand it as "democracy" even if it is a republican representative system.

Of course, "democracy" has been used through time to mean different things; I would be more concerned by the fact that they don't know what they mean than that they don't know what it means. If they choose to call the republican system based on the electoral college "democracy", it would not be such a great problem, as long as they knew exactly how it works.

This actually extends to the rest of the world. The US, after all, prominently advertises the benefits of a true democracy, and uses economic and political pressure to force governments into such a system.

This would not be necessarily bad if said governments knew what a democracy was, how it works, and what to be careful about, but they don't. Nor does the US government, it seems. Which results in citizens in those countries having the same concept that democracy is inherently good, without understanding how or why it works.

Without the centuries of experience and careful political planning that led to the success of "democracy" in the US and other developed countries, this puts underdeveloped countries at the mercy of the worst risks of the mob-rule: violence, unstability, whimsy legislation, and a potential tendecy to fascism.

 
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...

Um... (4.00 / 5) (#36)
by Pseudoephedrine on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 01:10:34 AM EST

In a popular election, a skillful politician could win the favor of the voters in New York, New York; Los Angeles, California; and one other major city and have the election fairly well wrapped up.

This is actually what Gore did. When you look at things by a county-by-county breakdown of the US on that infamous red-blue map, Bush won the vast geographical majority of the US, including the rural areas of every state that Gore 'won'. What Al Gore managed to do was get the vast majority of major cities in the US to vote for him. In states where these metropolises comprise the majority of the population (California and New York being two prime examples), he won 'the state'. In states where the balance between urbanites and ruralites is a bit more even, Bush tended to win.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Alternatively stated (3.50 / 2) (#75)
by dipierro on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 01:02:34 PM EST

Gore tended to win urban areas where there were more more minorities. Bush tended to win in white, hillbilly country.

But you know what, had Gore been more open-minded on gun control, something which obviously urban cities need more than open countryside, he probably would have won. The electoral college is anti-federalist, and issues such as gun control are exactly the reason that we need state soverignty.



[ Parent ]
Indeed (4.50 / 2) (#101)
by Pseudoephedrine on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:44:17 PM EST

I'm a raving libertarian anarcho-capitalist type, personally, but I'm not a hypocrite at it either. I've got no interest in turning the entire US into "Libertopia", no matter how right I think I am (and I do think I'm right - who doesn't?). What I'd rather see is a strong emphasis on state's rights once more - as strong as they were prior to the Civil War. Different strokes for different folks, after all. I and the rest of my Nut-Bar Libertarian Pals [tm] could all move to say, Oregon, or Montana, or Arizona or Alaska, and spend our days repealing income tax laws and whatnot, while the other 49 states had their varying degrees of socialism. If New York wants socialised health-care, let New York have socialised health-care. Just don't make it a federal program under the rubric of 'supporting interstate trade' or whatever and force the rest of us to pay for it as well whether or not we want to.
"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Here here (none / 0) (#119)
by 0tim0 on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 09:46:32 AM EST

I toast your comment!

When did this county become a place where people want to legislate morals for everyone else?

--tim

[ Parent ]

Or to put it a little differently... (none / 0) (#123)
by dachshund on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:33:53 PM EST

This is actually what Gore did. When you look at things by a county-by-county breakdown of the US on that infamous red-blue map, Bush won the vast geographical majority of the US, including the rural areas of every state that Gore 'won'

That is to say, Gore won the vote of the majority of the voters in those states, and Bush won the votes of a minority-- who happened to be spread out thinly over an extremely large geographic area.

I make this distinction because I'm not exactly sure what it means to "win" a geographic area. Unless you're a conquering army, say...

[ Parent ]

Not quite (4.00 / 1) (#129)
by Pseudoephedrine on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 04:29:40 PM EST

...but fairly close. My point wasn't some partisan 'Bush won after all' rant, but merely to comment that what the poster discussed as a hypothetical was in fact the case. Bush usually won more counties in states where the urban population and rural population were about equal - and thus the distribution of voting districts was about equal between 'rural' districts and 'urban' districts. In places where the number of urban voting districts was higher than the number of rural districts, Gore won.

The point is that Gore got most of his votes from urbanites, while Bush appealed to rural voters, and that the proportions of people in each group tend to indicate the direction which the state ended up voting for.
"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]

misunderstanding of California politics. (none / 0) (#135)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:56:35 PM EST

It's not just city/countryside. Gore carried the following counties:

Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Imperial, Lake, LA, Marin,Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo (for a total of 53.7% of the state's votes, as opposed to 41.7% for Bush).

