Dear Electoral College, we thank you but your services are no longer needed
Funny thing that Electoral College. Originally conceived as a way to maintain separation of powers (the Framers of the Constitution originally intended for Congress to choose the President but realized you don’t want Congress responsible for choosing the President for fear that one or both lose independence, not like we haven’t seen that recently), to avoid issues surrounding suffrage and slavery in the South, and, as the smaller States thought, give each State a more equal footing in the selection of the President (the smaller States thought that with a multi-party system the Presidential Election would be thrown to the House more often than not).
Once you have the establishment of the two-party system one the of main reasons for the Electoral College to be useful collapses. It’s far more likely, as we’ve seen, that one candidate wins a majority of the Electoral vote than not. The House, while still Constitutionally obligated to choose the President in the case of an Electoral tie or inability of one candidate to secure a majority of Electoral votes, has been effectively shut out of this process since the rise of the two-party system. Since we also elect the President and Vice President from the same party ticket the odds of one Presidential candidate not gaining the majority of Electoral votes becomes even slimmer. So, the hope of the smaller States to play an active and equal role in selecting the President has all but disappeared given the realities of our political structure, a structure that came into reality rather early on.
Now, slavery. So, any reason to appease the Southern Slave States has been, well, resolved. So, the second big reason for the Electoral College vanished. I’ll just note here that that slavery even existed in this country is a blight upon the American soul that I don’t think will ever wash off.
Ironically, given the changes to our political party system, demographics, and suffrage, the Electoral College seems to give the smaller States (both in size and population) even less say and sway in who sits in the Oval Office than ever before. Looking at all the current punditry about who has the best path to the White House you’d think there are less than a dozen States that have any say in who wins the election. Seems about right.
Looking at today’s political and demographic landscape it’s hard to continue to make the argument that the Electoral College is a good thing, unless you’re a Republican who knows that your Presidential Candidate can’t win the election with the popular vote. The two Republican Presidents in this century only won by the Electoral College, not the popular vote. Trump famously lost the popular vote by somewhere about 2.8 million votes. That’s nearly a Kansas or Mississippi. Or, put another way, that’s about 4.8 Wyomings (our least populace State).
It strikes me that the Founders had the misguided belief that the Representatives of the People would be an analogous voice, whether as elected members of the Federal or State government, or the Electors that make up the Electoral College. We’ve seen time and time again our elected officials going against what the people want. Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. And, maybe that’s okay when it comes to legislation, after all, in theory legislation can be fixed.
However, when it comes to the person elected to run the Nation it should be the People’s Voice that chooses. Not some twice removed, mostly anonymous person who makes that decision, even if that Elector is, in the end, carrying out the Will of the People of the State in which they reside. Again, though, the States, Constitutionally able and obligated to set their own standards, rules and laws on how Electors are chosen and how they must abide by the citizens’ vote, have set their own standards, rules and laws. We have 50 States, each with their own variations on the Elector theme. For such an important role in all American’s daily lives we need to have consistency across the board, not a hodgepodge of varying degrees of voter suppression and enfranchisement. There’s no reason my vote, because of where I live, should in the end count less than someone who lives in any of the swing States.
Which brings me to my last point. For our Democracy to survive an ever increasing polarization, for the Nation to avoid (if it’s not too late) yet another Civil War, the Office of President must be one in which the person sitting in the Oval Office represents the Nation as a Whole. It’s one thing to have each State send in their Representatives and Senators. It’s a whole other kettle of beans (fish? monkeys?) to have in this country the one elected position that’s supposed to represent us all, in the end, decided by 270 out of 538 individuals. Where’s the equal say in how We are governed? Where’s the Will of the People in that?