It would seem that every election season always brings about the same recycled arguments, rhetoric, and emotions one would expect, especially from those that have no fundamental understanding of our nations founding or philosophical underpinnings.
I watched the electoral college explanation from the show,”Adam ruins everything.” The show is aptly named because Adam butchers his explanation and shows his extreme misunderstanding of the electoral college.
Ironically, one of the arguments he used for the popular vote (that it gives overwhelming advantages to four states over the others) is the same argument us Conservatives have made against the popular vote. He defeats his own argument in the same video he is trying to debunk the relevance of the electoral college.
So let us explain to Adam what the electoral college is and why it is still relevant today…
Philosophy of the Electoral College:
We are not a pure democracy. We were founded as a republic with democratic principles. A democracy in its simplest form is a government formed by the people.
We, the people, elected to have a republic and not a pure democracy. It was democratic in the process of formation, but not in execution.
Now, it is quite clear from the writings of the Founding Fathers that they were vehemently against a pure democracy. Hamilton, Rush, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Paine, etc. They understood that the tyranny of the majority is no better than government tyranny or a monarchy.
We, in our essence, are a federalist society. The state is sovereign but not supreme. Democracy is carried out on the local and state level (i.e., vote for initiatives, budgets, state houses, governor, etc.) and republicanism occurs at the national level (I.e., President, Legislation, Confirmation of Judges, etc.).
The Founders distrusted government, which is why they outlined 18 enumerated powers in the Constitution. The rest of the power was to reside in the states.
However, they also distrusted human nature and the oppression of the minority by the majority. They wanted to establish a system, though imperfect, that would be the best way to protect minorities and give a voice or fighting chance against the majority. It was also meant to slow down the decay and corruption of both the government and its people.
The electoral college was meant to give more voice and power to the small states (populations) and the minorities that are spread out across the country. It does this by somewhat diluting the vote of the majority and highly-populated metropolitan areas. For example, traditional swing states are: FL, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia.
This is where Adam gets it wrong. He states that all a candidate has to do is campaign in those states to win. But that is factually inaccurate and this election proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. Trump lost Nevada and Virginia which are traditional swing states, but he picked up PA, Wisconsin and part of the rust belt that had not gone Republican for over 20 years.
Trump campaigned strongly in PA (which was seen as a unicorn for Republicans) and won. Adam misses the point that swing states change in a Republic. The electoral college is the best representation of different cultures, beliefs, religions, norms, and ethnicities.
However, the popular vote does exactly what Adam accuses the electoral college of doing. High populated areas such as New York, California, Chicago, and Florida have very similar cultures and belief systems. A candidate could win an election by campaigning in and pandering to those large cities and states (about 5 or 6) and win.It would also be far less representative of the cultures, beliefs, and norms of the country as a whole.
The Electoral College Protects Minorities:
Also, for those that love to espouse the rights of minorities, the popular vote would completely dilute the African-American and Latino vote.
For example, Blacks make up 12.3% of the U.S. Population; Latinos are roughly 17%; Whites-65%. If you put everyone into a pot and make each vote count equally, the black vote (assuming every single person votes) is only worth 13% of the whole population. Add the Latino vote and you get a whopping 30% total (being generous). That leaves 21% to get a majority.
Now, it is of course extremely probable that whites in large cities will vote similarly to Blacks and Latinos, thus making them part of the majority. But what if they didn’t? Until their overall numbers increased, they would be subjected to the laws, norms, and whims of white Americans. Far more than what they claim they suffer through now. All it would take is for white Americans to become angry about something, organize a vote drive and take over the government. Possibly keeping minorities out of every facet of government at the federal level. Yes, this is not likely, but far more possible under the popular vote than the electoral college.
Contrast this with the electoral college. If we use Chicago as an example, we see that the population of Chicago breaks down as follows: Blacks-32.4%; Latinos-31; Whites-30%. Blacks and Latinos have a whopping 63.5% of the vote. So, even if every white person voted, the city will still go according to the will of the country’s minority class. Thus, given 20 electoral votes to the candidate of their choice.
This is not unique to Chicago. Philadelphia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, etc all have high black populations. When these cities or states go red, it is usually because of the lack of enthusiasm to go vote on the part of minorities.
Most of the aforementioned cities/states have around 35-40% Black populations, which does not include Latinos. This gives them a disproportionate amount of power in the electoral system which they would not have otherwise. The electoral count on just the states listed above is slightly over 80 electoral votes. That equates to roughly 30% of the electoral votes needed to become President. Remember, these are majority black states, this does not even count Latino heavy states like California, Nevada, North Carolina, etc..
All in all, it can easily climb to over 50% for a minority that at most is composed of 30% of the population. Not to mention, these voters live in different states and have different cultures and beliefs. This is something that should be celebrated, not demonized.
Finally, A republic is not supposed to be guided by popular opinion or demand, though they are factored in. The Constitution functions as a break system or a steam valve if you will. Slowing down legislation or actions inspired by fleeting and raw emotions that can quickly grow in a disgruntled populace.
A republic is guided by laws, not men. The Constitution is considered our North Star and guiding document. Most republics that have fallen, have done so by dislodging themselves from their laws and Constitutions and replaced them with popular rule. Of course, the lack of morals and values plays a vital role in the destruction of a republic.
The will of the people, though vital, is not supreme. The Constitution is there to ensure that our liberties cannot be removed, not even by the majority.
Democracy in and of itself is not more virtuous than a monarchy or dictatorship. The human state is deeply flawed. Greed, avarice, hatred, and violence exist in all. Tyranny from the majority usually leads to more violence than does by a dictator or a monarchy (see France, Germany, Russia, etc).
If you value liberty, freedom, personal property rights, and equality; though imperfect, there is no better system to protect those invaluable rights given to us by God, minorities, and freedom than a Republic, especially ours. This is why the electoral college still matters and though times do change; unfortunately, the human condition does not.