Now, some of these are LA and the Bay Area --- Alamada/Contra Costa/SF/Santa Clara/San Mateo, and Los Angeles. But parts of the LA metro area supported Bush (Ventura/San Bernardino/Orange), and San Diego was close; and what of the other counties that aren't part of either metropolitan area?

The general divides in California are coastal vs. inland and urban vs. suburban vs. rural; in general, candidates who win the suburbs win (either democrats who combine urban/suburban, or republicans who combine suburban/rural).

[ Parent ]

I'm not sure analysis and soapbox ranting mix well (4.71 / 7) (#58)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 04:37:43 AM EST

There's a time for one, and a time for the other. Somehow, it seems a bit of a jarring combination in the same article. Your analysis of the history and facts regarding the electoral college is very interesting, but you really ruin a good deal of your credibility in my eyes with this blatant "if you disagree with me then you're stupid" attitude. I know it's tempting to take a break from being rational and level-headed and just flame away at the people you disagree with, but it makes your argument weaker by making you look like a shortsighted ranter.

Interesting article, but the bias caused me to abstain. Up to you guys.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Loopholes, and being "more equal" (3.60 / 5) (#60)
by I am Jack's username on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 07:45:14 AM EST

> The American Bar Association has called the electoral college "archaic" and "ambiguous," and, in 1987, a polling of lawyers showed that 69 percent favored abolishing it

This "let's prevent the unwashed masses from making decisions for themselves, and let's not educate them" system has some nasty loopholes: a candidate with 78.4% of the votes can loose the presidency to a candidate with only 21.6%. Also, some college members can vote for any candidate they want, with no regard to the actual poll in their state.

The reason why modern people find the electoral college so strange is because with it some people's votes are "more equal" than others - here in South Africa people died fighting for one-person-one-vote. The problem with the "more equal" votes for people in certain states system, can be shown by taking it to the county level where the Republican candidate Bush would have won the election by getting 78.3% of the counties[1]; with the Democratic candidate Gore winning only 21.7% of the counties but the majority of votes.

"Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings* to govern him? Let history answer this question." - Thomas Jefferson, First inaugural address, 1801-03-04.

"What government is the best? That which teaches us to govern ourselves." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage." - Alexander Tyler

[1] What's with people near oceans or big rivers voting Democratic?
--
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell

A short note about A. Tyler's quote (3.00 / 2) (#67)
by pyramid termite on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:56:48 AM EST

If the people are voting for candidates, wouldn't the system of government he's describing be better described as a republic?

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
College Member voting (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by Irobot on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 09:25:21 AM EST

This always comes up when discussing the college, and I believe the following is misleading:
Also, some college members can vote for any candidate they want, with no regard to the actual poll in their state.
Yes, in some states, the members can disregard the actual poll. However, in the states where doing so is not illegal - and there are many of them - you can be pretty damn sure that the chosen members are loyal to their political party (and that the party is sure of it). In fact, if memory serves from stats I saw during the last election, there has been only one time this happened. Back in the 1800s.

In other words, it's a red herring; move along, nothing to see here...

Irobot

PS - one theory on why "ocean/river populations" vote Democratic is that as a population becomes large (face it - waterways are a major economic distribution factor; large populations can only exist with a decent social infrastructure), people tend to favor more liberal stances.
Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

electoral trivia (none / 0) (#134)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:50:03 PM EST

However, in the states where doing so is not illegal

There is good reason to doubt that such a law is valid; it is *equivalent* to a state passing a law demanding that Congressman from that state vote a certain way on legislation before Congress (which the SCOTUS has struck down, in the past, as unconstitutional)

In fact, if memory serves from stats I saw during the last election, there has been only one time this happened

Not true. A pledged Ford elector cast a ballot for Reagan in 1976, and a pledged Carter elector cast a ballot for Andersen in 1980.

[ Parent ]

Definitely -1 (3.75 / 4) (#61)
by Wafel on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 08:19:58 AM EST

Ok, so it is clear you think of yourself as `above' the masses, that's your good right (though damn arrogant).

But is it really necessary to call everyone who doesn't agree with you ignorant? One day, it might occur to you that people who do follow politics might disagree with you, and that they're obviously not always ignorant. The system of proportionate representation (aka winning by popular vote) is used in a lot of democratic countries in the world, you can't proclaim that people are ignorant, just for believing it's the most democratic system.

Bottom line: You don't have to agree with others, you don't have to understand why someone else believes in something, but do try to respect their opinion. (If the believes don't interfere with any law of course, like racism)

Democracy (Demo -> people, Cracy -> govern), means that the people in a way, run a country. If you are intent on making sure the `ignorant masses' don't get what they want, you are saying you don't want a democracy. After all, how can the people govern if you leave the biggest part of the people out?

