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Haupt’s Take: The Electoral College, an enigma to the left

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By William Haupt III | Haupt’s Take

“Any farmer will tell you: The riper the fruit the sweeter the grapes. Nobody likes the taste of sour grapes: Especially the left when they lose an election.” (James Willely)

Anyone who has visited a Banana Republic during election time will appreciate why we have an electoral college. There are as many as 40 different parties with candidates running for president pontificating the merits of their party. They promise voters the world along with the moon on their watch if they cast a vote for them.

They are on every street corner, shopping center, strip mall, city hall, and bar preaching the amenities they will give the voters if elected president. On Election Day when voters enter the voting booth, they find a ballot that’s longer than a shopping list for a family of twelve. The lucky candidate who gets the most votes wins and it is not uncommon for the victor to garner only 25 or 30 percent of the popular vote.

“Take it from me; every vote counts.” (Al Gore)

Donald Trump’s recent victory over Hillary Clinton has again raised questions why the presidency is decided through the Electoral College and not by popular vote. Although Clinton only won the popular vote by a small margin, the left is screaming foul. Yet in the election of 1992, Bill Clinton received a majority of the electoral votes but did not win a majority of the popular vote in either of his elections.

This sounds like sour grapes to Trump voters. Where was the whining and crying by the right when Bill Clinton won two elections this way? By now we all know,

“The Electoral College works both ways. Some win, some lose, but the people’s voice is always heard.” (James Moss)

After every progressive loss, those eating sour grapes call for the end of the Electoral College. They argue against what they call the antidemocratic aspects of the institution, criticizing both the intermediary electors and the state-by-state system of voting. It is usually the case that the winner in any election who does not win the popular votes only loses it by a narrow margin. And that is when the recounting begins.

We all recall the fiasco in Florida, when the duo of “Sore-Loserman” wasted millions of tax dollars trying to harvest votes. As a result, George W. Bush tried to make nice by giving high positions to many on the left and that proved disastrous during his entire time in office.

“There’s a time to be nice and a time to be practical. Make your choices wisely.” (Tim Reins)

Those on the left calling for it’s abolition don’t know what havoc this would create. The Electoral College has been part of our Constitution since we were empowered to elect presidents. This method of electing a chief executive has been incredibly successful for years.

Those advocating for its abolishment do not discern it was created to protect them. It was as essential part of the Great Compromise which gave all states equal representation. Although the winner of the popular vote typically gets the brass ring, a few have been elected who failed to take both popular and electoral votes.

“Losers always lose and winners always win, because they know how to.” (John Artmen)

The Electoral College is a mystifying institution for those who do not understand our history. They complain only a few, select individuals cast a direct vote for president. They admonish the College because it rewards smaller states with more proportional power than the large ones.

Yet few are cognizant when they enter the voting booth, they are actually casting a vote for their state electors chosen by them as delegates. These electors are elected by the people and are obligated to vote for the candidates the majority of the voters have asked them to vote for. They chose them to be their voice at the College and they only do what the voters have asked them to do. That is their only obligation.

“If you don’t take your vote very seriously, someone else will.” (Albert Collins)

In creating the basic architecture of our government, our founders struggled to satisfy each state’s demand for greater representation while attempting to balance popular sovereignty against the risk posed to the majority suppressing the rights of the minority. This heated debate at the Convention eventually was justified in part to potentially reverse the vote if the people elected a criminal, traitor, or similar heinous person.

Shutterstock Image

Ancient ruins Imperial forum of Trajan (Mercati di Traiano) in Rome, Italy.

The founders wanted to empower the people in the republican process, but they feared a kind of pure, unrestrained democracy that had brought down great republics of the past of the Greeks and the Romans. The product of this compromise has been well balanced and enduring since our founding.

“If it works, there is no reason the change it.” (Joc Randen)

Alexander Hamilton defended the Electoral College in Federalist 68 since it was important for the people to have the power of choosing their president, but it was also “desirable” that the immediate election should be made by men analyzing candidates under judicious deliberation to insure that they were proper to govern as the people’s choice.

Hamilton wrote this system of intermediaries would produce a greater amount of stability, by a body of electors and would insure the community was not convulsed by violent movements. They would be the ultimate object of the public’s wishes.

“The best protection Americans can have is understanding and knowledge.” (Thomas Jefferson)

As they studied ancient history, our founders feared the destructive passions of direct democracy that doomed past governments. The Electoral College was democratic, fair and non aristocratic. Since the states are free to select their method of electors, they decide who they wish to represent them through free elections. In our early days states had their legislatures pick electors, rather than the voters.

But after they witnessed the tragedy of the Civil War they felt voters should make this choice since this would create less controversy and conflict. Now all states choose electors via the state’s popular vote. And this has brought increased equity to the College and the voters.

“Our Framers had insight to give us many ways to protect us from federalism and tyranny.” (Hugo Black)

Americans should appreciate the constitutional tradition bequeathed to them by our founders. The Electoral College, where each state’s electoral votes are the total of its representation in the House and Senate is republican democracy. This gives everyone the same voice in the most important choice they make.

If it were abolished and replaced with a system where a person could win the presidency with only a plurality of popular votes we would be swamped with candidates. Every group with an ideology would field a candidate, hoping they’d win a plurality and become president. We’d be like those banana Republics with a ballot ten feet long.

“Voting in a banana republic is like going to a candy store with all the same flavors just with different brands.” (Jose Martez)

Those who complain about the College should read a history book. The implications of what they are proposing would result in minority disenfranchisement and chaos. Instead of choosing between a few good candidates, we would be playing wheel of fortune.

What goes around comes around. If transmigration continues and those in the blue states keep moving south to red states those who are complaining now will be singing the blues in a Nashville café on Broadway. Think twice before you cry in your beer.

“In American politics if you follow the money, it leads right to those who are buying votes. Some people vote twice and even the dead have been known to. It takes you down the darkest alleys of American politics. But it doesn’t take you to the Electoral College since you can’t buy votes there. These electors must do just what the people tell them to do.” (Ron Moors)

This article was written by a contributor from Franklin Center’s independent network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists. 


William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, citizen legislator in California for 40 plus years, and author. He got his start working to approve prop 13.