Next time, try to get your facts straight too. A republic says nothing about having a democracy or not, it only describes how the head of state got his job. Democracy is completely unrelated to that. You either have a replublic, or a monarchy. There are no more choices than that right now.

A replublic and a monarchy can both be either democratic or dictatorial, that's an extra attribute but as you can see, having a republic says nothing about the level of democracy in a country.So if you deny that America is a democracy, you're saying it's a dictatorial country. Again, there are no more choices than that.

Furthermore, if you're trying to justify the existence of the electoral college in modern day, I'd suggest you stop looking back to the past so much. It's not interesting to know how something used to be if you're talking about the present situation. It's not even relevant.

-- Wafel

Re: Definitely -1 (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:25:11 PM EST

the point was that i'm not certain i like democracy.  many of the reasons are listed in the text of the article.

i am not a political scientist and so can't be as certain as i'd like about what makes a republic and a monarchy and a democracy, but i would disagree with you.  many people like the doctrine of "one person, one vote" (which is set out in a supreme court case somewhere), but i don't think that that was ever the intention of the framers and i don't think it is necessarily the best idea for today.

i am not trying to justify the existance of the electoral college.  i think it's been bastardized.  i'm explaining reasons why it is justified today to express why it would be difficult to change it on a national level.

[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 0) (#113)
by Wafel on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 06:43:23 AM EST

Thanks for your reply.. though I'm not really sure you got what I was trying to say.

You can't say something is a republic Or a democracy, just like you can't say a tomato is red Or round... these two `attributes' are complementory;

An overview on some of the possibilities:
- Democratic monarchy (king, but with small amount of real power), example: The Netherlands
- Dictatorial monarchy (king, with all the power), example: Irak
- Democratic Republic (president, but with small amount of real power), example: Germany, US
- Dictatorial Republic (president, with all the power), example: Zimbabwe

.. then you have some other forms too where small groups of people hold all the power, but let's leave that out of here for now.

Again, if you're saying that you're not sure wether you like democracy or not, then you basically want a dictatorial state.

The electoral college is only partly justified today, a whole lot of people don't like it, but then, you think you're above them as you constantly call them ignorant etc.
-- Wafel
[ Parent ]

clarification, maybe (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by hc on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:03:32 AM EST

i was also taught those same combinations up until my highschool advanced placement government class.  in it we learned that our classifications of governments had changed over time.  mainly as a response to communism et al., most western nations like to think of themselves as representative democracies.

not only was this not always portrayed this way, once upon a time the federal government of the United States of America was fairly un-democratic, particularly in several institutions.  most notably the senate and the electoral college.

i don't believe that democracy (pure democracy or more pure democracy or whatever), which seems to be what the world is still pushing towards, is necessarily the best solution.

and i could be a fairly benevolent dictator.

[ Parent ]

Definitions (4.00 / 1) (#115)
by Wafel on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:13:45 AM EST

So basically you have been using archaic, outdated definitions for words we still use. Well, I can tell you that perhaps classifications in the US have changed, but the rest of the world still uses the list I just gave.

So that leaves you with two choices, either you use the terms as they are defined now (almost globally), or you use them with your own definition, but you'll have to make very clear why you choose to use that and how exactly they used to be defined. If I start calling a table a chair, <u>I'd have a lot of explaining to do</u>

I personally couldn't care less how things used to be, we're living in the present, you can draw conclusions from the past, that's fne. But trying to get things back as they once were is useless. Unless you want to reintroduce the slavetrade; pick a fight with the English; Force women behind the kitchen sink; and take away all rights workers have gotten.

and i could be a fairly benevolent dictator.
Sure, especially for right-wing conservatives, but I'd hate to be an ignorant left-winger in your country


-- Wafel
[ Parent ]
boy im glad you dont think with your heart (-1) (3.50 / 6) (#69)
by turmeric on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 11:03:55 AM EST

"It is because of this that the ignorant, unwashed masses tend to vote Democratic. Bleeding-heart liberals have difficulty understanding how helping the poor and the needy might not always be the best idea. They have difficulty comprehending the intricacies of situations. "

we all know that phrases like 'ignorant, unwashed masses' ceom from the highest and most logical mindset, as does the obvious anger you have towards 'bleeding heart liberals', that comes spewing forth in your article like diahrrea from an sick elephant. thank you for being so logically and non-emotionally biogted against 'bleeding heart liberals' (is that the latin name for people like martin luther king? i have always wondered their proper scientific name)

by the way, your article says nothing about 'how to be a man', which is a pretty sexist thing to say in the first place.

how to be the man (none / 0) (#77)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 01:20:07 PM EST

i thought i had replied to this, but it doesn't seem to have posted, so i'll try again.

i was poking fun at myself, it was supposed to be "the man" not "a man."

and "the man" was supposed to be as in "fight the man!" or that sort of thing.

obviously its meaning was lost.

[ Parent ]

[waves hand] Ignorant Democrat (none / 0) (#128)
by afree87 on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 03:28:00 PM EST

I always thought it was the Republicans who were ignorant. You know, for trying to eliminate the separation between church and state, etc. I think it would be better to discuss the possibility that both of the major parties are ignorant and if one is wise enough, vay will vote for a third party. Better than insulting 50% of the U.S. population, anyway.
--
Ha... yeah.
[ Parent ]
How to be a man? (3.56 / 16) (#70)
by mami on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 11:22:56 AM EST

[well, I commented going along reading through the article, instead of first reading it through the end and then starting to comment. I shouldn't have don so, but am too lazy to redo it. Nice trollish paper].

Political scientists, however, continually support the electoral college and no attempt to eradicate it has been successful.

Because of above statement all your other explanations should be seen in context. Political scientists do not continually support this system. Somehow even they are able to learn. :-)

Politicians though do support the electoral college and that is for a reason. Or do you think anything political is done for no reason at all?

Politicians (American ones that is) do support the electoral college, because it's the only system, where you can buy votes easily, cheat out the voter and the one man, one vote doctrine through obfuscation, give power to interest groups that can undermine the independent legislative process.

Behind the electoral college stands the fear to face the equality doctrine of voters. You give up the equality of votes for the freedom of being allowed to be unequal before the law. Simple as that.

Yes, be a man, face the fact that my dumb vote is as much worth as your smart one. If you are so scared that I vote the next malevolent dictator into office, don't. You can do that as easily with or without electoral college.

Here some comments as I go along:

One purported effect of the electoral college is that it forces presidential candidates to campaign across the nation.

Not necessary anymore in the times of TV and Internet. I can understand quite nicely what my candidate says, even better, when I see them close up through the camera. If the voters feel neglected, because Mr. Presidential Candidate didn't kiss their babies in real life and shook their sweaty hands for ten seconds, so be it. They will survive it.

In a direct popular election it is conceivable that a president could be elected by just winning the votes of a select few major metropolises.

Ah, so because I live in a city, crowded together with a couple of hundreds of thousands of people, that means, my vote is less worthy to be counted and weighted equally with some lone star ranchers in the middle of nowhere? What would you say to Europeans, whose rural areas are as crowded as your suburban areas?

Convince me that the acres of your owned land have anything to do with the equal weight of my vote... Ridiculous.

The Constitution was a compact among sovereign nations.

Too bad, outdated, or at least overdone. I don't trade with Texas, I trade with the US. If I have to, I fight with or against the US army, not the South Carolinian army. Foreigners don't like to fiddle with your obfuscating fifty different laws of each of your "sovereign nations", because it's a tool to hide and undermine any true "national US policies".

As soon as you deal with other nations and, I am sure you are not one of those "anti-globalists", you have to present yourself with ONE set of laws and not fifty.

Federalism doesn't have to be that much overdone that it prevents the US-Nation to be unified and managed as ONE nation.

Just look how much of a mess you have these days just to handle your war against terrorism, because of your messy, half-baked coordination of your fifty "nation's" police and security forces. You don't want a national ID card, because you know it would be harder for your the internal evildoers to hide in the Montana's bushes.

Try to fool someone else. You want a national ID cards for your immigrants, but want your little hide-aways for yourself and dare anybody asks you to face a national ID card. Tell me about double-talk and tell me about being a man ...

There are two main forces stopping a reformation of the electoral college. First, the current system effectively eliminates third parties from serious contention. With the winner-takes-all system in effect in nearly every state, third parties are stifled. Needless to say, the two dominant political parties, Democrats and Republicans, greatly enjoy this. It would therefore be incredibly difficult to get two-thirds of Congress to propose an amendment that might affect their perpetual domination.

Well, may be that's your constitution, but I wonder if the whole aspect of the electoral college would be "constitutional" with regards to the *values* your constitution wanted to represent. What does the constitution say with regards to freedom of assembly and speech, if it at the same time it undermines the fair competition of third parties?

It has become fashionable of late to refer to this nation as a democracy. It most certainly is not.

Spare me with your historical lectures. Get your act together and become a democracy, will you?

Democracies have, throughout history, been limited to relatively small, homogeneous areas

Small in comparison to the US, yes. Homogeneous, no. And whereas our lack of homogeneity evolved over migrations through thousands of years in Europe, the United State's lack of homogeneity was self-inflicted, supported, wanted and advertised as a virtue. It was the little smart, secret trick of the forming United States. Tell them people know how free, democratic and diverse we are, let them people come and then take away their equal rights. The electoral college should never have been used as an excuse with the intent to avoid of true democratic values.

Ignorance

The people can not all be informed on all subjects at the same time. It is inconceivable that every voter should be a master of political science. We have a representative government because it takes more than the average citizen to make informed decisions. The average American is unable to keep track of all the issues surrounding an election.

Double talk. You are ignorant. First, it is against the equality doctrine of all men being not only created equal but having equal rights after having been created as well.

Secondly, about the wisdom of the smarter man having more say than the dumber man. It should be pretty clear to even the dumbest person that a smart evildoer is more dangerous than a dumb evildoer. So, why do you want to give the smart evildoer more power to succeed in politics than the dumb evildoer? Seems pretty dumb to me...

Ineptitude

Even when an individual is able to be informed of all the issues surrounding an election, chances are still that they will not be able to understand them. The average American is relatively uneducated and incapable of making the best decisions for the nation in the long run.

Lemme tell you a little story out of my life. I had the chance to meet some very uneducated people in my life, one of them was my mother-in-law, a very strong woman.

She knew how to write her name and read the bible in her native language, she also was that good in counting that she managed to raise twelve children with zero income to end having all sons going to college and getting degrees, all doing professionally fine in their lives.

That woman told me about her first vote she was allowed to participate in after her "nation" had been founded. She waited patiently four hours in line to make her cross. When it was her turn and she came back from her fist voting experience she told her sons that she ain't going to vote another time, if there are no more choices than one and a second fake choice.

Forty years later that country has a "democratic constitution" with "fancy voting rights" and all, it just happens to always end up with an elected life-long strongman and half-baked dictator.

It took the uneducated people of that country just a minute to understand their elections.

Nothing more than the recent Shay's Rebellion needed be looked at to demonstrate why "rule by the mob" was a bad idea.

Well, these days the mob is white collar and college educated, that makes them the most efficient mob in a long time. We have educated, smart and technically savvy mobsters. So, yes, I agree, the rule of the white collar mob is a real bad idea.

The people have a tendency to think with their hearts and not their minds.

Wait until we act with our hearts and forget thinking with our minds... that surely will help the purpose of promoting peace and democracy and freedom.

It is because of this that the ignorant, unwashed masses tend to vote Democratic. Bleeding-heart liberals have difficulty understanding how helping the poor and the needy might not always be the best idea. They have difficulty comprehending the intricacies of situations.

I thought it was Republican President Bush, who said he didn't like to be too "nuanced" and had some difficulties with the intricacies of some current situations...

Bleeding-heart liberals are helping the poor? Are you sure?

Wasn't it the (you don't want to say not liberal, do you?) conservative, republican President Bush, who reminds us every day how good it is to be good to thy neighbors, how we should have compassion for the poor and donate our time and money to the less privileged? Didn't he propose new legislation to support faith based volunteerism and more?

Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. Democracy just sounds too good.

You got it, democracy sounds like real soul, rhythm and blues all in one... unbeatable beat, if you ask me...

The scary thing is not that this happened, but that the people clamored for it. President Bush has some of the highest approval ratings of any president, possibly matched only by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Really, so because CNN, MSNBC and FOX tell you some pitiful numbers of approval ratings, you believe them? Tell me about smartness...

Thereby it is also not surprising that the people overwhelmingly favor abolishment of the electoral college. Communism is a really creepy thought

Huh? Can you troll elaborate on that one? I am too uneducated to see the connection.

Overwhelmingly it seems that the people just do not care. Voter turnout levels have always been anemic and recently they have only gotten lower.

See my comments above about my mother-in-law. You didn't expect that undereducated people are too smart to go to the voting boots to participate in troll elections, do you?

Solution

Oh, do you have one? Where? And that after you made me read through such a long paper, nasty, nasty.

Can we trade this for the posted piece? (none / 0) (#78)
by 8ctavIan on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 01:23:20 PM EST

I vote to trade this reply for the original posted piece.


Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
[ Parent ]

Federalism (none / 0) (#92)
by LeftOfCentre on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 08:07:41 PM EST

While I agree with much of what you said, I disagree with your criticism of the power awarded to the states to decide legislation on their own. I think self-rule is necessary and that a lot of power should be centered locally. In fact, I think it's essential that such a large nation is not ruled by any one set of laws.

'Foreigners don't like to fiddle with your obfuscating fifty different laws of each of your "sovereign nations", because it's a tool to hide and undermine any true "national US policies".

As soon as you deal with other nations and, I am sure you are not one of those "anti-globalists", you have to present yourself with ONE set of laws and not fifty.'


Are you equally bothered by the fact that EU member states have a lot of say, even in cases such as foreign policy? The criticism you levy against the US is the same as some US diplomats have levied against the EU for making them deal with many of the member states, commision and parliament at the same time, who sometimes have contradictory views.

[ Parent ]
The EU and US have nothing in common (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by mami on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 12:42:11 AM EST

I am not against federalism within the United States, I just think it's overdone. There is too much of it and for no other reasons than historical ones.

The many different laws from state to state and the rivalry between federal power and state power not only is a check and balance system, but also hinders the whole United States to be managed more efficiently.

All the technological advantages, which would make the management of a huge country possible, can't be easily used, because of each state's different laws and bureaucracies. At least that's my impression.

It also gives the impression of unfairness. In one state you get executed for certain crimes, in the next one you don't. Why? If a state writes laws, the federal courts can overwrite it, why then to write them in the first place? I just don't trust that your system of federalism is truly a help in checking federal power, I think it basically makes abuse of federal power more likely, because laws are so confusing that obfuscation is the consequence.

The lack of simplicity and clarity leads to mistrust and the mistrust then leads to the necessity of the federal system to be more intrusive and security minded than it would have to be were there more clarity and openess in the system as a whole. The fact that people have to discuss often WHERE to have a trial to take place is a representative for it. I think it shouldn't be.  

I don't see why I should have more trust into state laws than into federal laws.

The EU has a completely different history and doesn't even come close to the United States' homogeneity compared to the diversity of EU's  nations. Aside from that, you don't have a EU Armed Forces.

You still have to declare war with each of the EU's nations and can't declare war against the EU. I am not a citizen of the EU, even if I have a passport, which allows me freely to live and work in any of the EU nations. I am definitely a citizen of my nation that is Germany.

You wouldn't say you are a Texan first, and an American second. If you were to go overseas and someone asks you where you are from, you would say, you are American and you come from Texas.

If you ask me, I would say, I am German and come from Berlin or Schleswig Holstein, I wouldn't say I am EU-ian and come from Germany. A United Europe and the United States are worlds apart.


[ Parent ]

Citizenship (none / 0) (#118)
by LeftOfCentre on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 09:43:01 AM EST

I am not a citizen of the EU, even if I have a passport, which allows me freely to live and work in any of the EU nations.

The Treaty on EU did introduce EU citizenship, and declared that any citizen of a member state is also a citizen of the EU, with added rights.

Aside from that, I see your points, and recognize the different histories of the US and EU. But regardless of that, the EU is developing into something where this won't matter and where it will share a kind of federalist framework where it is not always clear with which state or entity to deal with from an outsider's perspective.

[ Parent ]
not an EU-ian yet (5.00 / 1) (#125)
by Wateshay on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:02:38 PM EST

If you ask me, I would say, I am German and come from Berlin or Schleswig Holstein, I wouldn't say I am EU-ian and come from Germany. A United Europe and the United States are worlds apart.

Maybe not yet, but eventually you will. Probably after a long and bloody civil war. If you asked someone from New York in 1802, they would have said they were a New Yorker, not that they were a US-ian and came from New York. The EU currently mirrors the early United States in many ways, and the sooner you and the rest of Europe realize that, the sooner you can start to learn from our mistakes. I personally think the EU is an exciting idea, and I wholeheartedly hope that it succeeds. I also understand that Europe and the US have very different histories which lead to very different needs when uniting them. I just hope you can avoid the arrogance that throughout history has lead to so many terrible repeats of history. Don't think that our mistakes don't apply to you, because you're somehow better than us. We're all human, we're all fallable, and we're all quite capable of fucking things up in a blind, headlong lunge for power.

But that's just my opinion, I may be wrong -- Dennis Miller


"If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for everyone else."


[ Parent ]
political scientists (none / 0) (#98)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:36:40 PM EST

i just checked the link and it is unfortunately gone, but it was the nara website that had the information regarding political scientists supporting the college.  i searched and was unable to find the document on the new site, but it was the electoral college faq.  you might be able to find it in a google cache.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, lets just ditch... (2.33 / 6) (#85)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 06:04:48 PM EST

... all this silly nonsense about "one person, one vote", have IQ and issue-test based votes, and be done with it. Or something.



Geez, a 1, should I have used the irony tag... (1.00 / 1) (#87)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 06:29:09 PM EST

... for those that can't bother to consider that a person might not be saying what their words literally mean.



[ Parent ]

Sigh. (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by bgarcia on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 11:39:57 AM EST

... for those that can't bother to consider that a person might not be saying what their words literally mean.
For the record, I'm giving you a 1 because there is no "1 person, 1 vote" nonsense to ditch.

Thus, the point of the article.

That, and you complained about getting a "1".

[ Parent ]

Not in the US... (none / 0) (#136)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu Jun 27, 2002 at 02:37:13 AM EST

... but in the egalitarian democracies of the world, "1 person, 1 vote" is a guiding principle for a little thing called fairness. I know it may sound silly and all, but some of us like the idea.

My original post was what I took away as the author's underlying messages, stripped of the wordy cover for the elitism and carried to absurdity.



[ Parent ]

Democracy (3.00 / 2) (#91)
by LeftOfCentre on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 07:43:35 PM EST

I voted this to section since I think it can offer some interesting discussion. You imply that republic and democracy are mutually exclusive. I disagree with this, and was taught (like can be found in any modern dictionary) that democracy can be either direct or representative (i.e., the people vote for leaders rather than on each and every single issue). Even with the electoral college, I would argue that the US fits that the definition of representative democracy. There are republics that are not particularly democratic, such as the Republic of China. To summarise, I don't think that republic indicates a whole lot about a nation except perhaps the presence of a president of some kind. As for the electoral college, it seems to me that it would be possible to combine the aspect of protecting small states with a more direct form of democracy -- simply weigh votes more for small states, but abolish the middle-man (EC) that does the ultimate voting. This is how it works in the European Parliament elections, for example.

where i'm introducing error and confusion (2.00 / 1) (#104)
by hc on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:48:56 PM EST

the dictionary definition of a word comes from what the popular usage of a word is.  the popular usage of democracy has shifted from what it originally meant.

you noted that you were taught in school that they were not mutually exclusive.  this is not unsurprising.

there was a trend earlier in the last century towards calling ourselves a democracy.  this was primarily part of the fight against communism.

[ Parent ]

Typical talk of democracy (3.50 / 4) (#102)
by wji on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 09:46:05 PM EST

Look, read what your founding fathers actually said. It had nothing to do with fear of mob rule and brutality. It had to do with the lower class, that is just about everyone -- "those who will labor under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings". Those "without property, or the hope of acquiring it, cannot be expected to sympathize sufficiently with its rights," therefore we need rulers who "come from and represent the wealth of the nation" -- "the more capable set of men" who can "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority". That's all Madison, but it was pretty much the consensus. I hate having to hear this crap about how Madison feared that minorities would be harmed by the tyranny of the majority. He feared for only one minority, the minority of the opulent.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
you mispelled lincoln (none / 0) (#107)
by turmeric on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 10:52:48 PM EST

hrmph

[ Parent ]
Nono (none / 0) (#108)
by wji on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 11:02:24 PM EST

See, it wasn't Abraham Lincoln that said it. It was Abraham Lincon. I was waiting for someone to catch me on that.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
Rural voters (5.00 / 3) (#110)
by BlowCat on Sun Jun 23, 2002 at 11:44:15 PM EST

I believe the notion that the existing electoral system forces the candidate to pay attention to rural voters needs some comments.
  • The presidential campaign is not supposed to be expensive. If somebody campaigns only in big cities and still wins the popular vote, it's fine with me. Not to mention that it's practically impossible now.
  • It's not uncommon for somebody to be born in Ohio, grow up in Connecticut, graduate in Massachusetts and then live in New Jersey and work in New York (I'm talking of a real person here). The electoral system makes my vote more important when (not if!) I live in a less populous state. So, when I live in New York, my vote counts less than when I live in New Hampshire. As an additional bonus, I pay more taxes. How is that fair?
  • States that use proportional representation for electors (like Maine) don't get that level of attention that other states get. Who cares about one vote if campaigning in the neighboring New Hampshire can give you five votes?
  • Nobody cares about democrats in heavily republican states and vice versa. Bush was campaigning in Boston less than in Manchester, NH (which is a rather small city, actually). I don't think he ever visited rural western Massachusetts. How is that fair?


Fairness (none / 0) (#116)
by PresJPolk on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:55:45 AM EST


1. It may be fine by you if the big cities control the presidency, but that'd lead to the US splitting in three:  Pacific Coast, Atlantic coast, and the big middle that would get ignored from now on.  The secession *would* happen.

2. It's fair that your vote counts *slightly* less in the pbecause that's what you're sacrificing to be part of the greater union.  Small states give up some self determination, because they're overwhelmed in the House and the Electoral College.  Yes, the Electoral college still favors big states, since you get a number of electors equal to your House representation + Senate.  California gets 54, Hawaii gets 3. So your vote doesn't count for that much less.

Now, your complaints about winner takes all and higher taxes aren't the fault of the constitution.  Blame your state legislature for those.

By the way, do you ever vote for governor?

3. So?  It's your vote that counts, not the campaigns.

4. What does the structuring of a campaign have to do with the design of the electoral college?  A candidate can decide to spend 100% of his time in Albequerque if he wanted to.  The only thing the Electoral College can do is control who has what actual power.

[ Parent ]

Your point is? (none / 0) (#120)
by Irobot on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 10:02:46 AM EST

I *think* your point is that the electoral college (EC) isn't fair. To whom? I can't tell from your post. Why isn't it fair? I also can't tell:
The presidential campaign is not supposed to be expensive. If somebody campaigns only in big cities and still wins the popular vote, it's fine with me. Not to mention that it's practically impossible now.
Yes, it would be nice if campaigns were not expensive. It would also be nice if voters would research the issues, which would hopefully reduce the need for political face-time, thereby reducing the cost. How does this affect the "fairness" of the EC?
It's not uncommon for somebody to be born in Ohio, grow up in Connecticut, graduate in Massachusetts and then live in New Jersey and work in New York (I'm talking of a real person here). The electoral system makes my vote more important when (not if!) I live in a less populous state. So, when I live in New York, my vote counts less than when I live in New Hampshire. As an additional bonus, I pay more taxes. How is that fair?
As PresJPolk points out in another response, taxes are your state legistlature's fault. And yes, the EC's design is to give less populous states slightly more say. In my opinion, that's much more "fair" - think of it as affirmative action for less populous states.
States that use proportional representation for electors (like Maine) don't get that level of attention that other states get. Who cares about one vote if campaigning in the neighboring New Hampshire can give you five votes?
Again, this is not the EC, it is the particular state's implementation of the EC system.
Nobody cares about democrats in heavily republican states and vice versa. Bush was campaigning in Boston less than in Manchester, NH (which is a rather small city, actually). I don't think he ever visited rural western Massachusetts. How is that fair?
The implication seems to be that this would be different if there was no EC. Why? If a politician feels she has no chance of getting votes, why would she put in more than a token appearance?

All in all, your comment has nothing to do with the EC other than saying "The EC does what it was meant to do and certain states deal with it in a fashion I don't think is fair."

So, I'll reiterate...your point is?

Irobot
Irobot

The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. -- Margot Fonteyn
[ Parent ]

one nit... (none / 0) (#132)
by Skywise on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 07:29:03 PM EST

Your vote doesn't count less when you live in a more populated state.  Electoral college votes are granted as part of a percentage of the state's population size.  Granted if the state's population is sufficiently small than your vote gains more power.. But the state will still only have ONE Electoral vote to cast.

[ Parent ]
Three. (none / 0) (#133)
by aphrael on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:42:58 PM EST

All states have at least three electoral votes; one for each Congressperson, and one for each Senator.

[ Parent ]
Electing electors (none / 0) (#121)
by TON on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 10:47:05 AM EST

Unfortunately, the state legislatures in every state have decided to turn the responsibility of nominating electors over to the political parties.

I was under the impression that electors were themselves elected in some states (New Hanpshire comes to mind. Can anyone confirm this?). You could vote for the electors in party primaries. It's not much, but even that would allow some more flexible input into the nature of the Electoral College. Of course, if state law requires them to follow some party line, then it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference who the elector is.

In these days of seeming party irrelevance and disconnection, the apparently valueless job of elector might be a way for party types to re-connect to voters. Not worth spending soft money on, so you'd have to actually try to get people to pay attention to you directly and remember to vote for you.

Ted
---
"If you feel like a patient, why not dress like one?" Mission of Burma

Here's the thing... (4.50 / 2) (#127)
by VValdo on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 02:56:35 PM EST

People who live in the United States are citizens of two seperate governments--

1.  The State government
2.  The Federal government

Unfortunately, people think that the "President of the United States" is a president of the PEOPLE, elected by the PEOPLE.  Reading the constitution, you can see this simply isn't true.

The President isn't elected by the people, s/he is elected by the states.  Since he or she is literally the "President of the States" this makes sense.

We grow up to beleive that the President is "my president" when in actuality the office is closer to MY STATE'S president.  Ie, my state is the one who elected him, not my direct vote.

The states together make up the "united states"-- that's why each state gets 2 senators, no matter how big or small or how populous that state is.

That's how it is.  We already have someone directly electable at the state level-- the governor...

If we're gonna get rid of the electoral college, maybe we should get rid of the 2 senator per state rule and just make it proportional to the population of the states.  

So anyway...let the united states elect the president of the united states for pete's sake.

This is my .sig. There are many like it but this one is mine.

The Electoral College or How to be the Man | 136 comments (67 topical, 69 editorial, 0 hidden)
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